Sõnavõtt EBS-s (26/02/2013)
Sõnavõtt inglise keeles
I - What is Europe ?
What is Europe about ? I don’t know if you have ever asked this yourself, but we have a legacy to protect and to continue.
It is the most beautiful political idea of the past century and of this century.
It is first and foremost a political project (construction) based on economic realities and common historical and cultural background.
The European project is based on three components:
1) A common European identity: it is always difficult to define this European identity which is suffering from conceptual and intellectual overstretch, because it is a long-lasting and cross generational concept which is carrying a strong historical background. It means that, EU is based on a large set of values with roots in Antiquity and Christianity with over 2000 years. It refers to the city States of Greece (the very place of human being in society), the Roman Empire with its organisation of power ; we can also think ahead of the Medieval Ages with Christianity which was by its nature European and united with the same faith and with its networking of universities all European cultural elites. We can also think about the “Republic of letters” from Erasmus to Montesquieu who declared that “Europe is just one nation made up of many”.
The role of humanism was very important (with Erasmus) as well as the rationalism of Enligtment and the industrial revolution. The European idea came out of an awareness of series common cultural and historical background. It is also a system of values best on the unique nature of man in respect of human life, respect of rules and fundamental freedoms. Don’t forget that last year, in December, EU received the Nobel peace price for its contribution to peace and reconciliation.
2) A political component based on the values, which we are sharing all together: democracy, peace and solidarity. For the Europeans, after 10 centuries of struggles and wars, we got reconciliation but for reinforcing this reconciliation, the so called founding Fathers of Europe (Schuman, De Gasperi, Adenauer) decided to put together all the economic assets for creating and generating more prosperity.
3) The economical component
Today we all need to preserve this European legacy that we have created over the centuries – Europe will continue to be shaped in accordance with these values. The feeling of belonging to a large group of people, to a community of values which are political, economic, and cultural.
The other very important principle of Europe is the one of unity in diversity. It means that National Identities will not be lost. The people of Europe will continue to be Italian, Spanish, German, French, Estonian and at the same time all of them are European. I’m stressing this point because even here in Estonia there is a huge debate on this line “Mis saab Eestist ja Eestlusest?” What will become the Estonian identity in Europe?
In this respect, the Erasmus program is a golden opportunity for each of you to enrich your life and personality. It is the best university for Europeans. The civilian dimension of Europe (the European civil society) must not be looked upon as being of secondary importance in comparison with political and economic union; we also want a Europe of people and all of you are the future decision makers of Europe. In this respect, EBS is doing a very good job, because it prepares you to these responsibilities!
II Europe should adapt itself to the new challenges
With so called the globalisation, we are entering a new stage and facing new challenges. A new race has begun in the world. We observe more and more trends towards greater interconnections between countries and major economies. But all boats will not arrive at the same time.
If we don’t want to miss the boat, if Europe wants to stay in the game, Europe should assert itself, be even more visible and a strong actor (more an actor of history than a matter of history).
In 2008-2009, according to experts and some politicians, Europe was close to a cataclysmic disaster and collapse.
At that time, Euro Bashing was flourishing and I remember that many people around the world predicted the collapse of Europe. But, Europe had succeeded in defusing the financial crisis, the so called European Model was cushioning all the swings. In 2010, Europe faced a second crisis connected and caused by sovereign debts of certain EU countries. Here again, a lot of people were predicting the collapse of Europe, the collapse of European dream. Crisis, crisis, decline?
And here again, up to now, the countries of EU are overcoming all those obstacles on the road and the EU exit strategy is starting to bring results and to score points with two main objectives: the stability of EU and growth and competitiveness.
My guess is that today the EU countries are better able to deal with the external and internal shocks they have been during the two crisis. The improvement of the last 3 years to address short term difficulties and shocks from inside has been significant.
We have acted upon two basic principal responsibilities: responsibility of each one of us to do its part of the job, solidarity: from all with those who need it. There are two sides on the same coin.
Nowadays, to return to balance and growth we need more:
1/ Central oversight of National Budgets and coordination of economies
2/ Solidarity between Member states (allowing Europe for redistributive politics, EU funds, subsides for agriculture)
3/ Unity for the banking system (Banking Union)
4/ More flexibility in labour markets
5/ Development of new areas of economy (like the digital economy). All these problems are not easy to solve. Europe is putting things in order – but it will take time. There is always a time lap between the decisions are taken and the decision are implement act.
From my point of view, Europe is based on a triangle: responsibility, solidarity and growth.
There is also an important issue which is the relation of EU with the third countries, relations with Asian countries (China, India) because new markets are blooming in every where around the globe. European investments and companies would like to get a better access to the Chinese market. Chinese investment in Europe, while growing, is still only at 3% of the total foreign investment while 20% is American. The idea is to transform the 25 current bilateral investment treaties into a simple framework EU/China. Companies operating in both Europe and China would be able to operate at a more level playing field – no matter what their origins are.
With USA, there is also a mutual interdependence because total US investment in the UE is 3 times bigger than in Asia while European Investment in the USA is 8 times bigger that European investment in China and India together. The US investment in China, India and Brazil taken together are less than half of US flows to the Netherlands alone.
All this means that the UE cannot be strong at home, if it is not strong outside in the world in relations with the other big countries.
III Believing in Europe is believing in ourselves, it’s believing in our forces
Despite the difficulties, the challenges we are facing everyday, Europe has at its disposal all the assets to stay in the game
1) We should not forget that so far Europe has also always had its share of cynics and sceptics questioning the very idea of the European project. There are always detractors and spoilers ;
2) Nevertheless we have strong institutions, political stability, we have a single currency (Euro) with a Central Bank ;
3) EU is the first economic power in the world before the US, Japan and China ;
4) EU is the biggest international market in the world with 500 millions of consumers ;
5) Many EU countries would like to be a member of the EU zone - Latvia, Lithuania, Poland ; many countries of former Yugoslavia would also like to join the EU (it is already done with Croatia) ;
6) Joining the EU means for many countries (you can ask for instance the Estonians) a tremendous change. In less than a generation the quality of life has changed; a modern network of infrastructures has been set up, big investments were made in education and development, the role of the EU, its policies and funds (Structural Funds and Agriculture subsides) were essential for the modernisation of these countries.
The Europeans do not need to be ashamed or shy about its projects and commitments. Europe should not panic. It is time for us to address this crisis and transform it from adversity into an economic opportunity.
As Jeremy Rifkin (an American economist, political advisor) says:“Europe made the first industrial revolution. USA created the second one and Europe can make the third one”.
In this sense, my way of thinking is that we need more Europe, a better Europe, an Europe oriented to the citizens.
An Europe which is moving forward, which also is protecting its jobs, companies and employees. Here the core issue is the social acceptability by the population of the measures taken by Europe for balancing the budgets, for implementing structural reforms.
Here again, the more Europeans will understand that Europe is taking care of them, the more they will accept any kind of discipline, even austerity.
It is also a question of willingness : only united EU will continue to be a great power. If divided into national states, it will slide into secondary state, into “second division” as we say in sports.
All this means that we should be aware of:
our ability to bounce back from setbacks and from crisis to crisis, as we did so far
our dedication to hard collective work and implementations of political commitment (the efforts made by the countries of the South of Europe overcoming their difficulties are tremendously important)
an attitude of humility (Europe is not going to teach other countries) with a constant search for new challenges.
It also means that we are all together and everybody with his own talent contributes to the European project. Our work is far from being over; we have to keep on going.
Remember that great ideas and hard work can change the world and that impossible is not an European idea!