GLOBSEC in Bratislava: My views on European security: solidarity, greater integration and cooperation with historical Allies
Remarks by Franco Frattini
The best way to have a new vision for Europe is to go back to the original vision of the founding fathers.
They had a political vision. In his personal letter to Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman anticipated his plan for Europe and explained that the objective of his proposition was not economical, rather mainly political.
And the Schuman Declaration of 1950 clearly stated that the European Economic Coal and Steal Community was the first step towards the United States of Europe. The current economic crises, the fact that while the US has already begun exiting the crises, Europe is still sinking into it, shall remind us that unless we build a political union we won’t be able to solve our problems.
For instance, a fully functioning banking Union is badly and urgently needed.
And the intergovernamental method should be replaced by strong and accountable economic European governance.
Alcide De Gasperi reminds us that a politician looks at the next elections, while a statesman looks at the next generations.
And we have an institutional and moral duty to look at the younger generations asking for more, not less Europe, in the years to come.
What is at stake it is not only the Euro, but the European vision itself, that is to say life as we know it today.
Let’s talk for once about the cost of having less Europe, by going back to national egoisms - Europeans take for granted free, open common market, freedom of circulation.
Europeans sometimes forget that the European Union has given all of us peace, wealth, opportunities that are unprecedented in the history of the Continent and that cannot go lost.
We are witnessing around Europe signals of profound distress by our citizens. Protest movements, lastly in my country, are beginning to spread around Europe, alongside with xenophobic groups of all sort. We should strongly fight these populist tendencies, but at the same time we should offer political responses by addressing the roots causes of the distress of a significant part of our population.
We run the risk to see, for the first time in the history of Europe, the generation of our children living in worse conditions than we did.
Some use the narrative “EU doesn’t work because its institutional framework is too complicated”.
According to this view, the EU is bound to remain a non-efficient decision-making system and will get progressively paralyzed as the number of its members grows.
But, for example, the US institutional framework and decision-making system is equally – if not more - complicated than the one of the EU.
So, complexity alone is not enough to explain inefficiency in decision-making.
At the end of the European Convention in 2003, Vice president Amato rightly said “ Our fundamental unity was not enough for designing a true European federal system.”
The added value, that makes the US works despite its many complexities, is the sense of nationhood , the European main players did not want to create until present.
I’m a strong promoter and defender of national and even local heritage and traditions, as well as cultural roots.
And I couldn’t think in a different way, coming from a country whose millenary history and culture is based on the added value brought by thousands of municipalities enriching the unity of Italy.
But keeping identities shouldn’t lead simply to preserve national prerogatives, even by avoiding anything that would contribute to a shared European narrative and sense of belonging.
In a globalized and interconnected world, even the most powerful EU country cannot succeed alone.
A stronger, politically united Europe is what its citizens need.
But is also what its allies need.
A stronger Europe, for example, is in the interest of a new translatlantic cooperation in many areas, from trade to security to fighting together poverty or protecting environment.
So, let’s accomplish what in Maastricht leaders didn’t have the courage to agree: a single market, a single currency, a Central Bank, need a political economical guidance. This is the true, powerful firewall to protect our citizens and our economies.
In a world where threats are transnational in nature, and foreign policy has a direct impact on the security and prosperity of our continent, we cannot afford to keep the current divisions and veto-based system, that still prevent the EU from being a global player, being so often the biggest donor in many regions of the world.
So, let’s work to update our strategic security and EU defense strategy, and let’s show a true good political will to create a united foreign and defense framework, overcoming the old pillar-based system behind which national egoisms often hide.
Let’s have a true European immigration policy, where burden sharing becomes the sharing of opportunities, including the reaching out to neighboring regions, from the Balkans to the Mediterranean, whose future is so strictly linked to ours.
Let’s address - by uniting our forces – illegality, corruption, tax evasion, that pollute our economies and destroy public trust towards institutions.
And let’s agree on recognising a stronger say to citizens on the choice of the Institutions' leaders: from a President of the EU Commission directly elected by voters, to a stronger role of EU Parliament whose right of legislative initiative cannot any longer be denied.
A new vision means, to me, investing on more Europe and showing people that only a more solid and united common house will be able to better resist and to better protect citizens.