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Deepening and widening of the EU: Together for 50 years – Speech by EU Commissioner Rehn

Summary: 4 July 2007, Berlin – Speech by Olli Rehn, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, on Deepening and widening of the EU: Together for 50 years, at the Conference „Die deutsche EU-Ratspräsidentschaft – Bilanz und Ausblick", Berlin SPD

I am pleased to be here today in Berlin, a city which has been at the heart of both the deepening and the widening of the European Union.

I would like to congratulate the German Presidency on a difficult job done very well and the results achieved. On enlargement and the future foreign policy of the Union, the Presidency achieved a very great deal. I am particularly pleased that we were able to resume the negotiations with Serbia on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, and to keep Turkey moving ahead in its accession negotiations.

In Turkey’s EU negotiations, the movement ahead is as important as the final goal, as the great German Social Democrat Eduard Bernstein would probably put it – I dare to say this as I see no Rosa Luxemburg around here! And of course only consistent movement can lead to the final goal.

Let me start this evening by explaining the title of my speech. It is clear to any student of European history that enlargement has been part of the development of European integration right from the start. Let’s remember the existential debate among the original six Member States, and the outside seven of EFTA, not to speak of the "outside of the outside", like the member state I know best, or like the new member states.

Enlargement was a major item on the agenda in 1963, when President de Gaulle blocked the membership of the United Kingdom – by the way in the very same year when he signed the Ankara Agreement, which refers to Turkey's full membership in the EEC as an eventual outcome of the process, and which was negotiated by the then Commission President and a good German Christian Democrat, Dr. Walter Hallstein.

By way of an example, I remember talking to a delegation from the House of Lords in London to the European Parliament in 1995, when I was an MEP. We were supposedly discussing the Inter-governmental Conference preparing the Treaty of Amsterdam. However, it rapidly became evident that their Lordships were talking about the IGC not in Amsterdam in 1996-97, but rather the IGC of 1950-51, which led to the Treaty of Paris and to the European Coal and Steel Community. There was no sign of Alzheimer’s disease when the Lords recalled the deeds and especially misdeeds, some 45 years before, blaming each other for keeping the UK out of that IGC and thus out of the ECSC!

Hence, the debate about enlargement is already more than 50 years old. During that half-century, the EU has pursued deepening and widening most of the time in parallel. As new members joined, the EU continued to pursue deeper integration, often stimulated by new challenges raised by the new joiners, which required attention to new policy areas at EU level.

We founded the Single Market after the southern enlargement in the 1980s, and developed substantial cohesion and regional policies. We established the single currency after the Nordic and Austrian accessions in the 1990s, and saw important new developments in foreign and security policies. Since the 2004 accessions – and of course since the 9/11 and the terrorist attacks in Madrid, London, Istanbul and elsewhere – we have witnessed significant progress in the area of justice, liberty and security. Recently we have focused on economic competitiveness and sustainable development with new methods of integration.

As a consequence of parallel deepening of integration and gradual widening, Europe is today much safer and more prosperous than it was when the integration process started. With 27 Member States and a population of close on 500 million, today's European Union is much stronger and more influential than the EEC 50 years ago with its 6 Member States and a population of less than 200 million.

Deepening and widening are not contradictory, but rather complementary. It is the combination of the two that has made the EU stronger and increased our leverage in the world economy and politics.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to see the EU continue to increase its role in the world. Indeed, it is key to ensuring the development of a stable, multilateral world. To do this, the EU must develop its capacity to make more coherent foreign policies. We have an excellent opportunity to do so by improving the Union’s institutional architecture for external policy.

It is of paramount importance for European construction that the June European Council was able to set the mandate for a new Intergovernmental Conference to conclude preparations of a new Reform Treaty, including essential changes to our external policy-making.

I welcome the idea of a High Representative who chairs Council meetings and an external action service which supports the work of all of our institutions. At the same time, we must continue to work on our practical capabilities to deploy missions in unstable parts of the world.

In this respect, our role in Kosovo will be a severe test of the EU’s capacity to deal with security challenges on its own continent, on its own front-yard and future home territory. We are bound to take responsibility for this issue. Future stability on our continent is at stake, as well as our own credibility in foreign policy. The EU is committed in creating a democratic, multi-ethnic and economically viable Kosovo.

Neither Russia nor the United States is so directly affected by what happens in the Balkans as we Europeans are. It is Europe that would pay the price, if the status process failed. Kosovo's status should not be settled by unilateral declarations or unilateral veto threats, but by effective and responsible multilateralism. A sustainable settlement is indeed best achieved by a managed and multilateral process.

It is difficult, frankly, to operate under conditions of political uncertainty while the process in the United Nations Security Council is still going on. But in the Commission, we are working hard to ensure that the EU will be ready to deploy civilian missions to supervise the implementation of the status settlement. It will be a different mission from that of UNMIK, and we need a sound legal basis to ensure the success of this mission.

All in all, Kosovo shows how much we need the better steering and coordination mechanisms that the Reform Treaty should provide. It is high time to create more effective instruments for the EU's foreign policy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Reform Treaty will also be vital to further enlargement. Last December, the European Council rightly decided to consolidate our enlargement agenda to cover the countries of South-eastern Europe, that is, Turkey, Croatia and the rest of the Western Balkans. We stick to our commitment to these countries, although we are cautious about new commitments to avoid overstretch of our capabilities.

I welcome the Summit's agreement on fine-tuning the language of the article on accession to the Union (Article 49). It underlines the fact that enlargement continues to be a key policy of the Union, based on clear and well-established conditions. The EU's door is open to the countries with a European perspective when each meets the rigorous conditions.

I also welcome the addition of a reference to the EU's values and a commitment to promote them. I have long argued that values are at least as important as geography in determining the EU's enlargement.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Looking into the longer term, we should ensure that Europe continues to develop its relationships with its nearer and further neighbours. This point was made clearly in the speech on Europe’s strategic interests by Egon Bahr, who is often called this party’s most important foreign policy mentor, at the 4th Willy-Brandt-Forum of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Brussels in March. Bahr argued that German foreign and security policy has had and will continue to have a key role in European self-determination and global responsibility.

There is an evident parallel between the Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt – in which Bahr himself played such a key role – and the European Ostpolitik that was promoted by Finnish President Urho Kekkonen with his initiative in 1969 that led to the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 and to the creation of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the CSCE and today’s OSCE). I can confess that I became committed to the European idea while following the negotiations for the CSCE in Geneva and Helsinki between 1969 and 1975 – and as the CSCE was the precursor of EU enlargement in terms of extending our common democratic values to the East, it is only logical that I was appointed the EU's Enlargement Commissioner 30 years later.

It was the dual strategy of containment and cooperation that enabled the West to win the Cold War. NATO and the EEC were the cornerstones of containment, while the CSCE was instrumental in building bridges to the East and eroding communism by legitimising the work of citizen activists, such as Vaclav Havel and the Helsinki Committees. Both containment and cooperation were needed to tear down the Wall in this city.

The challenges of Ostpolitik are still with us, but we also face new challenges of containment and cooperation. I regard the relationship between Europe and Islam as a vital policy challenge for the 21st century.

Again, we need both containment and cooperation. We need to contain terrorism and religious fundamentalism, while at the same time building bridges with moderate, democratic Muslims.

The EU’s relationship with Turkey is a valuable way to strengthen our links with the Muslim world. Turkey is undergoing a difficult process of self-transformation at the moment. EU conditionality can help the country to see its choices clearly, and to emerge from this process as a stronger democracy and a more vibrant society. Turkey can then provide a beacon to all the moderates in the Muslim world who want to see their own societies open up and democracy become the normal mode of their politics. But to use the EU’s conditionality to help Turkey to move from modern to post-modern democracy, we have to ensure that the Turks know that we are serious about negotiating accession with them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude, I want to express my appreciation for the hard work of the German Presidency, and my hope that the forthcoming Inter-Governmental Conference will result in a Reform Treaty that ensures that the EU can continue both deepening its economic and political integration and gradually widening its zone of peace and prosperity, liberty and democracy. The new Treaty should be a way-station towards more civilised international relations in which – as Eduard Bernstein probably would say – the journey is as important as the destination.

Thank you for your attention.

  • Ref: SP07-168EN
  • EU source: European Commission
  • UN forum: 
  • Date: 4/7/2007

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