Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Europe needs a fresh start -- and a stronger regional identity

By Jacques Delors and Etienne Davignon

As Europe's leaders gather in Portugal to put the finishing touches on the new, slimmed down Reform Treaty, it might be helpful if they all pretended that the last 50 years of European integration had never taken place.

Let's then imagine what Europe needs to do to confront its most pressing challenges, especially if it were able to do so without the political constraints of 50 years of EU deal-making and ramshackle institution-building.

On top of that, let us make a major leap of imagination and suppose that even though this scenario of the EU at "Year Zero" means we would not have a half-century of intra-European cooperation to draw on, the nations that today make up the EU would nevertheless be keen to adopt far-reaching joint policies.

Let's suspend our disbelief, then, and try to imagine what Europe could and should be doing to tackle some of the most far-reaching and obstinate policy challenges that will determine whether the next 50 years are as constructive as the last. Or, to put it another way, let's look at our problems in the light of the EU's existing mechanisms and its potential for creating far-reaching new policies, and then let's ask ourselves why the EU isn't realizing its own potential and delivering the goods.

THREE AREAS

Broadly, we see three areas in which Europe's policymakers at both the national and EU levels can do better: global challenges where Europe could show greater leadership, the creation and strengthening of human capital within the EU and worldwide, and improvement in the effectiveness of the EU's own political machinery.

Europe needs a clearer and more recognizable global agenda. It needs to build substantially on its leadership on climate change by adopting much tougher EU goals, and then use its international economic and trade clout to champion new global emissions standards that scientific opinion can accept as meaningful.

On conflict and security issues, Europe should be advancing to a new phase in which it takes much clearer and unambiguous positions on issues ranging from nuclear proliferation to sanctions against Burma's military regime. The purpose must be to establish Europe as a forceful and fair-minded player on the world stage, rather than as a "broad church" in which different viewpoints coexist.

The aim should be that "soft power" instruments like EU development aid and economic partnerships would be linked with a growing sense of political and security outreach to ensure Europe is a global player to be reckoned with. That means, of course, that the EU should seek to widen its transatlantic thinking so that the EU and the US cooperate more closely on defining -- and thus protecting -- their common interests in a world where together they account for little more than 10 percent of the total population.

GROWING PROBLEMS

These points are far from a blanket criticism of the EU's efforts to create a common foreign and security policy. But they are intended to underline what many people in Europe know very well, which is that the speed with which problems concerning international development and conflict are growing easily outpaces the EU's policy responses so far.

Building more human capital in Europe and worldwide is a crucially important element in future EU activities. Education is by far the most profitable investment Europe can make, so it should be launching its most ambitious strategy ever to create a new knowledge dynamic and employment inside the EU while helping to expand greatly education in the world's poorest countries.

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