“We are not forming coalitions of states, we are uniting people.”
These historical words of Jean Monnet, one of our founding fathers, express in one sentence what the EU has achieved over the last decades. Only 20 years ago the Iron Curtain divided people and ran like a scar through Europe. Today we are celebrating the fifth anniversary of an enlarged and re-united EU, a Union of citizens who have decided together, of their own will, to build a common future, based on the rule of law, an internal market and the gradual abolition of internal borders.
What we have done for ourselves — supporting and consolidating democracy for millions of people — we also wish to help others to accomplish. The EU’s transformational power is a major force for democratic and economic change in neighboring countries, not only in the candidate countries but also in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, fostered by the European Neighbourhood Policy.
In the last year we established the “Union for the Mediterranean” with our Mediterranean partners and agreed with them on six flagship projects delivering concrete benefits for citizens of the region. Similarly, we proposed an ambitious new Eastern Partnership aiming at bringing a lasting message of solidarity, with additional, tangible support for democratic and market-oriented reforms and the consolidation of partners’ statehood and territorial integrity.
These changes bring new opportunities, but also new responsibilities for our partners and for a united global Europe. In last summer’s conflict in Georgia and in the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, a united and swiftly acting Union showed that it can be a guarantor for stability, freedom and security in our globalized world.
We are rising to this challenge by seeking to build a global consensus to tackle the issues we all face. This is particularly true in finding a global answer to the current global financial and economic crises. The EU has not only become one of the driving forces in the G20, which brings together all global and regional key players, but we also provided the blue print for a global response that resulted in the most ambitious global stimulus to boost the global economy and reshape our globalized world.
This crisis is also an opportunity as it is opening minds to the need to come up with global solutions. Thus, we agreed to work with our G20 partners for a breakthrough on Doha, climate change and energy security, and are frontloading our aid to those developing countries worst hit by falling export revenues.
2009 is not merely a year of crises. It is also a unique moment in the world’s history and a unique opportunity to work together to tackle global issues. A strong global Europe should seize this momentum and make its contribution not only to overcoming the challenges posed by the global financial and economic crisis but also to achieving an ambitious and binding agreement at the climate conference in Copenhagen at the end of this year.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner is the commissioner responsible for the European Commission’s external relations and European Neighborhood Policy.