A new political Europe
Europe is in crisis. And yet never have Europe’s peoples so forcefully expressed their hope to see a Europe of values and determination, capable of addressing their social imperatives, being built. True to our continent’s history and our vision of the future, France wants to move forward with them on the path mapped out by Jacques Chirac.
All around us, States are organizing themselves to get the most out of globalization and strengthen their strategic positions. India is moving closer to China; Brazil, South Africa and other emerging countries now conduct a third of their foreign trade with each other and collectively defend their positions in the G20 framework; South American countries are developing their economic ties: we cannot stay on the sidelines of this great process of global reorganization. We must be able to defend our political, economic and social interests from the best possible position, together and presenting a united front.
This is imperative for our security: in the face of the terrorist threat, the risk of biological, chemical and nuclear proliferation and illegal immigration, there can be only a collective response. This is imperative for our growth and our jobs: it was only European collective pressure which allowed us to cut Chinese textile imports. This is imperative for getting control of our future: the cost of research investments is now too heavy to be borne by a single country. Becoming or staying the best in the sphere of health, agri-foodstuffs, advanced materials and aerospace requires us to pool our capabilities. It’s an imperative finally for the defence of our values: democracy, human rights and cultural diversity are founding characteristics of our common project. We must be able to affirm them loud and clear.
Today we can no longer evade the choices. Either we give ourselves the resources to build this new political Europe, which will have a voice and act in tomorrow’s world, or we resign ourselves to making our continent a vast free-trade area, governed by the rules of competition. Everyone must put an end to the ambiguity through action.
To sustain this new political Europe, we need ambitious and concrete projects.
First project: European economic governance. Europe is today the world’s leading trade power. In the space of a few years, 12 member States, including France, have created a stable and protective currency: the euro. And yet our growth rate remains below that of the United States and the Asian countries and our unemployment is still high. So I propose opening a dialogue between the Eurogroup and the European Central Bank in order to define, while respecting the ECB’s independence, a genuine European economic government for the Euro Area countries. To back up this dialogue, I also suggest that we consider together the major economic challenges confronting Europe: given the oil price rise, for example, is it conceivable that we have not yet had a joint debate on managing our strategic reserves?
Second project: agriculture. In a few decades, it has made Europe independent with regard to its food supply, made Europe the world’s second-largest agricultural power, and given it huge economic power. At a time when the food problem is becoming increasingly urgent worldwide, we have to strengthen our agriculture while pursuing its adaptation. European consumers want to know where their food products come from, what manufacturing and distribution chain they have gone through. They want to be sure they will not encounter supply problems and that prices will remain affordable in the years to come: only the Common Agricultural Policy will enable us to take up these future challenges.
Third project: innovation and research policy. There aren’t on one side the “old” Europeans committed to the Common Agricultural Policy and, on the other, the “modern” Europeans defending the Lisbon strategy. We are all looking to the future, as the siting of the ITER research reactor in Cadarache demonstrates. But because I appreciate the degree of under-exploitation of European strengths in physics, mathematics and chemistry, I propose the creation in France of one or two European research and technology institutes. These institutes will bring together on the same sites the best international researchers, research laboratories and innovating businesses. They will be open to all European States wishing to participate. In France we have decided to create “competitiveness centres” allowing us to bring together high-level, but still widely dispersed skills: why should they not take on a European dimension?
Fourth project: European security. Police cooperation, exchanges of intelligence on terrorism, and border controls form the basis of an internal security Europe spearheaded by the G5: in this framework, Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy and France are moving forward on concrete projects. On defence, the progress achieved in the past few years must serve as a basis for still-closer cooperation. We have a common strategy, we have pooled capabilities, we are together ensuring stability in areas which are only just emerging from murderous conflicts such as Afghanistan and Kosovo. We are determined to progress still further.
Fifth project: European democracy. We need the support of Europe’s peoples. For several years now, our European identity has been forged on the basis of support for common values: freedom and mutual support, commitment to the rules of international law, and the imperative need to safeguard our environment. Student exchanges under the Erasmus programme are strengthening this feeling, which is paving the way for the emergence of a European democracy. But this programme is still confined to a limited number of people. The European voluntary service is itself still embryonic since it involves only 4,000 young people a year. So I propose to open a debate with our European partners on the creation of a genuine European civil service, which would give all young Europeans the opportunity of working in the humanitarian sector or emergency services outside their home countries.
Europe’s peoples have never been so close. Like France and Germany, they want their political leaders to come to agreements instead of succumbing to the temptation of defending their own national self-interests, to find solutions instead of just raising issues. President Chirac paved the way at the Brussels European Council by accepting a compromise on the budget, just as he had accepted a compromise on the CAP in 2002. Europe must not be passive, but resolutely take the initiative. Our peoples want a new political Europe, mindful of both their difficulties and the world’s problems, with a capacity for action, a conscience and a moral code.
Europe has today become the testing ground for the world’s new political, economic and social ideas. Let Europe speak out. With Europe, history is making a new start.
29 juin 2005, Financial Times