European Affairs

Europe Has the Will to Build a Common Foreign and Security Policy     Print Email

Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy; Secretary-General of the Western European Union

Europe's new determination to introduce a common foreign and security policy has aroused mixed feelings in the United States. Some Americans doubt that it will ever happen; others believe that common policies will be adopted, but fear they will conflict with US interests.

I would like to make two things very clear. The first is that the European Union is serious about developing an effective common foreign and security policy. The member states want it, and I will do everything I can to bring it about.

The second, equally important point is that a common foreign and security policy is not just in the interest of Europe. It is also in the interest of the United States, of the transatlantic relationship, and of NATO.

The purpose of the common foreign and security policy is not to exercise power for its own sake. As we enter a new century, we face a radically new and fast-changing world. In order to take on the challenges brought about by increasing interdependence, we have to be more interdependent ourselves.

Our citizens now expect us to react to events on the other side of the world. They will not tolerate that Europe stands by, rather than facing up to disasters, crises or conflicts. We must have the diplomatic and military capabilities to respond in a world where humanitarian disasters and conflicts are all too common.

I do not think we are being too ambitious. Since taking up my current post a few months ago, I have been struck by the commitment of the EU member states, even those that have traditionally been reticent about pooling areas which touch the heart of national sovereignty.

We will not achieve everything overnight. You cannot mold an army which has for 50 years been designed for territorial defense into a rapid reaction force in a few days. But the political will exists. That is enough to make sure it happens.

Our aim is to acquire the capacity to direct EU-led military operations in response to international crises and conflicts - but only where NATO, as a whole, is not engaged. NATO will continue to be the cornerstone of the collective security of the European countries.

We do not intend to duplicate NATO; we do not need to and, at a time of budgetary restraints, we cannot afford to. The European security and defense capacity will reenforce and revitalize the European pillar of NATO, and it will definitely contribute to the effectiveness of the Alliance as a whole.

As a former NATO Secretary General, I firmly believe that the common European foreign and security policy will also be in the interest of the United States. We have a joint interest in promoting those values that we have in common - democracy, security, freedom, and prosperity.

Of course, we will not always agree on every detail. There is no doubt that we shall have our differences from time to time. But we should not be distracted by such differences. They are absolutely marginal to the overall goals and interests that we share.

A stronger Europe, economically and politically, will be a more reliable and more committed partner for the United States. It will be better able to assume its own proper share of responsibilities in all areas. The changes now under way in Europe are very profound.

In a few years' time, Americans will be talking to a very different Europe - a larger and more influential Europe, but a Europe that will still want to work very closely with the United States, in support of those values and principles that we share.

Let me take just two examples from the recent past to illustrate the way we are working together to achieve our common objectives. The first was our joint determination to do our best to finalize the process of European reunification. together, we opened the doors of NATO to new members.

With a tremendous effort, we created the Partnership for Peace, integrating countries that were enemies not very many years ago, and enabling their armed forces to work together with the armed forces of NATO countries. We created the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, a political body in which all important European security issues are discussed.

Secondly, we had, and still have, the common idea that the construction of foreign policy has to be based on human rights and the rights of minorities. As we start the 21st century, we are not interested in realpolitik, based on self-interest, but in policies stemming from principles. I think, in fact, we both believe that the best way to defend our common interests is to defend our common principles and values.

That approach started in Bosnia, where we fought very hard to try to bring peace to a vital area of the European continent, and continued in a very complicated situation in Kosovo. We must do more than simply proclaim our common values - we have to be prepared to defend them. And that is what we did.

But that is only part of the story. Last December, in Helsinki, the European Union took a further huge step in the direction of those two important shared objectives by extending to 13 the number of candidate countries for EU membership.

The enormous implications of this step are not always fully appreciated. Americans sometimes seem to think that opening the door of the EU to Central and Eastern Europe is rather like admitting Mexico into the North American Free Trade Agreement.

That is a tremendous mistake. When we open the doors of the EU, we are doing something much more profound. We are not only creating a common market, we are creating a close political relationship with the new member countries. When we finish this process of enlargement, the EU will have twice the population of the United States and four times that of Japan.

It is not a simple endeavor. But we are going to do it because we have to - for moral, political and economic reasons. We are going to erase the dividing lines that separated Europe for too many years. We are going to achieve the final, institutional integration of Europe. We are going to reconcile history and geography.

This is going to be done in the coming years through the efforts of a new generation of European leaders, and while we are doing it, we are going to keep in mind that the Transatlantic relationship is an essential part of all this.

Imagine for a moment that Turkey becomes a part of the European Union - the strategic situation would be changed dramatically. Europe would have borders with countries like Syria and Iraq.

The EU is going to change very profoundly. But we are prepared to do what we have to do in a globalized world, in which regionally integrated entities will be absolutely fundamental to maintaining economic and political stability.

In a previous incarnation I was a professional theoretical physicist, and I know very well that motion is not an absolute concept. It is relative. One moves in relation to something, and if that something moves faster than you, you go backward. If it moves more slowly than you, you go forward.

With the international landscape changing as fast as it is today, the Western institutions - NATO, the European Union and its members, the United States - have to be able to move even faster if they want to keep pace with history and contribute to the future.

What we are trying to do in NATO and in the European Union is to develop the necessary institutions to assure the future of the transatlantic community, which has guaranteed the security and the stability of a great part of the world for more than half a century since World War II.

Not long ago, I was in Lju-bljana, the capital of Slovenia, a beautiful city in a very small country in the heart of Europe. A very old man saw me on the street and said to me, "Javier, would you like to come with me? I want to show you something."

The approach was so nice that I could not hesitate, and I went. He took me to the border of the river that runs through Ljubljana. That river flows into the Danube, so we were really in the heart of Europe. The old man pointed to a big house by the river and said, "I lived all my life in that house, without moving, and I lived in seven different countries."

What we are trying to do is to prevent the kind of suffering his story implies from ever happening again. We do not want to look back, but forward. Our grandparents thought that the 20th century would be a century of peace, of opportunity, of freedom. Unfortunately, it was not. I am confident that in the 21st century, we can make their dream come true.


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number I, Issue number II in the Spring of 2000.

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