Sunday, March 25, 2007

Speech by Dr Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and President of the European Council, to celebrate the 50 years of the EU

Presidents, Prime Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
Today we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome. The venue of our celebrations today could hardly be more symbolic. For we are celebrating in Berlin. A city that until 18 years ago was divided by a Wall, by barbed wire, by soldiers with orders to shoot. In which people paid with their lives for seeking to escape to freedom.

I grew up east of this city, in the German Democratic Republic. When the Treaties of Rome were concluded I was just three years old. I was seven years old when the Wall was built. It divided also my own family. I did not believe I would ever be able to travel to the West until I was a pensioner. Only a few metres from here was the point where any walk I took would be at an end. But then the Wall collapsed after all. That was a defining moment for me: I realized that nothing ever has to stay the way it is.

That is a source of immense hope for all those who are not ready to countenance the injustices of our world. It is a source of immense hope, too, by the way, for all those in Europe who still endure oppression – like the people of Belarus. Today they are celebrating their independence day. Our thoughts are also with them today and our message to them is: Human rights are indivisible! Europe is with you!

Ladies and gentlemen, the reason we can celebrate this special anniversary here in Berlin of all places is because half a century ago a number of Europe's political leaders set about building a European peace project the like of which had never been seen before.

For let us be honest: 50 years of the Treaties of Rome – in the context of history that is hardly more than the blinking of an eye. And whether it will one day be more than that, whether on 25 March 2057 the centenary of the Treaties of Rome will be celebrated in a Europe of peace and freedom, democracy and the rule of law? We do not know.

None of all this can be taken for granted. All of it must be repeatedly strengthened and defended anew. Stagnation means regression. Building trust takes decades. And overnight it can be undermined. Any cleavage will soon have Europe out of step - sooner than some might think. In short, European unification must be striven for and secured time and time again. That is our guiding mission for the future. That is what is at the heart of today's anniversary celebrations.
Certainly the world today is not the same as the world 50 years ago. The six founding members are now 27 Member States. What started with freedom from tariffs has now progressed into a common currency. A world dominated by two blocs is today a world with a number of different power centres.

In such a world we must ask ever anew what holds Europe together also in this century, what the essence of its identity is. For me the answer is clear. The source of Europe's identity are our shared, fundamental values. They are what holds Europe together.

Let us not forget: For centuries Europe had been an idea, no more than a hope of peace and understanding. Today we, the citizens of Europe, know that hope has been fulfilled.
It has been fulfilled because the founding fathers of Europe were thinking in terms well beyond their own generation. They were thinking in terms well beyond their own time. They were thinking in terms also well beyond purely economic freedoms.

Three years before the signing of the Treaties of Rome the European Defence Community had foundered. But that was not the end of Europe. Despite that disappointment the preamble of the Treaty establishing the European Community began with a statement of determination – I quote – "to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe..." - end of quote.

The founding fathers of Europe knew that in the long run the economic and the political could not be kept separate.
Fifty years of the Treaties of Rome – that means for me, to put it in a nutshell, a dream has come true!

This dream could come true because we citizens of Europe have learned over the past 50 years to make the most of our identities and diverse traditions, the lively variety of our languages, cultures and regions.
This dream could come true because we let ourselves be guided by that quality which for me gives Europe its true soul, that quality which made the Treaties of Rome possible.
That quality is tolerance. We have taken centuries to learn this. On the way to tolerance we had to endure cataclysms. We persecuted and destroyed one another. We ravaged our homeland. We jeopardized the things we revered. Not even one generation has passed since the worst period of hate, devastation and destruction.

Today, however, ladies and gentlemen, we live together as was never possible before.
Each Member State has helped to unite Europe and strengthen democracy and the rule of law. Thanks to the yearning for freedom of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, the unnatural division of Europe is now consigned to the past.

One of the men who signed the Treaties of Rome in 1957, Maurice Faure, is amongst us today, as I said earlier. Today, exactly 50 years later, we can assure Maurice Faure and his comrades, in the words of our Berlin Declaration, that "we have a unique way of living and working together in the European Union. We, the citizens of the European Union, have united for the better."

United for the better – how can we preserve, strengthen and deepen what we have achieved so that it stands the test of the next 50 years at least ?
We can do it, I believe, by concentrating on what is our greatest strength - the power of freedom, freedom in all its manifestations:

The freedom to express our opinions freely, even when others do not like them.
The freedom to believe or not to believe.
The freedom of enterprise.
The freedom of artists to create their work as they see fit.
The freedom of the individual in his responsibility for the whole community.

When we count on the power of freedom, we are counting on the individual. The individual is paramount. His dignity is inviolable. And if I may make a personal comment, I would add that this view of the individual is for me also part and parcel of Europe's Jewish-Christian heritage.
This view of the power of freedom and the dignity of the individual was already implicit in the European Coal and Steel Community established before the Treaties of Rome. With the signing of the Treaties of Rome in 1957, for the first time in Europe's history the peoples of Europe came together of their own free will to create a common project with common rules.

That is why today in Berlin we can reaffirm our commitment to a Europe of equal rights for all Member States, both large and small, old and new.
On its own every European country is too weak to successfully tackle the global challenges we face. That is why there can only be one answer: we must not act alone but together in a united Europe.

The age of globalization makes one thing increasingly clear to us: the decision in favour of Europe is also a decision in favour of a certain way of life. It was and remains a decision in favour of our European model. It combines economic success and social responsibility. Only together can we continue to preserve our ideal of European society in future.
Only together can we ensure economic and social standards also internationally.
For we should not deceive ourselves: the world will not wait for Europe. Other regions of the world are developing at a breathtaking pace.

Europe therefore needs one thing above all else: it needs to be dynamic. For if it is not dynamic there can be no prosperity in Europe. And if it is not dynamic, solidarity within Europe will diminish. A dynamic Europe is a Europe of dynamic growth. That creates jobs. That rewards achievement. That will help tackle bureaucracy.
That strengthens Europe's strengths. They lie in the knowledge and ability of Europe's citizens, in education, research and innovation. That is the key to growth, employment and social cohesion.

Europe must also lead the way in renewable energies, energy efficiency and protection of our climate. We adopted an Action Plan on this at the European Council in early March. We want to make our contribution to averting the global threat of climate change. But for that we need allies throughout the world.
For Europe will be increasingly compelled to deal with external influences in future anyway due to globalization.

A common Foreign and Security Policy in Europe is therefore absolutely vital. But, of course, this policy should not be isolationist but must be based on cooperation with partners outside Europe. I firmly believe that close, amicable relations with the United States of America and a strong NATO are and will remain in Europe's fundamental interest.
This is not at odds with enhanced intensification of European cooperation. Rather, it is the other side of the same coin.

A comprehensive strategic partnership with Russia is just as important to Europe. We need both a strategic partnership with Russia and the transatlantic alliance. They are most certainly not mutually exclusive. After all, it is Europe which has developed a modern understanding of integration: embedded institutional structures instead of "them against us" attitudes, the formation of axes and go-it-alone policies. Europe must never divide, or allow itself to be divided, over any issue.

Only if Europe stands together will we be able to successfully fight terrorism, organized crime and illegal immigration. Only then will we be able to successfully defend liberties and civil rights, also in the struggle against those who oppose them. Then racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia will never again stand a chance.

Then we can work towards the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the world and ensure that people do not become victims of war, terrorism and violence, that poverty, hunger and diseases such as AIDS are driven back. We want to promote freedom and development in the world.
In our Berlin Declaration we expressly state our commitment to continue promoting democracy, stability and prosperity beyond the borders of the European Union.

The importance of this commitment cannot be overestimated. And it quickly becomes very tangible. For instance, on a day like today we also think of people in Zimbabwe and Darfur. The suffering there is unbearable. We want to take this opportunity to call upon Sudan's President Bashir to finally comply with the UN resolutions. I want to state frankly that we have to consider stronger sanctions.

With this – as well as with the new UN resolution on Iran adopted yesterday – we demonstrate our commitment to shouldering global responsibility together with our allies and partners.
However, ladies and gentlemen, even on a festive occasion such as this we should not fool ourselves. If we are to safeguard the European way of life and assume global responsibility, Europe needs to be able to act, to act more effectively than it can at present.
For we know that the European Union will continue to thrive both on openness and on the will of its Member States to consolidate the Union's internal development.

The internal structures must be adapted to an enlarged Union with 27 Member States. What has to be done here? My answer is clear: the European Union needs more and it needs better defined competences than it has at present: in energy policy, in foreign policy, in justice and home affairs.

It has to determine more clearly for what the Member States are responsible and for what the Community is responsible.
It must concentrate on core tasks and preserve the unique features of the Member States wherever possible.

It must ensure that even with 27 or more Member States its institutions function efficiently, democratically and in a way which citizens understand. Much is at stake.
It is true that anyone who hoped that 50 years after the Treaties of Rome we would have a Constitutional Treaty will be disappointed.

But it is also true that anyone who hoped that Europe would be aware of the need to strengthen its institutional make-up will find that our Berlin Declaration points the way forward. For we know that we must always renew the political shape of Europe in keeping with the times.
It is therefore both important and necessary that today here in Berlin, 50 years after the signing of the Treaties of Rome, we are united in our aim of placing the European Union on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009.

I am working to ensure that a roadmap for this can be adopted at the close of Germany's EU Presidency, and I am counting on your support.
I am certain that it is not only in the interests of Europe, but also of the individual Member States and the citizens of Europe, that this process be brought to a successful conclusion.
Not to do so would be an historic failure. What we decide will have an impact for a long time to come, for better or for worse.
But, ladies and gentlemen, there is really no need to talk about failure. Europe has overcome major obstacles so many times. The negotiations on the Treaties whose 50th anniversary we are celebrating today is a prime example of this.
I read that one delegation member – I believe it was a British diplomat – is supposed to have said at the time, and I quote: "The future treaty you are discussing has no chance of being agreed; if it was agreed, it would have no chance of being ratified; and if it was ratified, it would have no chance of being applied" - end of quote. I wonder, ladies and gentlemen, what this negotiator would have said about today's celebrations.

But he was not the only one who was less than enthusiastic about the treaty. One rather prominent French politician is reported as saying at the time that - and I quote: "Treaties, you see, are like girls and roses; they last while they last". Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the rose tree has grown considerably since 1957 and today an admittedly not so young girl is even among the signatories of the Berlin Declaration.

And, finally, a Belgian newspaper, La libre belgique, wrote at the time of the negotiations on the Treaties of Rome that the Germans were all important doctors and well-organized; the French were well bred, loved plans and theories. The Italians wore wonderful ties and stockings and even statistics exploded like fireworks in their country.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are all of this and much, much more. That is Europe. Scepticism, contradictions, diversity, even some much loved clichés, but not least – courage. Europe is all of that.
Europe is much more than dairy cows and the Chemicals Directive. Just look around – people from 27 European states are gathered here today. There are pupils and students from the ERASMUS programme. There are musicians from the Youth Orchestra of the European Union playing for us conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Sometimes I think that if we are so much preoccupied with extending and renewing our shared European house, we could easily overlook its greatness and uniqueness in the midst of all the construction work.
For after all the wars and boundless suffering, something very special has emerged.
We, the citizens of Europe, have united for the better. For we know, Europe is our common future.

That was a dream for many generations. Our history reminds us that we must protect this for the good of future generations.
And so I hope that the citizens of Europe will say in 50 years' time:
Back then in Berlin, the united Europe set the right course.
Back then in Berlin, the European Union embarked upon the right path towards a bright future. It went on to renew its foundations so that it could make its contribution here in Europe, this old continent, as well as globally, in this one large yet small world we live in.
For a better world. For people everywhere. That is our mission for the future.

Thank you.

Declaration on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the signature of the Treaties of Rome

For centuries Europe has been an idea, holding out hope of peace and understanding. That hope has been fulfilled. European unification has made peace and prosperity possible. It has brought about a sense of community and overcome differences. Each Member State has helped to unite Europe and to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. Thanks to the yearning for freedom of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe the unnatural division of Europe is now consigned to the past. European unification shows that we have learnt the painful lessons of a history marked by bloody conflict. Today we live together as was never possible before.
We, the citizens of the European Union, have united for the better.

In the European Union, we are turning our common ideals into reality: for us, the individual is paramount. His dignity is inviolable. His rights are inalienable. Men and women enjoy equal rights. We are striving for peace and freedom, for democracy and the rule of law, for mutual respect and shared responsibility, for prosperity and security, for tolerance and participation, for justice and solidarity.
We have a unique way of living and working together in the European Union. This is expressed through the democratic interaction of the Member States and the European institutions. The European Union is founded on equal rights and mutually supportive co-operation. This enables us to strike a fair balance between Member States' interests.
We preserve in the European Union the identities and diverse traditions of its Member States. We are enriched by open borders and a lively variety of languages, cultures and regions. There are many goals which we cannot achieve on our own, but only in concert. Tasks are shared between the European Union, the Member States and their regions and local authorities.

We are facing major challenges which do not stop at national borders. The European Union is our response to these challenges. Only together can we continue to preserve our ideal of European society in future for the good of all European Union citizens, This European model combines economic success and social responsibility. The common market and the euro make us strong. We can thus shape the increasing interdependence of the global economy and ever-growing competition on international markets according to our values. Europe's wealth lies in the knowledge and ability of its people; that is the key to growth, employment and social cohesion.
We will fight terrorism and organised crime together. We stand up for liberties and civil rights also in the struggle against those who oppose them. Racism and xenophobia must never again be given any rein.
We are committed to the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the world and to ensuring that people do not become victims of war, Terrorism and violence. The European Union wants to promote freedom and development in the world. We want to drive back poverty, hunger and disease. We want to continue to take a leading role in that fight.
We intend jointly to lead the way in energy policy and climate protection and make our contribution to averting the global threat of climate change.

The European Union will continue to thrive both on openness and on the will of its Member States to consolidate the Union's internal development. The European Union will continue to promote democracy, stability and prosperity beyond its borders.
With European unification a dream of earlier generations has become a reality. Our history reminds us that we must protect this for the good of future generations. For that reason we must always renew the political shape of Europe in keeping with the times. That is why today, 50 years after the signing of the Treaties of Rome, we are united in our aim of placing the European Union on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009.
For we know, Europe is our common future.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

EU and Christian Values

While the EU celebrates its 50th anniversary, the Pope admonishes it. Ratzinger is incessantly repeating that the EU needs to recognize its Christian roots.

Can we dismiss his claim or do we have to take it seriously? Secularists, who are the overwhelming majority in Europe, believe that we should not even pay attention to it.

But an increasing number of religious people feel excluded and non-represented by the European and the national institutions.

The biggest risk is the polarization of our European societies, making cohabitation even more difficult than it is now. Moreover, rejecting religion altogether may have the opposite effect of making the religious minorities more vocal and ultimately stronger.

This is a real dilemma which deserves close attention on the part of politicians, the civil society and academics.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Europe at 50: Another Perspective

Timothy Garton Ash provides an interesting discussion in Prospect.

Here's an excerpt:

Europe has lost the plot. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the treaty of Rome on 25th March 2007—the 50th birthday of the European economic community that became the European Union—Europe no longer knows what story it wants to tell. A shared political narrative sustained the postwar project of (west) European integration for three generations, but it has fallen apart since the end of the cold war. Most Europeans now have little idea where we're coming from; far less do we share a vision of where we want to go to. We don't know why we have an EU or what it's good for. So we urgently need a new narrative.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Attempts of Dialogue on Afghanistan between America and Italy

Italy proposes an international conference for peace and stability.
And America listens interested... Is this a sign of Bush's new multilateral approach?
too soon to say, or perhaps too late!

For a report have a look here:

Here's an excerpt:

Unexpectedly, the United States yesterday did not rule out an “international conference for peace and stability in Afghanistan”, the carefully crafted diplomatic formula adopted by [Italy’s foreign minister, Massimo – Trans.] D’Alema for a political solution to the Afghan crisis.The State Department’s spokesman, Sean McCormack, said that “it could be a constructive suggestion”. “We want to understand some of the details”, he continued. “Fundamentally, you want to get the opinion of the Afghan Government and President Karzai about this. So I think it’s really an idea that merits some discussion”. “And to see”, concluded Mr McCormack, “whether or not, on the basis of that discussion, you move forward or not”.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

50 Ways to Praise the EU

To follow on from my post some time ago on the importance of recognising the benefits, as well as criticising the problems, of the European Union, it is worth flagging briefly this list, compiled to mark the 50th anniversary of the Union and undoubtedly partially tongue-in-cheek, in today's Independent: 50 Reasons to Love the EU, backed up by this more detailed explanation of each item, and by this editorial and comment piece.

As mentioned, some of the "reasons" provided are, well, a little suspect: No. 14, for example, on "making the French eat British beef again", or No. 37, which proclaims that "Europe's bananas remain bent, despite sceptics' fears", are both mildly amusing padding; No. 13, which praises the "small EU bureaucracy" on the grounds that it has less employees than the BBC is certainly contestable (number of employees not being the only, or indeed always the most important, indice of the "size" of a bureaucratic machine); while No. 42's claim that the "EU gives more, not less, sovereignty to nation states" is still at best an open question, theoretically.

These and other asides aside, however, many of the list entries do contain powerful affirmations of the Union's success, even if there aren't - quite - 50 of them: the abolition of the death penalty and the eastward spread and entrenchment of democratic principles; the increased mobility of youth and labour; stauncher support for minority languages; and, of course, the end - for the foreseeable future - of war between European nations, to name but a few.

Also noteworthy is the theme, running throughout the list, that the UK has missed out on many of the benefits that the Union has brought to its other members, from the Euro, through the effective dismantling of border controls, to a general increase in multilingualism; and the idea that this is both symptom and cause of the manner in which debate within Britain focuses almost exclusively on the Union's shortcomings. The editorial on the subject begins thus:

The European Union will celebrate its 50th anniversary this weekend with an all-night party in a rejuvenated Berlin. It is a joyous coincidence that the anniversary should fall in the middle of the German presidency. What more conclusive evidence could there be of what the European Union has achieved than around-the-clock festivities beneath the Brandenburg Gate? The symbol of Europe's post-war division has now become the most potent symbol of Europe's unity.

Of course, the EU as it has evolved from the six-member European Economic Community is far from flawless. From the remoteness of its institutions, through its clumsy administrative structures, to its labyrinthine bureaucracy, the EU can appear all too often as a cobbled-together machine of Heath-Robinson complexity. Nor are perennial complaints about the "democratic deficit" without foundation...

But none of this should be allowed, as it all too often is in Britain, to eclipse the truly remarkable success of the European project.

Amen to that.

Obama like Orwell

Obama launches the first serious attack on Hilary Clinton. In a suggestive video (, Clinton is portrayed as imposing top down her 'conversation' with the people that look brainwashed and uniformised. The video suggests that Clinton is a control freak that would like to transform America into an Orwellian state of permanent control of individuals.

Obama promises that 1984 (the famous Orwell's political tragedy) will not happen in 2008.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Chirac's Legacy

In few months, it will be over. Chirac will be a simple citizen after 50 years of politics in France and Europe.

What will be his legacy? there are many sceptics on this point, the most prominent is probably the economist which had a very hard article last week. here:

Here's a passage:

Mr Chirac's popularity rating has slumped from a second-term high of 60% during the Iraq war, according to TNS-Sofres, a polling organisation, to just 29% today. Midway through 2006, he became the most unpopular president under the French Fifth Republic since polling began.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cardinal Martini pleads for a more articulate Church

Martini, the former Cardinal of Milan, spoke in clear terms against the stubborn repetition of the moral superiority of the Catholic Church.

Instead of doing so, the Church should promote its model as a good model. For example, the Church's understanding of family is not intresically superior to others and without reasons. The Church should articulate its reasons why it thinks that its family model may be more appealing that one put forward by competing ways of thinking.

Only speaking to the people in their own words will finally give the Church the moral leverage that it has lost, at least in Europe

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pope against Rights

The Vatican pursues its offensive line against the liberalisation of Italian society, but its message is obviously applicable to the whole world.

The battle is directed at the moment against the same sex union project of law. In Europe, Spain, France, Benelux, the UK and other States have already adopted legislation to this effect.

The Pope's turn of the screw include also some curious policies such as strengthening the use of latin during Mass. Read here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Italy: a new immigration law

The draft proposal will be presented in Parliament next week.

You can find a report here.

Here's an excerpt:
The eight-page text, drafted by the legal offices of the Interior and Social Solidarity ministries, is finally ready. It will introduce a series of fast tracks for hiring home helps, carers and those with special skills, such as engineers and university staff, but entry will also be open to unskilled foreign workers.And to all those who already speak Italian.

Monday, March 12, 2007

American Universities and Equality not go hand in hand. Rich people have a privileged access to the best Universities, as this interesting study in the NYRB confirms.

here's an excerpt:

The causes and consequences of these dispiriting facts are complex, and the cost to society—moral and material—is high. There is moral cost in the shortfall between the professed ideal of equal opportunity and the reality of rising inequality. As for the material cost, "there has never been reason to believe that all outstanding candidates will be able to pay whatever fees are charged without help," as Bowen and his colleagues put it, and "society at large needs all the trained talent it can marshal."

Bye Bye Chirac

President Jacques Chirac has announced that he will not run for a third mandate. After 12 years, and at 74, he decides to 'serve the French people in other ways.'

As a result 2007 will see the end of two heavyweight of European politics, Chirac and Blair, who have dominated the scene for the past 10 years or so.

We can only hope that after them, Europe and the world will be less polarized.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Energy and Europe: Not Without Hope

That is what Angela Merkel said yesterday in Brussels:

The European Union should make a binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in relation to 1990 values and to increase by 20% the share of renewable energies. That is the goal Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has set her sights on. At the end of the first working day of the European Council meeting in Brussels, she appeared confident that on this point the Member States would reach agreement.

The Chancellor also made clear, however, that on the specifics more discussions were needed. "What we can achieve I will only be able to announce at the end of the Council."The atmosphere during the discussion in the evening, Angela Merkel noted in Brussels, had been very positive and constructive. The debate had been a very serious one, since the goal was highly ambitious. "We want the EU to make a binding commitment to this goal," she pointed out.

"It is important that we can tell the G8 members that Europe has made a real commitment. That gives us a measure of credibility," the Council President emphasized. There are two goals at stake, she noted.

The first concerned the share of renewable energies, meaning wind, water, sun and biomass. "Nuclear energy," she made clear, "does not fall into this category."

The second concerned the overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. In this context nuclear energy could count as a low CO2 emitting energy source. This was an issue France in particular had raised.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Catholics, pain and Europe

Are Catholics in Europe moving onward or backward?

Some medieval practices that are spreading again in Italy suggests the latter:

Here's an interesting article:

Here's an excerpt:

Catholics and the Return of the Spiked Metal “Cilicio”.

The unfortunate senator and Opus Dei numerary Paola Binetti fell into the trap of admitting on television that she was familiar with the “cilicio”, a spiked metal garter, and attempted to explain why it is used: “It forces us to reflect on the fatigue of living. It is the sacrifice of a mother waking up at night because her baby is crying”.

8th of March

Women's day.

This is the year of Segolene Royal, Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel.

Royal is still misterious. Is she going to reform France at the root, or will she bring more of the old (French socialism).

Hillary is very ambitious and very experienced. But unfortunately, many men do not like ambitious women, or at least that is my feeling. They should give her a chance.

Angela Merkel is doing well despite many things. Her government formed by a large coalition is a slow machine. But Germany is improving economically and Europe is following. Merkel is also leading the European Council with more energy and ideas than their recent predecessors (notably Tony Blair).

We can only hope that 2007 will be a succesfull year for Women!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The European Council is coming up...

...It will take place on the 8th and 9th of March. This is Angela Merkel's message:

Europe is at an important crossroads. If we act decisively now, we have a chance of effectively counteracting the dangers of climate change. Climate and energy policies are therefore at the centre of this European Council. We must use the spring meeting to decide on a strategy which will safeguard our energy supply and ensure climate protection on a sustainable basis. Our response to this issue will have repercussions for the future of Europe and beyond.

Europe is currently experiencing an economic upturn. The reforms undertaken as part of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Employment are beginning to bear fruit. We should use this positive development to further modernise Europe and its industry and make them fit to face the challenges ahead.We also intend at the forthcoming meeting to take measures to boost employment and reinforce the social dimension, as well as to promote better regulation.We begin our consultations on Thursday evening at 17.30 with an exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering.

Following this, the first working session will take place from 18.00 to 20.00. It will be devoted to questions of energy policy and climate protection policy. Last December we decided that we would work out an action plan in the area of energy policy for Europe and tackle the political, economic and external repercussions of energy policy and climate protection policy in that context. The Commission submitted a proposal on this subject in January 2007. We shall discuss a number of priority measures at our spring Council and we shall have the opportunity on this occasion to set out a European strategy with ambitious goals and timetables. I have asked the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, to give an introductory presentation on the subject.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

David Cameron's Europe: Old, Boring, and Flawed

David Cameron, leader of the Tories in the UK, wrote a piece on his view of Europe together with Mirek Topolanek, prime minister of the Czech Republic.

The lack of ideas and projects of Mr Cameron is staggering. He claims he started a movement for european reform. He is probably unaware of the fact that there are thousand similar movements across Europe.

He makes three points as to where Europe should go. First, it should be committed to an open market. Second, it should be committed to a nationalist perspective. Third, it should be committed to a strong Transatlantic bond.

The third point is probably where we agree. It needs no commentary, if to say that he is stating the obvious. The second point goes backward instead of going forward. Europe was and is a succesfull project because it manages to go beyond national states. To fall back to that pre-WW2 position would be a dramatic failure. The first point is at best, and again, stating the obvious problem of competition in a globalized world. Everyone is aware of that. Cameron does not offer anything interesting or different or constructive.

Here's the text:

Fifty years ago this month, the post-war generation of mainland Europe came together to articulate a project conceived in hope and forged by necessity: the hope was for a peaceful and prosperous future; and the necessity was economic ruin and political division. In signing the Treaty of Rome, they laid the foundations of the European Union.

In 1973 Britain, at a time of its own economic weakness, joined what was then still a small club of nations. It was not an easy start. Britain already had strong links with strategic partners around the world through the Commonwealth, family ties and trade. And public and political opinion was split over the relative merits of membership.

This ambivalence was to characterise much of Britain’s relationship with the EU ever since. This is in stark contrast to the Czech experience. When the Iron Curtain came crashing down and a politically plural culture and free trade took root, there was little ambivalence towards the EU: joining it was a priority, not an afterthought It was necessary to entrench the new found freedoms which the Czechs fought so hard to win and the prosperity which they had so longed for.

Our countries joined the European Union for different reasons and with different enthusiasms. And we have had different experiences. But today, as leaders of our respective country’s leading centre-right political parties, we are united with a common purpose: to make the EU change so it can be a force for good in the twenty-first century.

Fifty years after the Treaty of Rome, we have a new Europe, facing new challenges and with a new generation of leaders. But we have the same EU, still too attached to the tenets of centralisation and regulation and still too interested in itself, rather than worldwide challenges such as globalisation, climate change and global poverty. A new, positive agenda for Europe means reconnecting it to these urgent priorities. It means moving towards a new flexibility and dynamism. And it means looking outwards to the world.

That is why we launched the Movement for European Reform. We will be carrying out a comprehensive review of the EU’s policies, priorities, institutional capabilities and budget, it is open to all those - public servants, professionals, diplomats, business-leaders and students - who share our determination to make the EU work better. We want to pioneer a new agenda for Europe, underpinned by what we believe to be the three key commitments for a forward-looking EU.

First, the EU should be clearly and unambiguously committed to open markets. With increased and fierce competition from countries such as India and China, Europe has to take the steps that make our economies both open and dynamic. Responding to this challenge means discarding the old habits of regulation and fighting for free trade both within and without.

But free trade must also be fair. As the world’s largest trading block, the EU has a responsibility to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are shared by everyone. We should use trade liberalisation at home to provide economic opportunities, and spur development, abroad. This EU must use its collective muscle to push the World Trade Organisation to reduce the tariffs which entrench poverty in the developing world.

Second, the EU should be committed to a Europe of nation states. This means matching the growing flexibility of the globalised economy with flexibility in the political compact between Brussels and member states. At the moment, the EU’s default response to the challenges of our times is always to reach for more power- not least through a new Constitution for Europe. There is a strong tendency to do this by debating the future of 500 million people behind closed doors. This is precisely why so many people feel disenfranchised by the European project. For the EU to be relevant in the 21st century, it must respect equal status for all EU members and, while maintaining the single market as the EU’s core, give more flexibility in areas where member states may want either closer or looser control.

A more flexible EU also means one that can continue to expand. The enlargement of the European Union – from just six in 1957 to 27 members today - has helped entrench democracy and stability from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. That is a marvellous achievement. But we cannot now allow arguments over institutional structures to block further enlargement. That means holding out a real prospect of membership to the Western Balkans, to Turkey, to the Ukraine.

Third, the EU should be committed to a strong transatlantic relationship. Europe and the United States have a deep and wide history of friendship based on shared objectives. That this remains the case today can be in no doubt. Whether it is in rising to the challenge of globalisation, articulating a coherent and progressive response to climate change, confronting the imperative of energy security, or advancing wealth creation and the principles of freedom across the world, EU member states must understand that we can achieve most by working with America, rather than against it.

Today, the Movement for European Reform is holding its inaugural conference in Brussels. A vast array of thought provoking policy-makers, thinkers and members of the public will outline how best they think Europe can marry these principles with the priorities of the 21st century: globalisation, global poverty, climate change and international security. After a year of consultation, it will publish its suggestions. Most importantly, we want to hear from you- visit our website and have your say on our shared future.

Our two countries came to the European project with different histories and motivations. But today, as a new generation of Europe’s leaders, we are committed not only to establishing a new political grouping in the European parliament, but also too making the EU fit for the 21st century: one that is a force for good in the world; one that leads by example; and one that delivers. Join us in building an EU that we can all be proud of.

Europe and North Korea

Another interesting area in which the European Presidency is actively engaged (statement released by the Presidency):

Today (Tuesday, 6 March), a delegation of the European Union, led by Germany´s EU presidency, will travel to Pyongyang in North Korea for two days of high-level political talks (6 8 March).

The aim of this trip by the EU Troika is to promote the rapid implementation of an agreement reached on 13 February in Beijing during the Six-Party Talks on North Korea´s nuclear programme. The European Union expressly welcomed this agreement. Furthermore, the delegation will emphasize that the EU expects the Six-Party Talks to continue with a view to implementing all the agreements included in the Joint Statement of 19 September 2005.

The European Union is committed to security and stability in the region and to the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula. For that reason, both Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as representative of the German presidency of the EU Council, and Javier Solana, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union Javier Solana, have welcomed the efforts made by the Six Parties and the understandings they have reached.

For the EU, the trip also is of an exploratory nature since the outcome of the visit will provide important guidelines for discussions within the EU as to its future relations with North Korea.The Troika delegation comprises Germany´s current EU presidency as well as representatives of the European Commission and the Secretariat General of the European Union. Portugal, which will take over the EU presidency after Germany, will also participate.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Europe and the Future of Georgia

The Presidency of the EU has issued the following statement:

The European Union reiterates its full support for the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders and emphasises that it does not recognise the legitimacy of the so-called "Parliamentary elections" held in Abkhazia, Georgia, on 4 March 2007 and of the local elections held on 11 February 2007.

The European Union holds the view that elections in this region of Georgia can only be valid after all refugees and internally-displaced persons are given the right to a safe, secure and dignified return to their homes.

The European Union urges the parties concerned to immediately resume negotiations in order to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Europe: 50 years after!

On March 25th, it will be the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome (1957), the founding Treaties of the European Union.

Here's a good link to prepare for celebration!

Here's a brief intro:

On 25 March 1957, the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) for joint research and civil use of nuclear energy were founded with the signing of the Treaties in the Musei Capitolini in Rome. The two Treaties entered into force on 1 January 1958 after being ratified by the six Member States. Prior to this, the European Coal and Steel Community had been created in 1952 while the attempt to establish a European Defence Community had failed in 1954. But plans for European integration did not end there. As early as 1956, the Belgian Foreign Minister Paul-Henri Spaak presented his report on the draft Community Treaties foreseeing the creation of the EEC.
The merger treaty of 1965 brought the bodies of the three Communities together. The new group was commonly referred to as the European Community. This became part of the European Union (EU) in 1993.
As successfully as the Economic Community developed, the Atomic Energy Community created little momentum. Since the treaties for both Communities were signed that day in Rome, however, we usually talk about the "Treaties of Rome" in the plural.

Merkel pushes Europe (and its constitution)

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is now presiding the Council of the European Union. Yesterday, she has delivered before the Bundestag, an interesting policy statement as an introduction to the forthcoing meeting of the council.

Every pro-European expects very much from the German presidency, also because Germany is doing very well economically at the moment. This is a breath of fresh air for Europe as a whole, as the economist pointed out few weeks ago.

The presidency only lasts for 6 months, so if something has to happen it will have to happen very soon. Here's a calendar of the proposed actions.

Here's the policy document.

And here's an excerpt where she mentions the European Constitution:

We know that the question as to what will happen to the Constitutional Treaty after our Presidency is – I believe rightly so – vitally important to our Presidency and, even more so, to the future of the European Union. It will determine how we go into the 2009 European elections. We know that we cannot shape the European Union's common future on the basis of the Nice Treaty. We need a treaty which focuses more on regional, that is to say, subsidiary responsibility, which renders Europe's institutions efficient, which makes it clear what unites the European Union. That is why we will carry on working until June on a roadmap to determine how we should proceed with the Constitutional Treaty. Initial consultations have shown that, despite all the difficulties, there is widespread consensus that we have to send the message that this European Union is capable of action.

The End of the Italian Crisis

Today, Prody got the green light in the lower chamber of Parliament, La Camera. This was an expected result, as the majority in this chamber is clear, as opposed to the thin majority in the Senate.

The good side of the story is that the response to the crisis was quick and relatively painless.
The drawback is that Prodi's government is an unstable government in constant search of a majority.

His 12 points to govern Italy, shows that the Italian Constitution does not really facilitate the role of prime minister as a leader of the government.

Partly, this is perhaps due to Prodi's lack of charisma; partly, however, it comes down to the heavily parliamentarian regime in Italy. The prime minister is in many cases the puppet in the hands of the parliament and has no safeguards against mutinies

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Yoo Shall Torture

Professor John Yoo gave a huge contribution to Bush's administration in its more troublesome period (2001-2003). His memo in defense of Torture is one of the most controversial, and in my mind, repelling documents ever written by a lawyer working for a government.

Yoo may have taken Alexander Hamilton as a role model, but he does not understand that boldness does not equate with lack of intellectual honesty.

Yoo's most recent book on this and other issues 'War by Other Means: An Insider's Account of the War on Terror,' has been admirably reviewed by David Luban in the New York Review of Books.

Prodi Survives, but how long?

Prodi survives, for the moment. The italian higher chamber gives green light to the government. But only few votes guarantee the numerical majority.

How long will Prodi-bis last? Not too long, I suspect. Enough to change the electoral law and to achieve few other reforms (probably small).

And there we go, we will vote again in a year or so.