Address at the Bled Strategic Forum Networking Reception
Bled, 2.9.2012 | speech
Keynote address by Dr Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia, at the 7th Bled Strategic Forum's Networking Reception
Bled, 2 September 2012
Thank you Miriam for the introduction.
Distinguished participants of the Bled Strategic Forum,
Prime Minister, Ministers,
It is always a great pleasure to come to Bled for the Strategic Forum – for the natural environment of Bled and for the stimulating discussions here, and for the very original introductions by Miriam Možgan. I would like to inform you – those of you who have not been present at previous meetings – that at one point she even provoked her then minister to speak about her pay raise. I am not sure whether that has happened so far, but Minister, I would like you to know that this may well be a good idea to think about or perhaps act on it already.
I was asked today to speak about general topics that are on the agenda of Bled Strategic Forum this year and which relate to the situation of Europe in a globalised world. I would like to share with you, briefly, a few simple thoughts about this very important subject that I am sure that during your discussions you have gone in greater depths of this and related questions.
Obviously, when one talks about Europe today one thinks primarily of the European Union – the key player in Europe, a large area of 500 million people, a great market, a great creative and productive potential. However, the EU is also involved in discussions about its own structures, about its own identity and about its own future. So, at present European Union is not able to play a legitimate role that it would otherwise have given its strength, its location, its history and its potential.
This is why I think we all, not only Europeans, have to think about this as something that requires new solutions. Obviously, European Union has, first of all, to put its own house in order. What exactly that means is not entirely clear because there are competing visions about what needs to be done.
I myself do not belong to those who believe that a very ambitious concept of a European federation or a European state is a realistic option for the foreseeable future. Europe has to choose between vision-making and problem-solving. I think that problem-solving is a much more promising path. We already have a vision in Europe, but what we really need is solving of problems, which relate to the system of euro, a flawed system, I would say, one which needs repair and one which needs repair quickly.
Slovenia is a country currently suffering from some of the problems that have characterised the Eurozone for the last two years. We have problems of our own, but we are also victims of the flawed system of the euro. Euro system has to be repaired, it has to be developed further into something more adequate. The path forward in my opinion leads through banking union and later through fiscal union.
Putting Europe’s house in order is a difficult task but much time has been spent already and I think that this coming months will be important for the European leaders to figure out which solutions might actually work and which solutions have to be put on the agenda with a view to taking definitive decisions. Problem-solving and putting the house in order, this is the first condition.
The second condition for the European Union to play a stronger role in the globalised world is that it has to refrain from preaching. European Union is proud of its unique system of economic and social relations, which are excellent and which could serve as an inspiration to many other areas in the world. But sometimes the impression was created that European Union is very quick in giving prescriptions, requiring from others the ways in which the others have to implement human rights and other universal values and that has created resentment.
We have to be honest about that. And if we look today at the discussions at the United Nations we can clearly see that European Union countries very often find themselves in a minority when dealing with the human rights questions. So there is something to be changed in that regard and I think it would be very wise on the part of the European Union to look at the agenda of human rights anew and look at the priorities in a way, which would help global cooperation and global improvement.
Some of the priorities in the area of human rights are relevant to countries in the immediate neighbourhood of the European Union. We in Europe have followed with great excitement and expectations the changes in the Arab world, known under the name of "Arab Spring". As things developed, we now see the complexity of the agenda of change in the Arab world and the need to think really very carefully about what it takes to ensure a solid, stable path towards full implementation of human rights in that part of the world. I believe that one has to rethink the order of priorities in which we Europeans are used to think about human rights. Perhaps this is not the time to deal with civil liberties in an exclusive way. One needs to take very careful look at the economic and social rights in countries affected by change and into possible and practical instruments that need to be put in place in order to help. Southern Mediterranean is our immediate neighbourhood. We have to be serious about it and serious about the ways in which Europe, a rich and affluent part of the world, is expected to help.
The third area of thought, which I believe is important for the European Union today, is the question of how well we are putting our strategic priorities together. Are we sure that we have the right hierarchy of priorities in our policy-making? The European Union like most other actors today acts in a mode which cannot be described as proactive or strategically thought through. Very often we react rather than act on the basis of a clear strategic vision. Therefore, an effort is needed to figure out how the priorities should be set.
I believe that priority number one for the European Union needs to be its Eastern neighbourhood. This is the area in which the cooperation has to intensify and in which European Union has to look for its improved strength. This is an area, which should be priority number one in the strategic vision of the European Union. Of course, there are other priorities and one can talk about them, but I think that European Union is lagging behind when it comes to Eastern Partnership.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have made a few observations, which are only a sketch for something that needs to be given much deeper thought. Bled Strategic Forum is one of the places where such thought can be given to the agenda of Europe today and the needed activities to change its role towards a level, which it deserves and which it should play in the future.
Europe has an enormous potential, not only in terms of its actual and potential power, but also in its normative sense. European Union and Europe more broadly is a well developed normative system. Looking at the world of the future we can clearly see the advantages of a norm-based international community such as the European Union has always supported. Is the European Union at present prepared to play an adequate role in fostering such a norm-based global international system? Probably it would be too much to expect much to happen in the near future. But on the other hand this is a long-term project, which needs to be taken seriously and one where the contribution of the European Union can clearly be significant.
Let us not forget that. Norm-based societies are usually much better than power-based societies. We no longer live in a bipolar world, which was a world based directly on power. We are developing into a multipolar world where power can again be a decisive element in rulemaking. But then, the world should keep in mind the lessons of previous centuries and understand that multipolar world can also be a rather unpleasant world if based on power alone. Norms are needed and in the norm-creation European Union will have to play a role. In order to be able to do that, Europe, as I said, has to put its house in order, has to make it possible to use its potential to the full and has to be modest in its dealings with others.
These are some of the thoughts I wished to share with you this evening. They are not necessarily very optimistic for the rest of the evening but I am sure that optimism will come to this gathering from other sources. Therefore, I wish you a nice evening, have a good time and continue your discussions with the necessary vigour. Thank you very much.