"Council of the European Union: remarks by EU High Representative Javier SOLANA at the Conference "NATIONAL INTERESTS AND EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY"
Berlin 7 October 2008 I would like to thank the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik for convening this conference. It follows a good tradition. For many years it has hosted the NATO Review Conference. As NATO General Secretary I valued these intense political brainstormings. It is timely to launch a similar exercise for our Common Foreign and Security Policy.
Next year, it will be ten years since the Kosovo crisis, which played a fundamental role in the creation of the European Security and Defence Policy. The European Security Strategy will see its 5th anniversary in December. So this is a good moment to look back. But even more to think about the future. I hope and expect this conference to contribute to tangible progress in the evolution of Europe’s global role.
At the request of the organisers, my intervention will focus on the question of national interests and how they relate to building a common European foreign policy.This is not an easy topic. These days, when debating foreign policy, the concept of "national interest" can seem outmoded and unattractive. In both public opinion and specialist circles, we tend to associate the idea with the cynical pursuit of self-interest. Take historical figures like Machiavelli: "it is far safer to be feared than loved". Or Lord Palmerston: "my country has no permanent friends, only permanent interests". We like to think diplomats have moved beyond that kind of thinking in the twenty-first century.
This explains why the European approach to international relations is characterised by the primacy of international law; the search for consensual solutions; and a commitment to making multilateral institutions effective. This is the European way. What we do abroad is shaped by who we are. Not only is this approach right. It is also very effective, as the history of Europe over the last fifty years demonstrates. There is another aspect to all this. The very concept of national interest has changed in our globalised world. In a nutshell: interests have gone global. We face common problems. You all know the list: terrorism, climate change and energy security, proliferation, organised crime, failing states. These are complex and interconnected problems. They defy simple solutions.
No country acting alone can solve them. So, national and collective interests are linked. You cannot pursue one at the expense of the other. Of course there will always be differences of emphasis, based on history, geography and the electoral cycle. We should be aware of these differences - and discuss how they can be overcome. But the collective, common interest is clear. Global and complex issues require global answers.
So much for the theory. How to do it in practice, in a Union of 27 member-states? By working hard every day. I believe it is possible, because there is such a thing as common European interests. Let me try to explain. First, I believe it is an interest in itself for the 27 Member states to build unity. Unity is the best way to be heard in a globalised world. Unity is a precondition for Europe to be effective. In turn, being effective helps with creating unity, as the Balkan and Georgia conflicts have shown.
Let me conclude. National interests and European foreign policy have to be linked. But it should be clear that in a globalised world, national interests can best be achieved through collective action. European foreign policy is work in progress. We all know that we can and should improve the efficiency of our decision-making and the effectiveness of our actions. But perhaps paradoxically, the Georgian crisis gives me hope. It showed that strong political will and good co-ordination between the institutions and Member States is critical. And that it can be forthcoming when we need it. Now we need to ensure that the same conditions will be there in the future. The Treaty of Lisbon will be a central part of delivering that. A swift entry into force of that Treaty is clearly in our common interest.
Dear friends, The world today is more complex and interconnected. Our approach of bringing together member states into collective positions which are stronger than the sum of their parts, is the only realistic response. It is in our interest to continue on this path.
Thank you very much."http://www.girodivite.it/Council-of-the-European-Union,9060.html