And rightly so. In the world we see emerging it's hard to define
the centres of power: they are multiple, of different nature,
and overlapping in a rather chaotic web. 25 years after the end
of the old bipolar system, the world is far from being a
unipolar one, nor is it truly multipolar. Maybe we are living in
times of absence of poles, times of an endless transition to
something we cannot yet define. Complexity, conflictuality,
interdependence seem to be the only elements we can be sure of
when we refer to our times.
The big question for all of us is: how do we try to make a
change? How can we manage complexity, prevent or handle
conflictuality, and take the opportunities that interdependence
offers to us? How do we shape, after 25 years, a new world
Let me try to say how I think the European Union can contribute
to addressing the many challenges (and the few opportunities) we
face and hopefully trying to make the opportunities more than
First, by focusing on our immediate and wider neighbourhood. I
am convinced that, as Europeans, we can only expect to be a
credible global player if we act as a responsible power at our
doorstep. Our priority are the many challenges that are most
immediate and most urgent. We stand side by side with our
partners and friends in the region, in defence against those
that seek to undermine their values, their aspirations, their
sovereign choices. We support their statebuilding projects,
their democratisation, economic reforms, as well as their
European and regional integration. It is both a responsibility
dictated by history and an interest dictated by geography.
And we do that together, north and south, east and west of the
European Union, united. As we know very well our strength comes
from a balanced mix of diversity and unity. And because we all
know that we can't afford the luxury of choosing which crisis we
want to deal with. The conflicts around us are many and don't
queue up: we have to work on all of them, all at the same time,
all of us together, to the east and to the south.
To our east, on European territory, the conflict in Ukraine has
carried an unsustainable price in human lives, has shown us that
one of the basic principles of international law - the respect
of country's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and that you
don't change borders by force - can be violated. An extremely
dangerous precedent, not only for Europe but for the rest of the
world as well.
What is our response? What is our action to stop the conflict
and restore the respect of international law?
First: exhaustive diplomacy, including the economic pressure we
put with our sanctions. We work through all channels, all forms
and formats of dialogue that can lead to a solution. Being it
the Trilateral Contact Group, the efforts of mediation led by
the OSCE, being it the talks in the Normandy Format. The
initiative taken by Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande in
the past days goes exactly in this direction, with the goal of
finding effective ways of finally implementing, in full, the
Minsk agreement. We do not know yet whether these efforts will
succeed. But it is our duty to try. Not only because we feel the
urgency of reaching a ceasefire, and making it sustainable. But
also because we know that there is no alternative solution to a
diplomatic solution for this crisis.
But our work is not only focused on solving the conflict. We
also have to make sure that Ukraine becomes a functional state,
I would say a success story. That is why we are supporting
Ukraine in its broad reform agenda. That is why we have just
added €1.8 billion in macro-financial assistance; let me say
that much more, much more is needed from the international
community. That is why we have deployed Advisory Mission to
assist with security sector reform, and that is why we are
facilitating the gas negotiations between Russia and Ukraine to
ensure security of supply.
I've heard yesterday some words from minister Lavrov. Let me say
that our vision for the EU's relations with Russia had been a
partnership for prosperity and security. The EU can never be
described as a project against someone. It will never be. Never.
We have made our dream of integration true, after centuries of
war, to move from confrontation to cooperation. Internally and
externally. The EU's doors remain open for dialogue, but we
cannot and we will not compromise on international principles
and values. Never.
To the south, we face multiple and interconnected crises, from
Libya and the Sahel to Syria-Iraq. All of these call for a
stronger European role. We need to work harder to stop the
immense human suffering in Syria. That's why we have mobilized
more than €3 billion for relief and recovery assistance to
Syrians in their country, and to refugees and their host
communities in neighbouring countries. But we know that our work
has to focus on the solution of the conflict: we fully back the
efforts of Staffan de Mistura to realise a Syrian-led
The conflict in Syria and Iraq has been greatly amplified by the
threat emanating from Da'esh. This is first of all a threat to
Muslim comunities and to Arab countries, but concerns all of us.
We are working together with all our partners in the region, and
beyond, to prevent and confront terrorist acts and networks. It
is a security challenge, but it is first and foremost a cultural
challenge. We must be smart enough not to fall into the trap of
a new clash of civilisations and call Daesh for what it is: the
misuse of a religion to perpetrate violence in a conflict for
Now, in a region that is more turbulent than ever, it is all the
more important to find ways to bring the Middle East back on
track of Peace Process. This has impact not only on the parties
themselves, but on the region and the wider world. Our deep
political and economic partnership with Israel, and our role as
the foremost donor to the Palestinian Authority and UNWRA give
us a key position in reinvigorating the peace talks. We know
that. As we know that we need to build a new international
consensus to get this conflict to a solution: EU, US, Russia, UN
are the important pillars of this effort - we all bring
different and complementary strengths to the table. I have
invited the Quartet Principals to meet today, to discuss the
situation in the region and to underline the importance of the
parties resuming negotiations as soon as possible.
The protracted deadlock shows that we also need a collective
rethink of our overall approach to the conflict. In light of
this, the Quartet should prepare for a resumption of the peace
process, including regular and direct outreach to Arab states.
The Arab Peace Initiative with its vision for a comprehensive
settlement for the Arab-Israeli conflict remains for us a key
basis on which a new initiative could draw.
Lack of progress in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue
overshadowed relations between Iran and the international
community, and held up cooperation in many areas of mutual
interest. We have a historic opportunity: for the first time we
have a real chance to resolve one of the world's longstanding
problems. As you all know, the EU is coordinating the process.
We are now in the critical phase of intensive work towards a
comprehensive solution that both recognises Iran's right to
access peaceful nuclear energy, and gives us the necessary
insurance that the programme will be exclusively peaceful. But
not much time is left. It is the time to show a strong political
will. We cannot miss this opportunity. A comprehensive agreement
with Iran will open up prospects for cooperation in many areas,
both bilateral and regional.
Let me mention one last challenge we need to work on in our
region: Libya. We tend to forget this perfect mix of arms,
absence of state structures, uncontrolled land and sea borders,
flow of refugees and migrants, natural and financial resources,
and divisions. We need to use all our pressure to encourage
those that are ready for a national unity dialogue to really
engage, and to avoid that those that want the dialogue to stop
don't have the possibility to make it fail. Be sure the EU is
doing, and will do, its part of the job, supporting Bernardino
Leon's efforts in a very concrete way.
And finally, one opportunity, in our region - the Western
Balkans. The most quiet place of our neighbourhood (things
change!), where the European perspective is bringing stability,
security, prosperity, and regional integration. And tomorrow in
Brussels we will restart the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.
But the world does not end at our doorstep. Europe was build on
cooperation, and it's in our DNA to build partnerships on a
global level. The new world we see emerging is not a zero sum
game, where more influence for some necessarily means less for
others. It is a world where influence can be, should be, shared.
The rise of new powers, the growing number of fragile states, as
well as the risks that come from climate change, resource
scarcity and insufficient attention to human and social
development all demonstrate the urgency of forging strong
partnerships. We need to define a new level of ambition on how
we engage with the most important players around the globe - in
Africa as much as in Asia, in the Arab world and the Americas.
Partnership is also the key to increase the effectiveness of our
Common Security and Defence Policy: we need to draw on all the
instruments that we finally have, as EU, but also work
systematically with the UN, NATO, regional organisations,
starting from the African Union.
Supporting partners' capacity in crisis management makes also
our response to security challenges more effective and
sustainable. The ongoing eleven civilian missions and five
military operations are a clear expression of our commitment to
global security. But they are no reason for complacency. The
security challenges we are facing are growing in number, and
they are growing in complexity and quality. Hybrid warfare is a
point in case. We therefore have to constantly review our
engagement, our means and our approach. The planned discussion
on Security and Defence at the European Council in June will
give us the chance to answer some key questions: how to make the
best use of our existing resources, how to make cooperation the
rule rather than the exception in capability development, how to
halt the decline in defence research.
In a rapidly changing world we need to have a clear vision of
the way ahead. So the final element I would like to emphasize
today is the need for us to think and act strategically.
In these times of crisis it is not easy to go beyond the
immediacy of today. But taking the time to look ahead is not a
luxury. It is an essential prerequisite to transition from the
current global chaos to a new peaceful global order.
We need a sense of direction. We need an ability to make choices
and to prioritise. We need a sense of how we can best mobilise
our instruments to serve our goals and in partnership with whom.
We need a strategy.
This is why I have launched a process of strategic reflection to
guide the EU’s foreign and security policy. Let me thank my
predecessor Javier Solana: his strategy is still a point of
reference. But we need a new strategy - one that is not drawn up
in a closet by a select few, but a broad process that involves
the Member States and EU institutions, as well as the foreign
policy community spanning across academic and think tanks, the
media and civil society. You all have a contribution to make to
this new start. I look forward to discussing with you today, and
to working with you all in the years to come.