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Shared futures: Europe and Australia in the 21st century
José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European
Shared futures: Europe and
Australia in the 21st century
Address at Australia National University
It is a great pleasure to be here ladies and gentlemen. After
a rescheduling in 2009 this visit is long overdue and one that
I am personally very pleased to be undertaking.
Let me echo the earlier acknowledgement of the First Australians,
and may I also recognise the hundreds of people joining today
through internet live-streaming, not only in Australia but across
Asia and the Pacific.
The modern links between the peoples of Europe and Australia
are deep and well-known. 70 per cent of Australians have European
ancestry and we host many of each other’s largest expatriate
communities, quite aside from our deep economic and political
ties. Even our hosts today, the Australian National University,
were witnesses of the European Community from its inception,
through Vice Chancellor Sir Douglas Copland, who led the Australian
delegation observing our processes in 1951.
Since the last official visit of a serving European Commission
President, 30 years ago, our world has changed dramatically and
at an increasing pace. From Communism’s collapse to the
rise of the global economy and spread of information technology,
the backdrop to our relationship has transformed.
Amidst this transformation the European Union sees Australia
a natural, solid and essential global partner.
We see much to admire in Australia. With a diverse and growing
population, and an economy reformed to meet the challenges of
globalisation head-on, Australia shows it is possible to combine
economic reform with strong social protections and progress.
Australia’s continued economic growth is testament to decades
of policy innovation and discipline, helping Australia to its
rightful role as significant actor in this dynamic region.
The European Union has responded to a different context and
holds its own lessons for those who seek freedom, peace and prosperity.
As Prime Minister Hawke noted in 1985, the EU is “a triumph
of enlightened self-interest over self-defeating pursuit of the
narrowest national interest”.
Though we are still building our Union, we have achieved a great
deal. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, for example:
- We have grown from 12 member states to 27, with more applying
to join. Our Union today stretches from the Arctic to the edges
of Asia and Africa.
- We have built the world's largest single
market – some
three times the size of China's – and we are its biggest
- We have created a common currency that increasingly
acts as a global reserve.
- And today we are actively improving
our economic governance and foreign policy capabilities to
match the new global realities.
If you have ever travelled to Europe you have experienced the
benefits of our Union; from the visa-free Schengen zone to the
convenience and efficiency of the Euro. And if you have not had
the chance to visit, you still receive the benefits; from six
decades of peace to the stability gained from the spreading of
democratic liberal values.
Europe’s global interests
To put that in an overall strategic context, the 27 member states
of the European Union are sharing sovereignty. We do this because
it is clear to us that in order to secure our social market model
and global interests we must act as more than the sum of our
parts, and be an effective participant in multilateral fora.
Indeed, that is why we value our relationship with natural partners
like Australia, not only bilaterally but through forums such
as the United Nations and G20. In a world as inter-connected
as ours, we reject utterly the notion that geography might influence
who our friends and partners are.
It is certainly true that the world is experiencing a great
rebalancing of power, mostly centred on Asia. It is also true
that Australia is ahead of the global pace in embracing this
shift. We view favourably Australia’s increasing economic
links and participation in Asian regional fora, and want to connect
with your experience in the region.
Let me assure you that the European Union affirms the rise of
Asia as a win-win situation for the world, which Europe wants
to be a part of. These shifts do not mean Europe is irrelevant,
either to Australia or global affairs. In fact the rise of Asia
and other emerging economies is also directly linked to the policies
of open economies, free trade, stability and development assistance
that the European Union has championed over the years.
Geopolitical power and challenges need to be seen from increasingly
broad perspectives. While the European Union’s geo-political
power is not military in nature, it is not limited to soft and
economic power. Foreign policy today goes well beyond trade and
peace. It stretches from climate change negotiations to migration
flows to counter-terrorism to food, development and aid. On issues
as diverse as competition law, industrial standards and privacy,
Europe’s influence spreads virally in a way that tends
to encourage a global race to the top rather than a race to the
What is relevant to the European Union's relationship with Asia
and Australia is that these are all areas where the European
countries have chosen to delegate all or part of their sovereignty
to the EU institutions. The European Union is as deep and real
as its Member States. And so the EU's relevance as a global actor
is increasing, even as the relative influence of countries in
Asia and groupings such as ASEAN is rising also.
Recent substantial overhaul of our structures and institutions,
primarily through the Lisbon Treaty, allows us to increasingly
act with the coordinated and united voice that the world seeks
from Europe. In coming years and decades this will enable the
European Union to increase its global footprint - extending beyond
its place as an economic superpower.
This does not mean that the solutions to Europe’s challenges
can emerge overnight. The basic legitimacy of the EU comes from
our Member States. This involves political constraints, and the
obvious complications of co-ordinating 27 nations using more
than 20 languages. We aren't a super-state and we never will
be. But at the same time we are much more than an inter-governmental
This visit is an example of how the European Commission is determined
that the current crisis will not force the European Union into
an endless cycle of introspection. Europe’s future lies
in adjusting its engagement and role in world affairs, not in
internal squabbles. To that end we are moving towards convincing
medium and long term approaches to both national budgets and
Eurozone governance; the full impact of this progress becoming
apparent over the next three years.
A new chapter in EU – Australian relations
The European Union is fully aware that Australia is also adjusting
its global engagement and is not content to play a narrow regional
role. As an active middle power and an essential partner in international
forums such as the UN and G20, and events from Afghanistan to
the Arab Spring, the EU and Australia stand together on the global
Let me underline my strong belief that our relations are on
a firm footing. We appreciate that Australia is taking a pro-active
approach to its relationship with the European Union. And we
deeply appreciate working together around the world to defend
and promote our fundamental values. These are values that Australians
have twice come to Europe to secure, at severe cost.
Since the economic relationship between the EU and Australia
began to take shape in the 1960s and 70s, the old notions of
Fortress Europe and Fortress Australia have disappeared. In recent
decades our collaborations have been ever closer and fairer across
a growing number of fields. From higher education to science
and technology; aviation security to development cooperation – even
in agriculture where some differences remain. In fact, Australia
and the EU have no fewer than 10 separate dialogues running.
Through our Partnership Framework, a welcome step forward in
2008, we are already giving significant emphasis to our shared
global challenges in our formal relationship.
Building on this momentum the Commission, like the Australian
Government believes it is time to go further - to open a new
chapter in the relationship.
This is why I welcomed Prime Minister Gillard’s proposal
to upgrade relations, made during the Asia-Europe summit last
October. The European Commission has responded positively by
recommending to EU Member States that we open negotiations with
Australia for a treaty-level Framework Agreement: to govern and
give impetus to our relationship.
Yesterday I had very productive exchanges with Prime Minister
Gillard in this regard. We agree that we must anchor our relationship
for the long term, and our challenge is now to transfer our shared
interests into shared treaty-level commitments and action.
These processes naturally take time, but I believe if we can
reach agreement on the far-reaching exchange of highly classified
information, as we have done in July 2011, then we have good
hopes of progress. I believe we have a lot to learn and gain
from each other.
Such an agreement would provide a basis for closer cooperation
on a wide range of sectoral policies. From education and science
through to counter-terrorism and also the fight against proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction.
The EU in the Pacific
Cooperation in the Pacific is another key component of the strategic
partnership between Australia and the EU that would be assisted
by an updated Framework.
As by far the largest global development donor – taking
account of Commission and Member States contributions – it
is no surprise that the EU is also the second-largest aid donor
in the Pacific after Australia. Together, by joining our political
and financial forces alongside those of New Zealand, we can maximise
the absorption of funds and our overall impact. Most significantly
by promoting good governance – in particular Fiji's return
to democracy - and regional integration; while also mitigating
climate change, and attaining the Millennium Development Goals.
This would build on the enhanced forms of coordination foreseen
in the Cairns Compact – such as joint programming and delegated
The EU, Australia and Asia
More broadly, Australia and the European Union share the objectives
of enjoying peace, security and trade with Asia. The change taking
place in Asia is unfolding at a rapid pace, and as I have said
earlier we see these changes and Australia’s involvement
in the region as positive.
The EU is building multi-dimensional relationships with Asian
countries, determined that we should listen and learn from each
others’ experiences. Such stronger relationships are essential
to deal with global challenges. Though we were ASEAN’s
first dialogue partner in 1972, in the past the EU’s relationships
in Asia have been largely economic. We need to go beyond a purely
mercantilist approach and engage politically to shape collectively
a new global governance.
The direct dialogue offered through ASEM - the forum that gathers
all 27 EU Member States plus virtually all Asian States - is
essential for bringing about these improved relationships. I
am grateful that after 15 years the forum is still characterised
by a sense of momentum. We must make it more effective still.
The European Union believes the forum is stronger as a result
of Australia’s participation, and also because of the broader
scope of issues now covered. I am thinking of course of issues
such as climate change which force us to address all the aspects
of our relationship together, and the fact that security issues
are now on the agenda of ASEM. The European Union is of course
willing to play a role in regional security in Asia as it has
done, in the role of honest broker, over issues such as Aceh.
We realise that our Union does not serve as a direct model for
Asian regional integration. But at the same time it remains something
of a catalyst and reference point for those working towards closer
relationships in the region. Those relationships may exist from
government to government, business to business or people to people.
They will take time to develop, but I have no doubt the will
to develop them is there.
Moving onto one of the most complex and lasting issues of our
time. A new Framework Agreement between the European Union and
Australia would also increase the scope for closer cooperation
on energy and climate issues.
The green economy is the economic growth story of Europe's future,
and indeed the world. That is the only way to satisfy the aspirations
of the nine or more billions who will live on this planet in
Our approach to climate change is therefore built on science
but tailored to economic realities and possibilities. You could
say Europe is pursuing green reforms and innovation for three
reasons: science, self-interest and our sense of responsibility
to future generations.
Australia must naturally define its own interests, and pursue
them through the mechanisms of its choice. But it is clear that
carbon pricing and trading is an opportunity for nations to firmly
stake a place at the centre of the next great economic and political
theme faced jointly by all of us. Those that create and dominate
the new markets supporting this transition to the low-carbon
economy stand to gain a great deal: competitiveness, growth and
The pricing and trading of carbon enables more efficient markets
and forces us to allocate our resources more effectively, for
example by increasing capital investment in new technologies
in the manufacturing sector. In this way a carbon price helps
us deal with the pressures of the globalised economy as well
as the environmental threat. No nation which looks to trade as
a means of to prosperity can afford to overlook this.
For these reasons the European Union welcomes the Australian
Government’s efforts to tackle the carbon issue, and to
develop a policy that will over time link to our own.
In saying this I must stress that our respective approaches
to emissions reduction are not at odds with the need for a global
agreement. In particular a global agreement that includes collectively
measurable and verifiable emissions reductions from all major
Finally, let me conclude that the European Union - Australia
relationship has huge potential, which we are only just starting
to unlock. I have travelled here because I want Australians and
the Australian Government to know that the European Union is
committed to achieving this potential.
I also want to convey the message that despite occasional portrayals,
the European Union works effectively. It has worked for sixty
years as a driver of peace and prosperity through compromise.
It is these aspirations that we will bring to the table as we
continue to deepen our relationship with Australia. We have long
shared interests; we have been building closer relations; it
is now time to build on that through sharing further action.
For a European, Australia is as far away as you can get. However,
I must confess that so far, in particular here at the ANU, I
have been feeling as if I were at home.
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