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Speech of the President of Slovenia, Mr. Danilo Türk, to the European Parliament

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Honorable Mr President Hans-Gert Pöttering,
Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to have been invited to address this august body today. Only last month we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the first meeting of the then European Parliamentary Assembly. This Anniversary is an excellent opportunity for reflection about the present and the future of the European Union. Today I have a special privilege to share my thoughts with you, the elected representatives of the people of Europe.

This Parliament and, indeed, the European Union as a whole is a magnificent creation of a great vision – a vision of durable peace and prosperity brought to the peoples of Europe by the spirit of cooperation and ever stronger integration.

The authors of that vision – Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Conrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi and others could probably not have imagined that fifty one years after the creation of the European Communities the  highly integrated European Union will be presided by Slovenia -  as the first one among the new EU member states after the great enlargement of  the EU in 2004 -  and that Slovenia's  President will  address the European Parliament. But their sense of satisfaction would probably outweigh their feeling of surprise: The European project has not only succeeded, it has also shown its transformative power, and created a wholly new type of Europe, one not known in the previous periods of its long history.

And most important, the European project has, to a large measure, already established the European Union as a global player.

What made this huge success possible? And how do we understand the lessons of that success today?  Are we capable to use the lessons from the past in dealing with the challenges of today and of tomorrow?

These are the questions we have to keep constantly asking ourselves. The European Union will continue to face complicated questions in an increasingly globalized world and will have to find credible answers to those questions. The European Union will continue to be a great success story if it retains its dynamism and if it proves to be a global political player of an ever growing importance. Movement forward is the condition for success, and at the present stage this requires from the EU to play the role of a global leader.

There are many areas where its global leadership is either already established or eagerly awaited. I will mention here only two: global warming and human rights.

Last year, the European Union put environmental issues and, in particular, the issues of global warming, in the center of its policy making. This was undoubtedly the right and wise decision, for the climate change and environmental degradation are arguably the most serious threat and the greatest challenge we all face. The European Commission has defined specific objectives which enable the EU to play a leading role globally. The key among them is to achieve, by 2020, a 20% green house gas reduction compared to 1990.  This should be achieved as an independent commitment.  An even more ambitious objective is suggested as a part of a general international agreement involving all the other key players.  In that case the EU would be prepared, according to the proposal of the European Commission, to achieve as much as a 30% reduction in the same time frame. These objectives offer a truly transformative vision of action in the face of global warming and a much needed example of global leadership.

Is this set of objectives achievable or will it be another bridge too far? The answer is not yet entirely clear. Last month the European Council welcomed the Commission's proposal as a good basis for agreement. The consultations held in the course of this and the next year will show how much can actually be achieved before the international conference in Copenhagen, scheduled for December 2009. The European Parliament has recognized the importance of this issue by setting up a special committee on climate change. The Parliament will play an exceedingly important role in this context.

The task ahead is likely to be difficult. The unrest which has started to be felt in the European media offers a set of mixed messages. There are expressions of support, but skeptical voices already draw attention to the concern expressed by some of the European industries as well as to the fact that the difficulties in the global economy make competition harder and thus environmental issues less central.

Difficult moments like this represent real tests of leadership. It is already clear that the global warming has progressed to a point at which the international community is facing a stark choice: Either to continue with incremental methods and face a disaster or to try to muster a transformative approach which can adequately mitigate the consequences of global warming and prevent the worst among them. Incrementalism will not do. Transformation - even though hard to achieve - is the order of the day. I hope that this year the path towards transformation will be chosen.

In this effort there will be a great need to broaden the front of supporters. Incidentally, there are many who already feel the need to move towards transformation. NGOs, media and other elements of civil society are mobilizing. In the business community there is a strong tendency towards development of new technologies based on clean energy. And ever more people are prepared to change their patterns of consumption. There is a need to connect these tendencies into a meaningful movement. The time frame is known. And the venue as well. The program of action adopted last December in Bali envisages the conclusion of negotiations next year with the adoption of a global agreement which will replace the Kyoto protocol in 2012. Although the process of negotiations will take place in the UN, it is important that it is supported everywhere. The time and venue makes it possible to concentrate our efforts. This is the time for the EU to lead.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Environment is not the only area where the global leadership of the EU is called for. There is an urgent need for a stronger EU leadership in the field of global action for human rights.

The EU's commitment to human rights is beyond doubt. European institutions are based upon the principles of the rule of law and human rights.  Europe is a place of human rights. Ratification by all EU Member States of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of this year, the year of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, would also mean that for the first time in the EU's history, the whole spectrum of  civil, political, economic and social rights of EU citizens and residents set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union will become legally binding. 

But the big picture is not encouraging. Massive and systematic violations persist in many parts of the World. Some are a result of ruthless pursuit of economic gain, irrespective of the needs of local populations and environment.  The poor and indigenous peoples are especially placed at risk of dispossession, starvation and, in some cases, even extinction. Armed conflicts in several parts of Africa and Asia continue to produce atrocities amounting to crimes against humanity.

The European Union must be active, by proposing economic models of sustainable growth, with humanitarian and diplomatic efforts - but also with sanctions to give teeth to the decisions of the International Criminal Court.

EU leadership is particularly necessary at this stage when global action in the field of human rights is lagging behind. The UN Human Rights Council is still struggling to get its working methods right. Its effort to establish a system of global periodic review of human rights is promising but not yet effective. Its action in the face of massive and systematic violations of human rights is not sufficiently comprehensive. This may be remedied over time. But it will not happen without effective leadership of those UN member states that are committed to human rights.

In reality this cannot happen without a stronger leading role of the EU, which represents the major group of influential states in the UN. Some among the other traditional supporters of human rights have become less active and have not sought membership in the Human Rights Council. The overwhelming concerns with terrorism and other security challenges, coupled with responses to those challenges which are ill-advised or not well thought through seem to have reduced the level of sensitivity for human rights. The EU has to fill the gap.

The EU should also look to new ways of engaging with the UN Security Council. The Council's action on Darfur has helped in establishing an important role of the International Criminal Court in the effort to prosecute the perpetrators of some of the most heinous crimes of our time. Almost exactly a year ago the Court issued arrest warrants for some among these perpetrators. The effort to bring them to justice has to continue and action in the UN Security Council will remain critical. But even in the absence of Security Council's action, the EU should consider measures to assist the effectiveness of the International Criminal Court.  International justice is the backbone of international action for human rights and requires effective support.

The EU should also reach out to world's emerging democracies which are genuinely committed to human rights. They are interested in international action but must ponder their regional and other loyalties in any international action related to human rights. They are our partners and this partnership has to be nurtured.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

International action for human rights in its various forms has can be effective if it proceeds from a solid platform, from scrupulous respect for human rights at home. This includes protection of human rights of migrants and asylum seekers and careful application of law in the cases involving allegations of terrorism.

But building of the platform has to go further. The Lisbon Treaty has included the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the improved decision-making process which will make it easier to take bold and creative decisions related to human rights.

The requirement of creativity is not new to Europe. The European “creative unrest” - as President Horst Köhler of Germany explained in his speech in this Parliament two years ago - has helped the Europeans to address various social and political challenges with attachment to freedom and truth, with the ability to practice solidarity and to generate greater prosperity for all. In no other area will creativity and “creative unrest” be as necessary as in the area of management of immigration and integration of immigrants.

Europe is ageing and will be unable to play its role of a global leader without successful  population policies. These policies will necessarily include management of immigration. Europe needs newly arrived people, positive in their spirit and capable to do their part in the creation of prosperity for all. Obviously, policy measures which can help the process of integration of immigrants are varied and have to be put in the right combination depending on the circumstances of individual countries of immigration.  But some elements have a wider application and in some respects European Union can learn from non-European countries, such as Canada.

The policies of immigration will require a set of coordinated objectives at the level of the European Union as a whole. The objective to develop a common European system of asylum by the year 2010 looks at the same time ambitious and indispensable. An improved coordination between immigration policy and policy of development assistance is also necessary. And the EU has to enhance its role in the UN High-Level Dialogue on Migration.

At the same time, creativity is required with regard to the integration of immigrants and their communities. Economic prosperity and upward social mobility of immigrants are key to successful policy in this domain. For example, ethnic minority-led businesses provide employment and make significant contribution to the economies of the host countries.  The governments, on the other hand, can make their contribution by providing proper regulation, training and general support to entrepreneurship.

Integration has to include an effective access to good quality education, including linguistic education, and access to universities. Education is the guarantee for the success of integration of immigrants into the wider society. And success has to be made visible. Persons of immigrant origin who have succeeded should appear on TV and in other media and be seen as examples of success. This enables an understanding in the general public that diversity and integration are compatible and that non-discrimination and the use of equality of opportunities are among the most important civic virtues. Nothing succeeds like success. And nothing looks better on TV than the success of those who started on the margins.

I have dwelt in some detail on the issues of immigration and integration because of their importance for the future of Europe and because they represent the next testing ground of European creativity. In the past Europe has managed to solve most of its social issues and has become a global example of social justice end economic prosperity. There is no reason why in our generation good solutions could not be developed in the areas of immigration and integration. Europe has much to gain from inclusion of people capable, qualified and willing to contribute to its future prosperity.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Leadership, vision and creativity are clearly needed today. At the same time, the EU has to demonstrate its ability to continue to find solutions to various challenges in a pragmatic manner.

Let us not forget that pragmatism was the key to the emergence of the European Communities more than fifty years ago and has remained the key to its success ever since. Organizing the European communities for specific economic purposes was the great pragmatic idea which made the entire subsequent development possible. The evolution of the European Economic Community towards a customs union and beyond, the ability to develop new areas of cooperation and new institutions - endowed with additional powers – and the ability to expand geographically, all this illustrates the importance of pragmatism in  the history of the EU.

Today, too, the European Union faces new challenges which are calling for pragmatic adjustment. Foremost among them is its further expansion. While it is obvious that all those aspiring for membership will have to fulfill the membership criteria, none of them should be precluded from membership only for reasons of political inconvenience or cultural prejudice.

In its effort to become a global player with strategic significance, the EU needs Turkey.The negotiations on accession should continue. The EU should not deprive Turkey of the perspective of membership as this has already been granted. The credibility of the EU is at stake.

Furthermore, the European Union cannot accept a “black hole” in the Western Balkans. The European perspective for the Western Balkans needs to be made more specific by means of negotiations on accession. But this will require a further work - with individual countries which need to strengthen their capacity to fulfill the membership criteria and with the region as a whole which needs a framework to discuss and to solve their common problems. 

And in its policy towards its Eastern and other neighbours it needs to demonstrate the same pragmatism which helped it to succeed in the past. Ukraine and Moldova need the perspective of EU membership. They must not be denied that perspective.

Pragmatism is both practice and a state of mind. Obviously, in all matters of membership the candidate countries have to fulfill the membership criteria. There are good reasons for the EU practice to be strict and serious about these criteria. Should their fulfillment take time, so be it. A year or two in negotiations is little compared to the preservation of credibility and of respect for EU standards.

At the same time, countries capable of fulfilling the criteria must not be excluded from the process of the EU expansion. The feeling of exclusion breeds resentment - and resentment breeds instability. For this reason it is necessary to retain the pragmatic state of mind and to think about further expansion in light of the European Union's needs as a global player.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude.

The EU is a great historic achievement. It has already reached a stage of development at which it has to perceive itself as a major global player with all the responsibilities this status entails.

The European Union would be well advised to exert global leadership in such matters as global warming and human rights.

Creativity will continue to be central in the search for effective policies of immigration and integration.

The value of pragmatism will remain undiminished in all matters related to further expansion which is needed to ensure the role of the EU as a global leader.

All this may sound ambitious. But forward movement has always been the best medicine against stagnation. Our time is no different in that regard. The agenda today, however, is more diverse than before. But this, too, is a natural consequence of success.

Thank you for your attention.


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Date: 23.04.2008