Timothy Garton Ash, The Europe We Need

thank you very much for that very kind introduction I’m absolutely delighted to be here particularly at this rather inspiring moment and I have to say the fact that I’m here at this moment of a buzzard where we launch is in large measure are you getting an echo that no maybe it’s just me is in large measure serendipity because I have been hoping to come here for quite a long time and I was originally invited to lecture on the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome so instead of it being the last of the Rome lectures I gather it’s the first of the Lisbon lectures which is which is wonderful now my subject is the Europe we need which of course begs the question who is we in that title and I cannot of course possibly speak in any manner shape or form for Ireland or the Irish the fact is of course that every nation and indeed many sub national groups indeed individuals have their own way and the Europe they particularly need the European story is made up of a whole set of individual national and it needs sub-national European stories but if you look at the pro-european case in the whole of the EU although at first glance the way the argument is made looks very very different from in say Britain or France or Poland or Slovakia or Portugal if you dig deeper the pro-european argument always has a fundamentally similar form which is put very simply we are all have been in a bad place and we want to be in a better one and that better one is called Europe right the bad place may be a very different kind in the case of Germany after the war it was the shame of Nazism and the desire to rehabilitate Germany in the community of nations in the case of France it was the desire to restore French power and pride after the humiliation of occupation and Vichy and defeat in the case of Spain the bad past was Franco’s dictatorship and the desire to get out of it the roads to Europe and democracy went together as indeed in the case of many of the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe in the case of Britain I think if you look at the pro-european argument in the 60s a bad place was particularly about economic failure that was the driving force but in each case the shape of the argument is you all have been in a bad place you want to go to a better firm and that better one is Europe so the problem comes when we’re all in it and that is in a way where we are we are all in that better place we have all traveled hopefully which was jolly nice but now we’ve arrived and that I think is really a significant part of our problem for making the case for the European Union which is at incredible speed people have come to take it for granted that you can travel freely without let or hindrance from one end of the continent to the other across what used to be difficult frontiers and on curtains that you can go and work in any corner of the European Union that often you don’t have to change your currency and that you

will be traveling by and large from one liberal democracy to another so I am really quite shocked by the speed of forgetting if you talk even to a 20 year old Latvia or Estonia they already are taking this state of affairs for granted in a country which twenty years ago did not even exist which was not even an independent state so I think we do have to make the case for Europe for the European Union a new in every generation it has to be made of fresh and I think it’s entirely legitimate for people to ask the fundamental question what is Europe for why do we need it what’s it good for and I think we should remember that one of the founding fathers of the original European movement Kant couldn’t over kelloggi at the original congress of europe in the hague said let us not forget my friends that Europe is not an end it is a means and that is still true today Europe in itself unlike say liberty or justice or peace is not a first order end it is a means to end and we have to explain why it is a good means to those ends and I want to suggest how we might make the argument across the European Union so I’m not talking of course I’m not presuming to talk specifically about the Irish context across the European Union out of three elements the world of yesterday the world of today and the world of tomorrow first of all the world of yesterday I’ve already started on that by talking about the really alarming rate of forgetting if we are to make the case for the European Union people in our countries have to know history they have to know that most of our countries have been in much worse places I don’t need to remind you of that often in the very recent past and what is more that we could return to those bad places that it is not a given that we remain where we are let me remind you that we had wars in Europe into the very last year of the last century the Kosovo war in 1999 in my new book facts of subversive I have an account of what nearly became a war in Macedonia in 2001 which was only prevented by the way by very intensive diplomacy notably by Javier Solana notably by the EU though also by NATO and if you can’t draw Jura as part of Europe then we had a war already in recent months moreover as we have seen in the recent European parliamentary elections we do have the revival of xenophobic racist extreme nationalist parties which some at least borderline on the crypto-fascist so that’s by no means just a thing of the past I think for example of the aptly named yogic party in Hungary whose whose members are therefore clearly correctly defined as yobs and who marched through the streets of Budapest in uniform calling for a final a final solution I quote to the Gypsy problem so that’s the first point it’s a sort of in an audience like this it seems of self-evident a banality but I don’t think it is a banality I think the failure of history teaching in schools across the European Union is a first-order political problem a failure that is really to get across into the consciousness of young people what it was like before if I want to sum up this part of the case then I would say you remember Churchill’s famous remark that democracy is the worst possible form of government apart from all the other forms of government that have been tried from time to time I would say the

European Union is the worst possible Europe apart from all the other Europe’s that have been tried from time to time the second part of the case that I would want to make and again I will do this briefly comes from the world of today and I would argue that as 1989 the Velvet revolutions of 1989 which we commemorate this year open the door to the reunification of our continent which in a way was marked in 2004 by the great enlargement of the EU so it was also the hinge on the door to those developments that we call globalization which do in important ways define our time I remember talking to Tony Blair shortly before he retired as Prime Minister and I asked him what had changed most in his 10 years as British prime minister and he said what do you know really exists that when I became Prime Minister I reckon I could have directly influenced changed about 80% of what happened in Britain these days it’s only about 50% there were so many developments where no single national government he’s at all capable even the government of a major Member State is a cruel capable of making the effective change on its own he cited the example of climate change which i think is a good and obvious example he said whatever we do in Britain is purely symbolic it’s purely to tell me it’s showing Willing what matters is what is done at the EU level what is done by the United States and above all what is done by the great emerging economies like China and India whether major growth in co2 emissions will come there are many other examples mass migration pandemics organized crime and of course the globalized financial and economic system as we have experienced only two painfully over the last nine months and that clearly is an important part of the case for Europe that the eurozone has proved its value as a larger and safer port in the storm as a bigger ship in the storm as has a large single market with all flaws with all the problems that the crisis has revealed we can talk about that in the discussion nonetheless no single European state is capable of addressing these global challenges of the early 21st century on its own we need the scale that only the European Union the largest single market in the world arguably according to some council largest economy in the world can give but ladies and gentlemen I think particularly for a younger generation the key set of arguments for the Europe we need are actually about the world of tomorrow of course we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow we don’t know the future but we have to operate in politics on informed guesswork about it so let us ask ourselves this question what will be the title of the chapter in the history books covering say the first twenty or thirty years of the 21st century now five years ago many people told us that that chapter would be called the global war on terror a world war four as norman podhoretz called it that seems to me extremely unlikely if I had to bet I would take a guess of the chapter might be called the Renaissance of Asia the Renaissance of Asia I say when a zones to remind us that China and India were great powers once and now we’ll be so again the Economist

Intelligence Unit forecasts with all due caveats that in 2020 the three largest economies in the world will be the US the EU and China each of them with about eighteen percent of world GDP now forecasts are just for cards but let’s take the orders of magnitude us-china EU I would take a bet that really the defining feature of the next decade or two beside the global challenges that I’ve talked about will be the emergence of this multipolar or perhaps no polar world of giants of new and old great powers in which for the first time in at least 200 years not just Europe but the West as a whole will no longer be able to set the agenda of world politics and I believe that he’s actually something which Barack Obama in a way has understood for all his rhetoric of American exceptionalism and American leadership I think he understands that new complexity of the world now in this world of giants it seems to me self-evident that Europeans have to hang together or we will hang separately and that the way to think about the Europe we need is to think very coolly about what are our common or shared or at least compatible interests in this world of giants in which even Germany will be a small country this is something that we have signally and spectacularly failed to do in the European Union even to think our common interests in the world let alone to pursue them with common interests is something we have spent the last 10 years spectacularly failing to do I am involved in a very interesting new initiative called the European Council on Foreign Relations which is not just a talking shop it’s a think-tank and an advocacy tank devoted to the single objective of getting a European foreign policy or European external policy more broadly we started our last meeting with speakers from Washington Moscow and Beijing so the three great pods and what was so interesting was that basically they told us the same story Europe the European Union is weak divided hypocritical in a state of strategic confusion as our Russian friend told us the message from the Russian the American the Chinese was very very similar because if you want to see the EU at its worst look at it from the point of view of a really large powerful country we say one thing in our European summits and then our national leaders all go off by the back door to Beijing or Moscow or Washington and say something completely different and don’t take our moralistic statements too too seriously and by the way please give us a big contract or the big deal so I think this is really one of the what should be one of the primary focuses of the case we make for Europe getting our act together in an increasingly non European world getting our act together on climate change on trade on competition policy on our neighborhood policy both on the remaining agenda of enlargement but even more important on our policy towards those of our neighbors who are not going to become members of the European Union in any likely future for example the countries of the Maghreb the countries across the

Mediterranean I think we are in my view at the beginning of the end of the logic of enlargement and the question we have to answer is how we effectively influence countries that are very close to us and important to us without the mighty carrot of enlargement which has been the most effective tool by far arguably almost the only rarely effective instrument of EU external policy for the last 50 years from the very beginnings of the European project this is a matter of vital interest to us let me give you just one little illustration of why the current population of the 22 members of the Arab League is about 280 million it is projected to rise to somewhere between 420 and 460 million by 2025 of them well over half will be under 30 in opinion polls in those countries more than half the young people asked say they wish to emigrate because they see no prospects for making a good life for themselves and their families in their own country now you don’t need to be Newton to do the mathematics if we do not give these young Arabs a realistic prospect of making a reasonable life in their own countries they will come to us by hook or by crook in such enormous numbers across the Mediterranean and it’s only what is it 12 miles from Gibraltar to Morocco they are already coming in large numbers that they will destabilize European societies which are already at some sort of tipping point in relation to the scale of immigration and its consequences we have a vital direct interest in addressing the condition of our near abroad and we can only do that with a coordinated European policy in which we start by analyzing our European interests and then look at the instruments at our disposal for realizing those interests for example the fact that we disburse no less and half the world’s official development assistance but there are many other instruments one could talk about in other words as in this globalized world we are launched on la big and stormy seas and on those big and stormy seas as we’ve seen in recent months we need a bigger and a better boat and there are also still some monsters left in the deep and our own societies and that bigger better boat does not have to be a United States of Europe it does not have to be a federal Europe it has to be fit for the purposes that I have described fit for purpose the Lisbon Treaty is I’m coming to it at last a useful improvement of thee as it were system regulations for that bigger and better boat not much more it’s nothing like a European Constitution it’s not even rarely a constitutional treaty the mountain has labored and produced a mouse but we need it and we need it particularly it’s the best treaty we’ve got and we need it particularly if you consider as I do that getting our act together in external policy in the totality of our relations with the world outside our borders is one of the most important tasks for the European Union in the next 10 years because actually that’s one of the most important things that it does as you know and the right tarsem bureaucratic business of strengthening the position of the High Representative and also very

importantly of trying to create an effective external Action Service pulling together the two sides of the halwa in Brussels is actually a necessary though by no means a sufficient condition for having a more effective European external policy and as I said a moment ago I do feel that we have wasted much of the last decade in an often futile and sterile debate about our institutions and our internal arrangements and we cannot afford to waste any more time on navel-gazing and on these sterile institutional debates it’s the treaty is good enough for government work as they say in the United States and we should get on with it and try and use it but even if and when we have the Lisbon Treaty after your vote after the Polish President Lee Kachinsky has signed it after the German Constitutional Court has spoken and even after President Abbas left twice of the Czech Republic who has said he will sign it over his dead body has in fact signed it over his dead body then we can at last put this rather unproductive decade behind us a decade that I refused to dignify with the name of the naughties and start in the 20 turns on developing the Europe we need but we will not be able to do that even when we have the Lisbon Treaty in force even when those institutions particularly the position of the High Representative which by the way I actually regard is more important than that of the President of the European Council I think the key important appointment for the future European units are how representative I would like to see a good chair as the so called president of the council but a really notable political figure as a high representative even when and this will be a bureaucratic nightmare the external Action Service is being created and I say I think that’s very important none of us will be any good at all unless there is the political will in a strategic coalition of member states to take this agenda forward we will get nowhere at all and on this note I want to end and throw it over for discussion and and as I say I’m I’m very happy to talk about every aspect of what I’ve been laying out in enormous telegraphic brevity in this respect I have to tell you that I’m not very optimistic when it comes to the political will of the strategic coalition and I think that actually in this respect the role of countries like Ireland and many other medium-sized member states is quite important because in the big three Germany France and Britain we have two big problems one is a problem that will be somewhat familiar to you it’s called the British problem the British problem in its latest variant um takes the form of our lightly next government which will probably be a Conservative government just possibly a hung parliament and so a Lib Dem component which would change a lot but probably a Conservative government which is in many ways a thoroughly modern liberal conservative were thoroughly modern liberal conservative I don’t have major concerns about many areas of domestic policy except when it comes to Europe when the only thing on which the conservative party can agree is the new Thatcherite euro skeptic position which David Cameron although I have to say frankly I don’t think he believes it has committed himself to witness what has just happened in the European Parliament and this observed depended departure into what I call Cameron’s Latvian Legion and this is a major problem I

mean for us it reduces me to despair faster British in this case because I think that one of the greatest failings in my book of the Blair government beside the Iraq war is his failure to do what he said he would do at the beginning of his Premiership what 12 going on 13 years ago which was to end Britain’s historic ambivalence about the European project and he SPECT signally failed to do that and now we will pay the consequences I have no doubt at all that in five years time a Cameron government will have backed away into a more realistic position in relation to the European Union because that’s what happens when you’re in government in opposition you speak great slogans about sovereignty and freedom and independence in your unit in the realities of government particularly if you have the agenda that Cameron has big on things like climate change there is no way around working for the European Union but those could be five wasted years incidentally I also have sometimes said not entirely ingest that if Britain does ever join the euro it will probably be under Britain’s first Asian British Conservative woman Prime Minister but that’s a few years ahead the other big problem we have in the European Union is the German problem and I’m running out of time so I’ll be very brief on this but I hope we can talk about it in discussion Germany and this is a subject on which I’ve worked for much of my life the Federal Republic ladies and gentlemen throughout the history of the European project was the motor of European integration people always say the franco-german motor but the German part was a much larger part it was so there were six cylinders German to to French or maybe a French carburetor and I’m afraid to say I observe with concern that Germany is increasingly becoming a normal country quote/unquote like us I mean like Britain or like France which you may find an odd definition of normality and but it is there that is to say increasingly Germany is simply pursuing its own often short term national interests quite directly in a fashion that you would not have encountered in the old Federal Republic in the 1970s or 1980s we can talk about that and discuss I think it’s a very important point but you cannot count I’m afraid on the Federal Republic of Germany today to be the motor of into of the creation of the Europe we need that it was for much of the history of European integration and that is why and with this I conclude we rarely do need the medium size from smaller member states of the European Union like Ireland to step in where maybe the bigger states are hesitating if you had to put me on the spot and I had to say where do I think we would be in ten years time I have quite honestly to say I wouldn’t give you as an analyst a very optimistic answer I think the force is against this next stage of integration that we need are quite considerable I mentioned just a few but my slogan here has always been the famous motto often attributed to Antonio Gramsci but actually all my or long pessimism of the intellect optimism of the will thank you very much