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An Enlarged European Union in Age Of Globalization

José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Warsaw, 8 November 2007

Ceremony of Awarding the Honoris Causa Doctorate Degree

"An Enlarged European Union in the Globalization Age"

I wish, first of all, to say what an honour it is to receive this honorary degree from the Warsaw School of Economics.

In particular, I wish to thank the Rector, Professor Adam Budnikowski, the Vice-Dean of College of Socio-Economics, professor Juliusz Gardawski, the Dean of College of World Economy, Professor Stanislaw Wodejko, and the supervisor of awarding procedure, Professor Elzbieta Kawecka-Wyrzykowska.

It is a privilege to receive this Degree from a prestigious Institution like the Warsaw School of Economics: the oldest public school of economics in Poland and one of the leading economic universities in Europe.

The school has educated many Polish public figures of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-fist century, including my dear colleague, Danuta Hubner. As such, the school has played a major role in building a truly 'European Poland': a country that is open to Europe and that wants to influence European integration through active and constructive engagement.

Let me take this opportunity to pay tribute to one of the most famous alumni of the Warsaw School of Economics, Stefan Starzynski, Mayor of Warsaw from 1934 to 1939. He was born in the nineteenth century, in Warsaw, then part of the Russian Empire.

He fought during World War I for Polish Independence. Then, in 1939, as the Mayor of Warsaw, he was a leading figure in the resistance against the Nazi occupation. Starzynski was a fighter against a Europe of wars, empires and military violence; a Europe that we left behind during the 1990s and to which we shall not return.

Through his example, he is also a symbol of a peaceful and free Europe. The Warsaw School of Economics can be proud of his legacy and of that of so many prestigious alumni.

The Emergence of an Enlarged European Union

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to recall the words of one of the great Polish intellectuals, Adam Michnik, in his "Letters from Prison", on the eve of the Central and Eastern Europe's democratic transition:

"For now two roads lie open before my country and our newly freed neighbours: one road leads to nationalism and isolationism, the other to a return to our native Europe".

I want to tell you how successful this "return to Europe" has been not only for Poland but also for all your neighbours. It was, first and foremost, a matter of fundamental political justice to have the former communist states back in Europe after the long night of Soviet totalitarianism

The "return to Europe" was also, very clearly so, a story of success. I still remember many sceptical voices in the early 1990s, questioning the wisdom of the enlargement. Political transition in Central and Eastern Europe would lead to "economic chaos", to "social upheaval", to "authoritarian politics" or to "political anarchy".

Today, the reality is considerably different. We have dynamic and vibrant economies, where the GDP has greatly increased since 1989. In Poland, for instance, it has increased 48%, since 1989, and the economic growth for this year is around 7%. I see also confident societies in social, in cultural and in intellectual terms.

And I see pluralist democracies with lively political debates, people engaged in democratic life, and representative institutions consolidating a new way of solving political problems.

There are indeed important challenges to overcome on both the political and economic fronts, like in all meaningful transition processes, but these challenges are being confronted head on with creativity and determination.

Later, I also heard that enlargement would paralyse European institutions and water down the process of European integration. Of course, we need to adapt our institutions to an enlarged and more diverse Union, and that is why we negotiated with success the Reform Treaty, the Treaty of Lisbon.

But I can assure you that the Union is not, and has not been, paralysed. On the contrary, enlargement gave it a new political and economic dynamism.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I suggest we reflect for a moment on the expression 'return to Europe'. After all, in geographical terms, Poland never left Europe. The expression demonstrates that 'Europe' is, first of all, a political notion, a political construction, always in progress.

Secondly, it is a concept that expresses a particular set of values and principles, which seeks to maintain and to promote peace, freedom, justice and solidarity.

Returning to Europe means embracing freedom and democracy, the basic principles of open societies and open economies. In doing so, in their fight for these values, new Member States brought with them the lessons of their history to Europe.

Those who once lived under dictatorships know very well the value of liberty and democracy.

Those who were under foreign military occupation know very well the value of peace and cooperation.

Those who were condemned to poverty and economic exploitation know very well the value of economic development and growth and social justice.

The last enlargement was thus not only a "return to Europe" for a number of countries. It was also a European renewal with its defining values and its founding principles. The enlarged Europe is also a rejuvenated and a stronger Europe. And we need a strong Europe to tackle the global challenges of the twenty-first century world.

After the enlargement of 2004-2007, the European Union has acquired a continental dimension. In 2007, 27 countries and almost half a billion people are united in a common political project.

The European economy is now the first one in the world. Our democracies are vibrant. In today's world, where the great powers have large territorial and demographic dimensions, size matters.

Europe is itself a laboratory of globalization, a successful case of setting transnational rules and standards. I believe that we are better prepared than any other power to propose, not to impose, the organizing principles of the world order that is emerging.

The Interest of an Enlarged European Union in a 'Global World'

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since the beginning of the 21st Century, we are witnessing a historical transformation of the European Union. During the first five decades of its history, European construction was basically an experience in regional integration.

Through it, Europeans found ways to resolve their political, cultural and ideological differences in a peaceful way and to promote common values and economic and social prosperity. These goals are still most relevant and should continue to be a priority for an enlarged European Union.

However, to preserve and to improve what we achieved during the last fifty years, we need to influence and to shape the world around us.

The European Union cannot be only a regional experience. It has to act at the global level. I have no doubts: together, European states can achieve results that they could never dream of on their own, working in close cooperation with their main partners, namely the countries that share the common values of freedom and democracy. They are in a position that will allow them to decisively shape globalization.

United, Member States are stronger and in a much better condition to tackle the challenges of the globalised world: to create and to maintain a just world order, to address climate change and global poverty, to guarantee energy security, to fight terrorism and organised crime, to deal with mass migration, and to succeed in a more competitive economic environment.

The challenge for the coming decades is how to use the power and the capacities we built during the last half century in order to promote our values and interests at the global level. This, I believe, is not only a European interest but a real global interest.

The world needs the European method of putting together different national experiences, the European principles of open societies and open economies, the European way of linking the imperative of freedom to the idea of solidarity and justice, the European priority in tackling climate change and promoting sustainable development with respect for our planet.

If Member States share common challenges, it makes sense to say that the European level is the appropriate level to guarantee and to defend those values and interests. This is a central argument of this Commission.

In the age of globalization, when global problems require global solutions, it is obvious that the European level is fundamental not only for our citizens to pursue their interests but also to contribute to a more decent, peaceful and just world order.

This is why the Commission presented a Communication on "The European Interest: Succeeding in the Age of Globalization" to the October Informal European Council, where we propose the basis for a strategy to defend and promote the European interest in the globalization.

'Offensive openness' is the key idea to protect the European interest without falling into a protectionist agenda. Or, in other words, openness without naiveté, but with reciprocity.

As you may well know, for this Commission, the definition of a 'global and open European Union' has been at the heart of our policy agenda, and will continue to be a top priority.

However, political leaders have to be aware that globalization brings uncertainties and increases a feeling of insecurity for some European citizens. The perception that decisions are taken at a distant 'global level' may even create feelings of political powerlessness and alienation. This feeds populism and political radicalism and as such is a danger to our democracies.

We must not only explain to our citizens how to make sense of globalization, but also show them that the political institutions that represent them are able to protect their interests effectively.

European citizens need to know that their institutions have the power and the will to tackle and to shape globalization. This is the main rationale for the enlarged European Union of the 21st century.

The so-called 'new' Member States have to be at the heart of the global European Union. As countries that fought so hard for democracy, they have to be at the forefront of efforts to help others who are struggling for the same values. The world needs more than ever a confident European Union that can promote the values of freedom and solidarity.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me conclude with a final appeal. It is in Poland's national interest to be a constructive and leading Member State in the European Union.

Europe needs Polish involvement internally and Polish leadership externally. To be complete and fully fulfilled, Poland's 'return to Europe' demands active engagement in the European Union.

By promoting the European interest, Poland reinforces its national interest. I am confident that Poland will not miss this historical opportunity.

Thank you very much


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