It is a pleasure to stand here before this audience. I am glad to notice there is such a big interest in Europe here in Japan. The success of this EU institute at Kobe University is in itself a proof of that. It is an honour to be here today with you. I thank you for this opportunity to speak. We are living in an unprecedented era. The world is getting smaller. Regions and countries as far away from each other as Europe and Japan see their destinies intertwined. In both of our political systems important evolutions are taking place. In my view the moment has come to re-energize the relationship between the European Union and Japan. We both have to ask ourselves: how do we come to terms with the new world? In this respect, 2010 can be a year of renewal. I should therefore like to make some comments about the state of the European Union and on our relationship with Japan in today's world. I shall do so in my capacity as President of the European Council.
PRELIMINARY: HAIKU; CHANGE IN NATURE AND IN HISTORY
Before coming to that, however, I should like to make a few more personal remarks. It is a particular pleasure to visit Japan. My first time in this country - and prior to this week, the only time -was as a deputy Prime-minister on an official visit with a member of the Belgian Royal Family, Prince Philip; back in 1998. I was especially impressed by the dizzying architecture, the speed of city life, the advanced transport technology.
This urban landscape was also much more familiar to me than I had expected than the ones I know in Europe or America. However, it also struck me how this busy, noisy modern day Tokyo was contrasted with the stylized, traditional expressions of Japanese culture that I admired: Japanese rock gardens, the landscape paintings, and also, haiku.
As some of you may know, recently a collection of my haikus was published. This touches the subject of my lecture, the issue of change.
There are several reasons why I find myself attracted to haikus. The conciseness of haiku offers me the opportunity to penetrate the essence of words by expressing so much in so little space in unaffected language. Its artlessness invites both the poet and the reader to pause for a while and to take some distance from the daily hustle and bustle, in which we hopelessly and all too easily get entangled. Away from the attention seeking and "glitter" of modern life.
What is most important for me in haiku is its sensitivity to nature. The poems, as you know, usually start from a natural experience and very often an experience with the Seasons. The "great wheel of life" in the Buddhist tradition. This ties in well with my way of life. I love the countryside. I have never lived in the city except for a few months. I breathe with my earth, as the poet says. In their never-ending renewal, the seasons provide us with a sense of direction.
So, what has all this to do with politics?
It is the contrast which is enlightening, the contrast regarding the theme of change.
Nature, the way it appears in haiku, is about repetition and change. The eternal cycle. We human beings are part of the natural process. It is the domain of necessity. It gives us a sense of modesty.
In history and politics, by contrast, there is no repetition. We cannot turn the clock, the hands of time always points forward. Every day is new, bringing new events. We never know what will happen tomorrow. This is the domain of freedom. In my view it is our profound duty, as politicians and as citizens, to try and influence these changes. The permanent change in the world of human affairs gives us a sense of political responsibility. Even this, in assuming this responsibility, you can do it with modesty. "We are a part of the mass."
I. EUROPE AND JAPAN
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This brings me to the main subject of today. What is our responsibility, as politicians and citizens of Europe and Japan, in today's changing world?
Japan and Europe have a lot in common today. We, as civilian powers, are both committed to the value of democracy and the principles of the market economy. After 1945, both Western Europe and Japan lived under the military protection of the United States. In the Cold War, the Americans helped us to defend ourselves against communist Russia and against communist China, respectively. We thus not only felt the heat of history but could feel at the very centre of it. Of course, this was partly an illusion, but the situation did allow Europe to develop an unprecedented experiment in history, and lay the foundations of a regional integration process where historic adversities have been overcome and where military conflict amongst competing powers has become unthinkable. In fact, this is the success of the European model and what makes it so interesting and even desirable for other regions to follow.
The post-war alliance with the U.S. also allowed both of us to develop economically. What's more, Europe-America-Japan became the fundamental triangle in the global trade system. These trade relationships were sometimes tumultuous, but also very stimulating and beneficial to our welfare.
Now, this post-war world has transformed after 1989 and the end of the Cold War. Russia has undergone a fundamental political rebirth and became a member of the G7, now the G8. China, even with its political system, has become an integral part of the world trade system. The relationship America has with both Europe and Japan is no longer one of existential dependence but rather an evolving partnership. For Washington there is much less at stake; more so since new actors arrive on the scene. In this respect also, we Europeans and you Japanese find ourselves in the same boat. We are both in the process of redefining our relationship towards the United States, and vice-versa. Although I am not familiar with the intricacies of the Japanese political system, this seemed to be one element explaining the result of the Japanese Lower House elections of September 2009.
But what is the effect of this changing strategic landscape on our bilateral relations? Are we mere spectators or do we perhaps have an important opportunity in front of us to engage relations more closely between Europe and Japan? I will have an opportunity to discuss this with Prime Minister Hatoyama later this week, but let me just say that in my view politics is not a spectator sport. When history offers an opportunity, it is the politicians' responsibility to translate it into not only a joint vision but also to joint action to help creating a new reality.
In this context, please allow me, in the remaining part of my lecture, to first take a brief look at what exactly the global changes are.
Then, I will speak about how the European Union reacts to these changes. In this context, I will share my experiences of the first months of our new Lisbon Treaty.
Third, I will ask some questions - it is not up to me, as an outsider, to offer answers - about how Japan and its new government are dealing with those changes.
Fourth and finally, I should like to come back to my original vision of a true strategic partnership between Europe and Japan, and examine the fields where we may co-operate more closely. I am happy to be able to discuss some of those issues, like climate change, foreign policy or trade, with Prime-Minister Hatoyama in two days time, at the Japan-EU Summit in Tokyo.
II. ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL GLOBALISATION
First, on the background analysis. A bleak mood prevailed recently in some media and intellectual circles in Europe. There was some talk of a "decline of the West". They compared it to the "rise of the rest", comprising of China, India, Brazil... It is sunset versus sunrise... Others warned of a "G2" taking power at a global level, meaning the US and China, thus leaving Europe and Japan and other actors out.
I consider these conclusions very exaggerated. Both statements are wrong. There is no "G2". Europe and Japan both still belong to the most prosperous and powerful regions in the world.
I also find it amusing, in a way, how as a young economist and politician in the 1970's I heard almost same stories about a challenge to the Western economies. There was one difference. At that time, the role of China was played by... Japan! Well, it just shows History is essentially unpredictable, unlike the eternal cycle of the Seasons!
However, I would not say that nothing is happening. In my view, we witness the end of one phase of globalisation and the beginning of a new one. Let me explain this.
The first phase was economic globalisation. This phase came into full swing with the events from 1989. A result of economic globalisation was more prosperity for more people in many parts of the world, from Poland to Vietnam, from Uganda to China. In the West, we were proud that our way of life had universal attraction, and happy that millions of people climbed out of poverty thanks to global trade and technology.
One could call the new phase: political globalisation. What happens? Simple. The new economic strength of the emerging countries crystallises into political power. This is no surprise. The credit crisis has accelerated the process. It is most visible in the financial leverage which China has gained over the US.
Two global events stand out in this respect.
The first is the founding of the G20 at the height of the credit crisis in the autumn of 2008. This was a turning point. Emerging countries - India, China, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey - got seats, for the first time, at the table of world leaders, next to the old G7/G8. They could no longer be excluded from deal-making forums. The EU took the initiative to create a G20 at the highest level.
The second event in the awareness of global power shifts was last year's Copenhagen Climate Summit. Europe and Japan were the most ambitious in our pledges to reduce greenhouse emissions. The fact remains, though, that in Copenhagen the Europeans, like the Japanese, were left out of the final deal between the US and four big emerging countries. This was a hard lesson.
To sum up, as long as globalisation was seen mainly as an economic process, it appeared as if we could all win. In the new, political phase of globalisation, this changes. Politics is about relations of power. And power is relative. Whereas prosperity is spreading, power is shifting. People in Europe are starting to feel it, and I suppose here in Japan too. They are anxious, not of losing 'power', but of losing their jobs, of declining welfare, as a consequence of a global competition.
There is no reason at all to think that only the forces of necessity are at work. We still have a choice. In particular, we should examine whether this new situation invites us to work closer together.
III. EUROPEAN UNION; LISBON TREATY
Let me first talk about our side of the EU-Japanese relationship. I suppose that, at the EU Institute, you are interested to hear about our new Lisbon treaty and the experience of its first four months.
Let me briefly recall the background. The European Member States have discussed eight years amongst themselves on a new institutional set-up for our Union, roughly between 2001 and 2009. This was necessary because of the successive joining of new countries: we went from Twelve members in 1989, to Twenty-Seven today. The second driving factor behind the Lisbon Treaty was the wish of the Member States to have a stronger European foreign policy. The new world requires it. The EU has had, ever since the 1960's, a common foreign trade policy; it was a necessity because of our internal economic integration. Now, Europe wants to be able to deal with the world not just economically, as a trade partner, but also politically. It is our way of dealing with the shift from economic to political globalisation. The Lisbon Treaty should give us the means to do so.
In this respect, the two main innovations of the Lisbon Treaty are the creation of two permanent posts: the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, the mandate assigned to Catherine Ashton, and the permanent President of the European Council, the post I occupy.
Prior my new permanent job, we had a rotating Presidency: every six months another Prime-minister of President of a Member State was at the helm. By contrast, I will be president not just for six months, but 2,5 or 5 years, so five or ten times longer. It has also become a full-time job, and so I stepped down as Belgian Prime-minister. The Permanent President is responsible for organisation of the work of the European Council in the medium and long term. This is a fundamental change, aimed at ensuring stability, continuity, and predictability.
Using time intelligently might also mean, depending on the circumstances, to be patient, to take time...
The Treaty has been in force only for slightly more than four months. I have just passed my first 100 days in office. Yet, there is already quite some criticism saying the EU has not become either more efficient or less complicated as a result of the Lisbon Treaty.
My impression is that such criticism is not justified, and the results of the first 100 days are rather obvious. It is also rather difficult to show the virtue of patience, of taking time, in only hundred days...!
Let me just recall a few highlights.
The global economic crisis and particularly the Greek budgetary difficulties have provided a stern early test to the new system. My impression is that, although our troubles are far from being over, I am convinced that we shall maintain the stability of the euro-zone. We have to face a situation not foreseen when the rules of the monetary Union were defined. But step by step the Union and Greece will overcome the situation. The Euro area Member States and European institutions have agreed on a common framework to provide support to Greece. This, in itself, is no small achievement.
We have also managed to start work on a new economic strategy for the European Union: this is about creating more jobs and more growth. All members of the European Council are now convinced that we need better coordination and governance to succeed. Our integration continues. I will chair a working group in order to formulate new proposals.
The Lisbon Treaty offers a better chance for continuity and stability in foreign policy, but the diplomatic service that goes with it is yet to be created. High Representative Ashton is preparing the European External Action Service. I have every reason to believe this instrumental arm of our foreign policy will be operational later this year.
Foreign policy is one of the fields where the European Parliament gets a stronger say. With the Lisbon Treaty, this democratic institution has also strengthened its role, developing itself into co-legislator in most domains. An early example was the negative vote of 11 February this year on SWIFT, an agreement between the EU and the US on data sharing. It came as a shock to some people in Washington; in this no-vote, they discovered the existence of the European Parliament... Maybe the same will happen at some point in Tokyo...
IV. JAPAN; NEW GOVERNMENT
Before coming to the EU-Japan cooperation, let me say some words on recent developments in Japan. I find them very interesting.
Whereas last year's renewal on our side was the Lisbon Treaty, the renewal on your side has been a change of government via the ballot box, a rare thing. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on this issue. In voting the Democratic Party into office, the Japanese people showed that they wanted change. It simply is a fact. Did the call for change arise for domestic reasons? Or also because of Japan's place in the changing world? Maybe it is hard to distinguish between the two, since the elections took place in the midst of the global financial crisis...
I consider three aspects of Prime Minister Hatoyama's policies very interesting. From an outsider's perspective, they seem to point in the same direction: an effort to bring more politics into the Japanese system.
First aspect: the effort to restrain the power of the bureaucracy somewhat in favour of those who are elected and responsible in parliament. This is no doubt difficult, but highly commendable. In our own way, we struggle in the European Union with the same issue; ordinary people from Finland in the north to Portugal in the south have the image of the EU or "Brussels" as a big and unaccountable bureaucracy. This is a myth, but, like it or not, such public perceptions are part of the political reality. Making decisions more political is a public and democratic necessity, but it also comes with a cost: divergences of view come more easily to the surface, the room for compromise diminishes.
Second aspect: the redefinition of Japan's relationship with the United States, the bilateral alliance, but still as an ally. Again, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on this delicate issue. Let me just say that, in view of the almost symmetrical situation we have in Europe, I will follow the developments with a particular interest (even if the main institutional partner of the Americans in this respect is NATO, not the EU).
Third aspect, a most interesting one as well: Prime Minister Hatoyama's call for an East-Asian Community. A cooperative partnership including Japan, China and South-Korea would be a formidable break-through. A clear end to a long history of conflicts between your peoples. Is it possible? Well, at least, it is not impossible. Again, in history we are not in the field of necessity; thanks to the human capacity for freedom, age-old patterns can sometimes be overcome. The European Union itself is a good example, as Mr Hatoyama is aware of. In two weeks time, we will celebrate in Europe the 60th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. This was the call by the then French Foreign Minister to build common European institutions for the mining sector. Although apparently on a technical, economic issue, this declaration was - just five years after the end of the Second World War - a highly political act. It was a courageous act of reconciliation and peace between the age-old enemies France and Germany. Nobody knew it at the time, just as nobody knows today what will happen to an eventual East-Asian Community. Every revolution begins with a small step.
V. EU-JAPAN COOPERATION; THE SUMMIT
Now, to conclude, this brings me to the upcoming Summit. I am delighted that Japan is to be the first country with which the EU holds a summit outside Europe after the entering into effect of the Lisbon Treaty. This is not just because of my love of haiku..., but because we have important steps to take together. Therefore I am looking forward to meet Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in Tokyo on 28 April; so do, undoubtedly, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and High Representative Ashton, who shall both join me.
It must be clear by now why the moment is very appropriate to re-energize the relationship between Japan and the EU.
Let me sum up rapidly.
We defend the same values and the same type of societies.
We are both adapting to a rapidly changing global world, to the shift from economic to political globalisation.
As a consequence, both Europe and Japan need to be not only global economic actors, but also global political actors. We are both getting ready for this.
It is of utmost importance that our collaboration should reflect this new context. Our bilateral relationship should not only be about trade, but expand to more political domains. Fortunately, this is already happening. For all these reasons, in European-Japanese relations, 2010 can be the year of a new beginning!
To finish, I should like to briefly mention four issues where our relationship could become more intense: trade, foreign policy, network security, climate.
Let's start with trade, because it will remain the backbone of our relationship. Of course, an obvious way to intensify the trade between our two blocks would be a Free Trade Agreement. Many so-called non-tariff barriers to trade remain in place, which hamper access to the Japanese market and has caused hesitance from the EU to go ahead. Therefore we could perhaps take some more time to first identify the objectives both parties want to reach. The benefits of abandoning tariffs should not all fall on way side. But we are open to discuss it, and I will say so to the Japanese government.
Secondly, foreign policy. As I said, it is important to develop the political, strategic side of the relationship in parallel to the economic aspects. We are seeking to cooperate closely on a range of global issues and to have a close political dialogue covering the full gamut of foreign and security policy. This ranges from the situation in East Asia, in Afghanistan, the Middle East or Africa to questions such as terrorism, piracy, nuclear non-proliferation, the fight against poverty, the promotion of human rights or the security aspects of energy supply and climate change.
It can be more than dialogue. Take Afghanistan. We are very keen to discuss and cooperate with Japan on reconstruction and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan, for instance in working together in police training.
Thirdly, network security. The challenges facing the world today are not only traditional threats. Threats of a new kind undermine the security of our free societies and the networks these societies are built on. Our societies live by the grace of a free flow of goods, people and information. Networks are the arteries of the global economy. Think of the internet and telecommunications, banking and money transfer systems, airports and energy grids. These networks are vulnerable. Cyber attacks against these nodes of modern life are no fantasy: they can happen (and do happen) every day. We must enhance our resilience against these. Both Japan and Europe are so deeply embedded in global networks that we must do this together.
Fourth and finally, global climate politics. I already mentioned the Copenhagen Climate Summit of December 2009, where both Europe and Japan were sidelined. However, in the run-up to that Summit, we Europeans noticed with satisfaction the policy change of the Hatoyama government. Whereas the EU pledges to reduce CO2-emissions with 20 percent (30 percent if others make comparable efforts), Japan went from minus 5 to minus 25 percent. Thus, both Europe and Japan set the example. It was a pity that the other actors did not follow us. I am also disappointed to hear that some big countries reject the Copenhagen Accord as the basis for further work. Japan and the EU are not only at the forefront in terms of emission reduction: in Copenhagen, the EU and Japan committed for 80% of the fast- start finance to developing countries (30 billion for 2010-2012). As the two major donors, maybe we could reflect on how to coordinate the implementation of our commitment?
In addition, I also see reason for intensified cooperation within the G20 who needs to play the key role in stabilizing the world economy in the middle of the crisis. It is essential to keep momentum on both coordination and reform to ensure sustained recovery.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In all these issues, we will be stronger in facing the challenges of a changing world, if we work together. To share the burden and to lead the way, we need to team up with each other. I believe that the EU and Japan, with our combined economic and political strength, can help make a difference in an increasingly globalised world.
Now, stepping back, it is only after having looked these huge responsibilities into the face, it is only after having been honest about the global whirlwind of changes we are in, either as politicians or as citizens, that we may - after a long day of work - retreat in the evening to our garden. Not as a place of refuge, but as a place of rest.
The haiku poet, not the politician, would express it like this:
|The harvest is reaped,
trees are shaking off the leaves.
Evening is near. 1
|1(NL) De oogst is binnen
en de bomen kalen al.
Avond is nabij.
Thank you for your attention.