Why the world needs an engaged European Union

| April 3, 2018 | 0 Comments
EU Naval Operation Sophia patrols the Mediterranean for human smugglers to prevent the further loss of life at sea. It is part of a wider EU approach to migration, tackling the symptoms and causes such as conflict, poverty, climate change and persecution. (Photo: Mercy ships)

EU Naval Operation Sophia patrols the Mediterranean for human smugglers to prevent the further loss of life at sea. It is part of a wider EU approach to migration, tackling the symptoms and causes such as conflict, poverty, climate change and persecution. (Photo: Mercy ships)

The world needs an engaged European Union more than ever before.
More and more, people outside and inside the European Union are realizing the importance of having a solid and predictable international player to rely on in our turbulent — and sometimes chaotic — times. The European Union is a credible and indispensable global player, a transforming force for peace and security, although we have been far too modest for far too long to say it out loud.

Economic rebound
Inside the EU, too, momentum is building. The EU’s economic recovery has finally reached every single EU member state, a testament to our resilience in difficult times. In 2017, the European economy performed significantly better than expected, growing at its fastest pace in a decade (2.5 per cent GDP growth), driven by resilient private consumption and falling unemployment (currently at a nine-year low of 7.3 per cent in December 2017).
Last year marked the fifth consecutive year of positive growth for the EU as a whole. And the economic growth is expected to continue both in the euro area and in the EU in 2018 (2.3 per cent) and 2019 (2 per cent,) according to the latest data available at press time. The economies of all member states are expanding and their labour markets are improving. Wide-ranging governance reforms will add to the resilience and help keep the EU on a path of sustainable and inclusive growth. Investment is on the rise, further driving economic growth.
Global trade is vital to the EU economy. Currently one in seven of all jobs in the EU depends on exports to the rest of the world; indeed, 31 million jobs exist because of European exports. Every 1 billion euros in exports supports 14,000 additional jobs in Europe.
World economies are interconnected in an unprecedented way, as part of global supply chains. They depend on one another for prosperity and growth. We work together, we trade together and together we can have a say in shaping a fairer globalization with predictable and sustainable trade.
Friends around the world are sharing our vision of open societies and open economies. Countries are lining up for access to Europe’s 500-million-strong market — the world’s largest integrated market. Today, the European Union is the top trading partner for a total of 80 countries. We just concluded a free-trade agreement with Japan and we hope to submit free-trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam for ratification very soon. We are close to completing our negotiations with Mexico and Mercosur in Latin America, and negotiations with New Zealand and Australia are expected to open this year. Even as EU27 (post-Brexit,) the EU will remain the world’s largest trading bloc.
And of course, there’s our trade deal with Canada — the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Provisionally applied since Sept. 21, 2017, CETA holds great promise. It is the most progressive and comprehensive trade agreement ever achieved, a new-generation, values-based agreement. It offers businesses the stability and predictability they need to grow, particularly in today’s increasingly protectionist environment.
Already, companies big and small see benefits materializing. For instance, a new container service opened between Montreal and ports on the Mediterranean Sea only days after CETA came into effect last fall. Another example is the family-run Greek furniture store I visited on one of my missions to Montreal; the tariff elimination under CETA made their furniture-importing business instantly more competitive. The same is true for a design furniture store from my native Latvia that set up shop in Toronto and recently began importing into Canada. Since my arrival here last September, I have enjoyed many occasions, including, most recently, on a CETA promotion tour of Atlantic Canada, to meet with businesses eager to seize on all these new opportunities for growth under CETA.

The EU in the world
But the need for an engaged European Union does not stop with trade.
In recent years, demand for EU engagement on security and defence co-operation has increased significantly. The EU’s unique mix of soft and hard power — our European way — has become more attractive, more indispensable to many worldwide. The launch of “permanent structured co-operation” (PESCO) in the field of defence last November, in effect setting the foundations of a future European defence, marked a historic development in Europe’s integration process. It will make us more efficient and autonomous as Europeans and provide a more reliable point of reference for our global partners.
The EU has become a vital pillar that supports multilateral diplomacy, international law and the entire UN system at a time when multilateralism is being called into question. Like Canada, the European Union remains committed to multilateralism.
The European Union has been instrumental in securing the Iran nuclear deal and will continue to work for the deal to be implemented by all sides. We will also continue to push for a multilateral solution to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. On Syria, the European Union is advocating for a political transition to end the war. This spring, the EU is hosting the second Brussels Conference on Syria — also known as the “Brussels process” for the future of Syria — to support the negotiations in Geneva.
Canada and the European Union have recently redefined their international security role. Last December, at the first joint EU-Canada ministerial meetings under our strategic partnership agreement, Canada and the European Union announced joint plans to step up security and defence co-operation within the NATO framework to counter ever-evolving hybrid and cyber security threats, including through the Helsinki-based European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats. Gender equality and the empowerment of women are at the core of our foreign and domestic policies. We cannot have lasting peace and build successful societies without gender equality. Advancing women’s participation in peace operations remains at the top of the EU-Canada discussion agenda, with Canada and the EU set to co-chair a women’s foreign ministers meeting as part of Canada’s G7 presidency this year.
On climate action, too, the European Union, alongside Canada and other partners, has taken a leadership role. The Paris Agreement is irreversible, the cornerstone of effectively tackling climate change. It sends a clear message to governments, civil society and the private sector that this is the right direction for global climate action. What’s more, plans are also well under way to develop an EU-Canada Oceans Partnership (after the UN Oceans Conference in June 2017 and Our Oceans Conference in Malta last October) with the aim of achieving better global governance and strengthen international oceans monitoring and research. Already, the EU-U.S.-Canada Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (better known as the Galway Statement), launched in 2013, has provided ample opportunities for joint EU-Canada research initiatives under the EU’s signature research and innovation program, Horizon 2020. The program has funded as many as 15 projects, with a budget of 120 million euros, focusing on Atlantic and Arctic oceans observation, sustainable management of ocean resources and climate change impacts, among others.
Geopolitical shifts in recent times have brought Canadian and EU positions closer than ever before on a wide range of issues, not least of which are ocean conservation and climate change. We will continue to strengthen our co-operation, particularly in view of Canada’s current G7 presidency, in our shared pursuit of promoting international peace and security and achieving prosperity for our citizens in a safer, fairer and more inclusive world.
Canada — and the world — know the European Union can always be counted on as a reliable and credible global partner.

Peteris Ustubs is the ambassador of the European Union to Canada. Follow him @EUAmbCanada.

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Category: Diplomatica

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Peteris Ustubs is the ambassador of the European Union to Canada. Follow him @EUAmbCanada.

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