Speech at the Raisina Dialogue

New Delhi

New Delhi HR/VP | Josep Borrell analyses the nature of the current security threats including in Asia and the role that the European Union is playing to address them.

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It is a pleasure for me to be back to the Raisina Dialogue. In Europe, everybody rushes to Davos, but for me being here with you is much more important.


Last year I came as the Spanish Foreign Minister and this year I have the pleasure to participate in my new capacity as High Representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy.


That is precisely what I would like to talk about today. The common foreign policy and defence and security policy that the 28 –well, soon 27- European Union Member States have decided to build. Common does not mean unique. A common policy means that each one can have its own policy while sharing a common understanding. But a common understanding on foreign policy is difficult to build, because a country’s foreign policy is a way to project its own identity to the outside world. That is a difficulty for Europeans. This puts us in a difficult situation because we are still a player in search of identity. We still do not know exactly what kind of role we want to play. Let me elaborate a little bit more on that.


We, Europeans, should be proud of what we achieved. From the ashes of World War II, we built a system that combines political freedom, economic prosperity and social cohesion. One of the best in the world.


We suppressed borders between us. Borders that were the scars that history had left in the skin of our continent. We are together in a Union because we agree that what unites us is much more important than what divides us.


However, I also have to recognise that today we are facing a nationalist and populist comeback that can put into question these achievements.


Ladies and gentlemen,


After three wars between Germany and France in the short period of 70 years, the European Union was created to prevent us from using the idea of power against each other. The European Union was built not to use power.


But today this logic is no longer valid. Instead of curtailing our power, we should use our Union to enhance it.


Our historical project does not -as it is often believed or presented- aim at abolishing the sovereignty of European states in favour of a kind of a super European state. It has a very precise objective: to enable European states to do collectively what we can no longer do alone. That is what Europe is all about. Doing together what we can no longer do alone. It means sharing sovereignty, but sometimes the less formal sovereignty you have, the more autonomous you are to take decisions. Let me put an example: in 2004 Spain sent troops to Iraq. After the elections and the change of government, the new Prime Minister decided to withdraw the Spanish troops, we did it and nothing happened.

But nothing happened because we had the euro as a currency. If we had had our old currency, the peseta, it would have suffered devaluation after devaluation in speculative attacks in the financial markets and we would had forgotten about the idea of withdrawing our troops. So, having less formal sovereignty, at the end brings you more real sovereignty.


This teaches us that pooling our monetary policies gives us more capacity to have more power and more autonomy in the world.


Trade is one of the best examples. We share a common European policy and the Commission negotiates on behalf of all Member States. This gives us more power in the world stage. Individually, most European states have relatively little weight on the world stage, but collectively we are one of the world's largest trading blocs together with the United States and China. I repeat, that is what Europe is all about: pooling sovereignties to regain influence on the world stage. Our unity is our strength.


But we have to ask ourselves: pooling our sovereignty to do what? What do we want to achieve? That is what I was saying at the beginning. We are a player in search of identity. We have to ask this: do we want to be a player or a playground? And if we want to be a player, what kind of player? This becomes difficult to answer because Europeans have different histories and we have to build a common story. These different histories have shaped our different visions of the world. As a result, we do not have a common strategic culture.


Let me give you another example: I am a Spaniard, I was born after the Second World War and I lived most of my youth under a military dictatorship because of the Catholic Church and the United States. Both the Vatican and the United States were supporting our dictator, General Franco. On the contrary, my Polish friends believe that they owe their freedom to the Catholic Church and to the United States. It is funny, but it is true. If you believe that you have been living under a military dictatorship because of the same entity that others believe that they owe their freedom to, it is very difficult to share the same vision of the world. It is almost impossible.


Under these circumstances, we have to forge a common understanding of the world overcoming our history. There come the difficulties. We have to build a story overcoming our past histories. That is why, by the moment, our common foreign policy is not a unique foreign policy. It will take quite a long time to have it. Just think how long did it take to pass from a common currency, the ECU [European Currency Unit] to the unique currency, the euro. From the common but not unique, to the unique. How long did it take? More than 25 years. Pooling sovereignty around currency is much less difficult than pooling sovereignty about defence or foreign affairs, where the core of the identity of each country is very well reflected.


But today we have to do it because we are living in a new bipolar system. And if we do not do anything we will repeat the same way that we were living after the world war, in a kind of bipolarity, two big powers confronting each other. 


Power politics means that international law is undermined. There are fewer agreements and more vetoes.


That the territorial integrity of sovereign states is being violated. Non-proliferation and disarmament systems are threatened.


How can we prevent power politics from becoming the organising principle of international relations? The answer is clear, through multilateral rules. The multilateral rules that have been built up with difficulties, should not only be protected, but multiplied in order to guarantee the security of the international order.


In the current world, if we want to be able to take our destiny in our hands, Europeans are beginning to realise that we have to learn to talk the language of power. Because being a soft power is not enough.


Our values and interests reflect what we are: our history, our preferences, our strategic political and economic choices. Europe needs to be more assertive to defend all of them.


Otherwise, the law of the jungle will prevail. And we do not want that might replaces right.


Multilateralism is under siege. But we must hold tight and actively promote it. Let’s defend international law, be it the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, humanitarian international law or the architecture for non-proliferation.


Europeans want to prevent a race towards nuclear proliferation in the MENA region.


Thanks to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), about which everybody is talking those days, today Iran is not a nuclear power. Just imagine the situation today if Iran would be a nuclear power. Those who want to kill this agreement, claiming that they can negotiate a better one, should bear in mind that it took twelve years to negotiate it and that this nuclear deal succeeded in making the world a safer place. In this context I have to regret once again the US decision to withdraw unilaterally from the Nuclear deal with Iran.

A few days ago, the three European member States participant to the JCPOA (France, Germany and the UK) have invoked the dispute resolution mechanism concerning the implementation of Iran’s commitments under the this deal.


However, let me underline that, as recently as at our meeting last week, Europeans, all of us, reaffirmed the need to maintain alive this deal knowing very well how difficult it would be to build another one.


In today's world, great powers tend more and more to use the tools of everyday life, trade for example, and convert them into a weapon. Everything is being converted in a weapon, trade agreements, technology, currency devaluation, all of them at the service of the quest for power, they became political tools. They have always been political tools but today they are becoming more and more weapons. On the soft meaning of the word but really something that you use in order to enhance your power.


Technology is the big word that is going to be decisive on shaping the new global order. History has always been like this, technology ruled the world.  


As the Watt steam engine resulted in Europeans leading the first industrial revolution in the 19th century, the country today that controls 5G, Artificial Intelligence or the internet of things and sets the world’s digital standards, will lead the world.


And some big powers like China and the US have clearly understood that. This is the reason why they are in a race to be the masters the new wave of technology.


We, Europeans, cannot accept the idea that the world should organize itself around a new Sino-American bipolarity which would come to replace, after a 30-year transition period, the Soviet-American bipolarity that, literally, divided Europe.


On this point, I believe that there is a real political convergence between Europe and many countries of this region, call it Indo-pacific or Asia-pacific, it does not matter, everybody knows what I am referring to. Many of the countries in this region, including India, Japan, Australia or Viet Nam amongst others share this feeling. That is one of the reasons why it is so important that I am here today to talk about how we can work together.


How can Europe and India work together for multilateralism? Once again let me give you some examples:


Both Europe and India have a major interest in guaranteeing the survival of the World Trade Organisation, which is strongly being jeopardized today. And the blockade of its settlement dispute mechanism is extremely worrisome for us, for India, for many of the countries in South East Asia and for Europe.


We have made proposals to break this deadlock. And knowing India's strong attachment to the WTO, I know that we can work together on this issue in practical and effective ways.


A second area in which we could strengthen our cooperation is maritime security. For more than 10 years now, European Naval Force Operation Atalanta has worked to counter piracy in the Horn of Africa. It has been a huge success, bringing down acts of piracy to just 2 attacks in 2018 and only 1 in 2019 coming from almost 200 in 2010.


The key feature behind Atalanta’s success is the fact that actions off-shore are coupled with actions onshore - of justice reform, alternative livelihoods - to address the root causes of piracy. If we do not work in an integrated way, we are just treating symptoms but not facing the illness. Operation Atalanta was a good example of cooperation among many countries and among them India.


The relationship between India and Europe must become more strategic in view of the importance of the Asia or Indo-Pacific region.


That is why it is essential that we develop a new roadmap for our strategic partnership in the 2025 horizon, covering cooperation in areas from security, to digital or climate change. Negotiations for this roadmap started just yesterday and I hope it will be ready to be approved at the next summit India-Europe on 13 March.


Among that, the defence and implementation of the Paris climate agreement is of particular importance given India’s great ambitions in terms of renewable energy but also of the big needs that you have to satisfy on energy supply to your growing population.

We are facing a true climate crisis, everybody knows it. We literally have no time to lose. We have  recently stated a strong commitment for Europe to become carbon neutral by 2050, what we call the Green Deal, but maybe more than a deal it is a will, let us call it a “green will”.


This will has to be shared by the rest of humankind. Because we Europeans we represent only today 9% of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Even if tomorrow we were able to cancel absolutely all our emissions the problem would not be solved, because there is still 91% produced by the rest of world. So either we are able to engage, all of us, in this process, sharing different responsibilities but acting together, or our efforts would be a good example of willingness of transformation but it would not be enough.


The example of the Conference [the UN Climate Change Conference COP 25] in Madrid shows how much more remains to be done. In 2016 Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and European leaders agreed on an EU-India Clean Energy and Climate Partnership (CECP). Today we are working together on the International Solar Alliance, headquartered here in India.


At last, another example of European Union-India cooperation is counter-terrorism. I had the pleasure of having a meeting some hours ago with the National Security Advisor [to the Prime Minister of India, Ajit Kumar Doval] to talk about it. Last month we organised here in Delhi an EU-India Counter Terrorism workshop on "Investigating ISIS networks". This two-day workshop brought together Indian and European experts, and focused on capacity building of the Indian state police services to deal with the growing threat emanating from terrorist networks trying to infiltrate South-East Asian countries.


All of that is part of a new system of global governance. I believe it is important to listen to the voice of countries like India, which will soon become the most populated country in the world.


2022 will be an important year for India. You will celebrate the 75th anniversary of your independence and hold the presidency of the G20. Let us use the time in the run up to 2022 to listen to your views of how should the world look like in this century and what can be done together.


In a world full of challenges that travel without passports and knows no borders, our cooperation to defend a rules-based multilateral order is necessary more than ever. Because no country is isolated, big, strong enough not to be affected by these challenges to our peace, our freedom or our prosperity. That is our common endeavour, that is our common purpose, that is our common work together.


Thank you.

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