- A Letter from Brussels to the Next President of the United States of America
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso inaugurated the Weatherhead Center’s new era of Paul-Henri Spaak Lectures with his September 24, 2008, "Letter from Brussels to the Next President of the United States." His address is excerpted here. Visit the Spaak web page for the complete transcript and video.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to begin by thanking Harvard University for inviting me to deliver the 2008 Paul-Henri Spaak Lecture. How fitting, in our fast-changing world, that we should honor a man who—along with other European founding fathers such as Konrad Adenauer, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, and Alcide de Gasperi—saw earlier than most how interdependent we were becoming. A man who recognized that "we are united in misfortune as we should be in prosperity."
It is with this sense of our ever-increasing interdependence that I decided to write a letter to the next president of the United States. A letter that explains how radically different Europe is today, one that sketches out global trends as I see them, that calls for a whole new approach that can respond effectively to these trends, engage with others, and focus on key challenges that we all face.
Dear Mr. President,
Congratulations on becoming the 44th President of the United States…As I write to you, the world is witnessing what some are now describing as the worst financial crisis since 1929…Over the coming weeks you will get a lot of advice, solicited and otherwise, about the European Union. But Europe is not what it was ten years ago, or even five years ago. I have even heard some say that Europe is a growing regional power. In fact, they are wrong. I have to explain to you in this letter that the EU is a global player. It is time to leave behind old ideas about the EU. Let me tell you how it really is:
- The EU is a single and dynamic market of half a billion people who use the euro, which is the world’s second most important currency;
- The EU is home to world-beating multinational companies that, outside the EU and despite the attraction of cheap labor markets in North Africa and Asia, employ more Americans than any other nationality. Seventy percent of all Americans working for foreign companies work for European ones;
- The EU is a union of free countries that upholds the same political values that the United States holds dear, like democracy, freedom, and human rights. It is a natural ally that shares your belief in open markets and open societies;
- The EU has now grown to 27 Member States, bringing together in peace 500 million people throughout Europe, through the transformative effect of a common market and the adoption of deep political, legal, and economic reforms;
- The EU is a credible partner willing to share the burden of leadership, while welcoming new partners to the table—because that is not only our global responsibility but also our enlightened self-interest;
- The EU is a growing peace and security actor, with nearly 100,000 peacekeepers, police, and combat troops on the ground, helping to consolidate peace in a number of the world’s hot spots;
- The EU is the world’s largest development aid donor, delivering over 60% of international assistance.
A word here about the current financial crisis. I would stress that the degree of interdependence of our economies requires careful coordination, not just in the coming weeks, but crucially in the longer term. On both sides of the Atlantic, we must maintain open and dynamic financial markets to ensure the reliability of the overall economic system and to drive growth and jobs. To achieve that, we need clear and effective rules—commonly agreed rules, where appropriate—to ensure transparency and confidence in the market. Turmoil in closely linked financial markets can undermine our economic progress; global pandemics can spread faster; terrorists can more easily coordinate and carry out attacks on our homelands; a lack of secure and sustainable energy could push us into a worldwide recession; and climate change… could have serious geopolitical and social repercussions. These challenges have no respect for national frontiers. America and Europe have no choice but to face them together. Given the complexity and scope of these challenges, it is tempting to take a step backward into protectionism, isolation, and economic nationalism. But this would be a serious dereliction of our duty to protect the interests and security of our people. As so often in life, doing what is right is going to be considerably harder than doing what is easy. We must keep making the case for open and inclusive societies and for open and modern economies, because that is the right way forward for all nations.
A second key trend in international relations today is the emergence of new powers. I do not agree with those who believe that a multipolar world will solve all the problems we face today. Europe tried a multipolar balance of power in the nineteenth and early years of the twentieth century, and we all know where that led. We certainly welcome pluralism in international relations, but let us not forget that multipolar systems are based on rivalry and competition…In international relations, partnerships and a multilateral approach can achieve so much more. Therefore, as you will have realized, I see globalization and the rise of other powers as an opportunity for us to re-think and adjust our engagement with the world.
Looking back on the past 60 years, we can be proud of our accomplishments. But more of the same will no longer suffice. First, we need to strengthen the transatlantic economy. When we look at the figures, that may seem a strange priority. The transatlantic economy is already a behemoth. It accounts for 40% of world trade, generates $4 trillion in annual commercial sales, provides up to 14 million jobs, roughly four times the entire workforce of Massachusetts… the picture is changing fast. Last year, one in every six dollars of foreign direct investment came from outside the developed world. Emerging economies’ share in the world market is expected to double between 2005 and 2020. The trend is clear. We can thrive in a global economy as long as we maintain our productivity and our ability to innovate. This means promoting trade and investment between our economies even further, which is why your predecessor, along with Chancellor Merkel and myself, created the Transatlantic Economic Council last year, in a bid to eliminate remaining non-tariff barriers. Your support for this process will send a crucial signal about our confidence in open markets and open societies.
In addition to strengthening the transatlantic economy, we must also make the transatlantic relationship more outward looking. Faced with the trends I outlined earlier, we need a renewed politics of global engagement, particularly with international institutions. Indeed, I believe we will need to reform these institutions and maybe even create new ones to address effectively the great challenges of our times… a new multilateralism is not only desirable but necessary. Europe and America provided the ballast for the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the GATT, and other multilateral organizations. They have been fundamental to our international system. But they are not enough to tackle today’s priorities. The EU has a particular experience in economic integration, which can serve as an important example in transformation.
Let me give an obvious example. Climate change. It will not be new to you that I believe the EU and the United States must show leadership on this. We have a moral obligation to offer real, deep cuts in emissions in the medium term, not least because we are responsible for the bulk of past emissions. But we also need China and India to play their part in moving as quickly as possible to a low carbon economy. China’s annual increase in emissions is greater than Germany’s total annual emissions. So we must engage with India and China in a real dialogue on this. We must deliver a successful outcome to the UN negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009.
A final area I would like to highlight that could reap the benefits of a more outward-looking and engaged transatlantic partnership is peace and security. Many of the challenges thrown up by globalization have security implications. The expansion of the world population, heightened competition for food and raw materials, and desertification are acting as crisis accelerators that may well result in pressure for mass migration. Then there are the public health challenges and pandemics, such as AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and the rise of new diseases or drug-resistant forms of well-known diseases. These are aspects of security in the broadest sense: environmental security, food security, health security. Then there is security, period. Reflecting on security in a narrow sense, as being able to live in peace and freedom, safe from any threat, the picture continues to be mixed. Seven years after 9/11, we must recognize that the world has not become a much safer place. Terrorism is down, not out—as we witness in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan. There can be no respite in the fight against terrorists and their sponsors. Dangers of proliferation— putting weapons of mass destruction in the hands of extremist regimes—loom large.
Security in the transatlantic context is first and foremost an issue for NATO. As we prepare for the 60th anniversary celebrations in Strasbourg next year, we should remind ourselves of the decades of peace the Alliance has assured us. In a complementary manner to NATO, the EU is also acting to bring peace and security through a range of crisis management tools. We have sent troops, police, magistrates, and other staff to more than fifteen trouble spots in the Balkans, Moldova, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Central Africa, and Aceh. In the process, we have helped to stabilize the domestic situation and enabled states to fulfil their basic public functions. At the political level, too, the EU is increasingly shouldering its share of the burden. A recent example was the trip to Moscow and Tbilisi by President Sarkozy and myself. This allowed us to make concrete progress on implementation of the EU’s six-point ceasefire plan between Russia and Georgia, including sending EU observers into Georgia. We made it clear to President Medvedev that if Russia wants to be seen as the great power it rightly aspires to be, then it must defend its legitimate interests through political dialogue, multilateralism, and diplomacy, not through archaic tools that should be left to the darkest days of the twentieth century.
Mr. President, with this in mind, I think you will agree that while many files will be waiting for you in your in-tray when you arrive in the Oval Office, the one marked “Relations with the European Union” deserves to be kept close. The relationship has achieved great things in the past. But set on the road of modernization and engagement with the wider world, it has the potential to achieve even greater things in the future. It is obviously in the interests of both the EU and the United States to deepen their partnership further. In my view, the time has come to start thinking of an "Atlantic Agenda for Globalization." We have the transatlantic marketplace, NATO, the Transatlantic Economic Council, and other instruments that we should continue to leverage for maximum mutual benefit. But I think we should move beyond this and set an agenda of common action for a new multilateralism that can benefit the whole world. From climate change to trade, from development to terrorism, these are the challenges that require Europeans and Americans to agree on a new multilateral agenda.
Mr. President, you will be seeing me and other European leaders regularly from now on, in the annual EU-U.S. summits and on ad hoc transatlantic occasions, in the yearly G8 meetings and in a host of other multilateral gatherings where so many of today’s international questions are addressed.
We should seize these opportunities and start writing our new Atlantic Agenda now.
José Manuel Barroso