The EU in the 21st Century - English

A League of Nations

By Kien Nghi Ha1.09.2010Global Policy

Europe has an important role to play on the international stage. Its vision for a sustainable and ethical system of economy and governance can inspire nations around the world. But in order to push its agenda, the European Union must speak with a single voice.


I believe in a Europe with ambitious goals, with the determination to defend and pursue its interests, with a clearly defined set of values, and with a focus on the people that inhabit and shape it. The European Union is an important institution on the way to a better and common European future. For 60 years, the EU has been a laboratory for transnational and supranational cooperation. It is thus also an important catalyst for global debates about governance – debates that we must confront in the coming years and decades. If we understand the challenges ahead and work collabortively to utilize this moment of opportunity, we can offer credible solutions to the community of nations that address the realities of the 21st century.

A moment of opportunity

A look at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh or the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen illustrates that only a united Europea – guided by the pursuit of common ideas and the willingness to take a leadership role – can shape processes of globalization alongside with her international partners. I am happy that we have managed to coalesce around the idea of a sustainable, ethically grounded and diversified economy at the G20 summit. The EU played an important role in creating the high-level meetings in 2008, and it is good to see that these countries are now accepting their global responsibilities. For example, we decided to regulate excessive managerial bonus payments and to hold international financial actors accountable for their actions. The financial markets must focus on making long-term and ethical investments, not on short-sighted and one-sided speculation. Europe leads the way with its models for financial regulation and oversight. This could serve as an inspiration for others as well. But we will only achieve lasting recovery if we engage in the issue of climate change as well. Failure is not an option. I won’t hide my concerns about the slow progress and the struggle at the Copenhagen summit. Now is the time to get serious.

Against a blank check

Europe has offered a vision for combating climate change. In the run-up to the Copenhagen summit, we did everything to broker a compromized agreement. Our message to the developing nations is clear: if you are serious about engaging in the challenge of reducing greenhouse gases, we will help. But it will be constructive counseling, not a blank cheque of aid money. Our message to the industrial nations is that we must take our responsibilities seriously vis-à-vis the developing world. The equation is rather simple: without money, nothing will happen. But without sustained efforts, we also won’t give money. It might take the personal intervention of heads of state to resolve this issue.

Europe has an important role to play

There are countless examples from the previous decade that illustrate Europe’s influence if she speaks with a single voice. But we can also see how internal disagreement can leave us short of the goals we set for ourselves. The European societal model strives to overcome the dichotomy of unregulated markets or excessive state control. Our vision inspires a future where wealth is created through the model of the social market and defended by the concept of personal liberties. It is a vision guided by clear ethical and ecological principles and protected by the concerted efforts of the international community of nations.



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