Speeches in English

Is There Any Danger of New Walls in Europe?

Σάββατο, 8 Νοέ 2014

Berlin, ICD «Is There Any Danger of New Walls in Europe?»

Dear Mr Donfried, Dear Mark,

Your Excellencies

Ladies and Gentlemen

Dear friends,

I would like to thank you, Mark, very much for your kind invitation to address such a distinguished audience. It is always an honour to visit the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy. I am delighted to be back in Germany’s capital, Berlin, for yet another visit. Still this time our gathering marks the 25th anniversary of an event of colossal importance: the fall of the Berlin wall.

96 miles of wall and death strip, plus minefields and 300 watchtowers marked the – more than visible to the naked eye! – division; the division not only of Berlin, but of Europe and the world. 136 people have died trying to cross it until the voice of the German people «Wir sind das Volk» tore it down in 1989.

Until then this great city was divided; Europe was divided; and the World became bipolar and in danger of annihilation by any, or both, of the two great superpowers.

Never before this city – but also Europe and the world itself – have been so visibly separated politically as in the 45 years that elapsed between the end of the war and the wall’s demolition.

The tragedy of separation– and our Western refusal to accept it as permanent – was marked by two pleas from American leaders:

John Kennedy in 1963 with his cry of «Ich bin ein Berliner» and Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 with his «Mr. Gorbatchev, turn down this wall».

These two pleas earmarked the fact that for the Western Democracies the division was unacceptable and that its end, and nothing less than its end, was their desideratum.

When I was young in 1985 I was here in Berlin. And I heard the then chancellor Kohl Saying that this wall will soon come down. At that time I thought that this statement was out of reality. But indeed it came true.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold Warled to several successive developments at the German, European, and World level.

It gave rise to the United States emerging uncontestably, at least until 2001,as the World’s sole superpower.

It was heralded in the West as the end of Communism and the victory of capitalism and liberalism; and Francis Fukuyama, in his celebrated article, called the moment «the end of history».

Germany itself went down the painful path of an essential, that is not just political but also social and economic, unification; and it rededicated itself, forcefully, to European integration and the establishment of the European Union in 1992. 25 years later Potsdamer Platz is a wasteland no more and is surrounded by gleaming offices; Friedrichstrasse is lined with expensive boutiques; but many of the economic and social problems of the German separation still need to be faced.

Germany has, in the meantime, without this having been designed by her, become Europe’s disproportionately large power engine; and its GDP represents 27% of the European Union total.

The formerly communist countries of East Europe started their long but, for most, fruitful course towards European integration.

Some have flourished, like the Czech Republic and Poland; others, like Bulgaria and Romania, still struggle to adapt.

The US since 2001 embarked in a series of foreign adventures that have weakened the World’s perception of it as the sole superpower; and Russia, anticlockwise, has started to emerge not only as just a confident player in the world stage but as a rather over-confident actor in East Europe, the Caucasus and beyond; an actor whose political aims, and above all the methods for achieving them, raise serious concerns.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The question was asked of us today:»is there a danger of new walls in Europe?».

I am very much afraid that the question is gravely belated: new walls have already been «erected» in Europe, their consequences are strongly felt and (this is the worst part of it), Europe seems – on the whole – unable to stand up to the challenges they pose.

Let us see them in some detail:

– The euphoria of the transition following the reunification of Europe is now blackened by the suffering of peoples like the Greeks and the Portuguese following the debt crisis in the Eurozone.

– The Eurozone crisis itself has demonstrated a fundamental weakness of the Eurozone itself: that it has proceeded to a fiscal and monetary Union without completing an economic Union.

– The medicine chosen for the therapy of the problems of the debt-stricken countries has had grave social and economic consequences: in Greece, for example, a fourth of total GDP was lost; unemployment rose from 9 to 27%; 60% of the age group between 18 and 24 years old are currently unemployed. Bank deposits fell from roughly 220 billion Euros to 163.

– There is a Continent-wide rise of extremist and/or Europhobic political forces,

particularly of the Far Right; and this is not a phenomenon restricted to the debt-ridden countries:

it appears in Holland; and it appears in Austria, Hungary and Scandinavia.

– The old EU is separated now, more than ever, by new dividing lines

that raise serious concerns about its economic and, above all, its psychological unity:

the North-South divide; the Centre-Periphery divide; and even the loosening of the Franco-German core with the economic weakening of France and the parallel rise of Germany as almost the sole

economic «hyper-engine» of the Union.

– Likewise, in the «new» EU we have the new rich and poor

among the countries of the old communist Block.

– British aloofness and isolationism as testified by the rise of the Independence Party.

– The halt to new enlargements and the persisting precarious situation

in the Western Balkans: Albanian irredentism, FYROM historic revisionism and provocations against its Southern neighbour, Greece; the stalemate in Bosnia-Herzegovina; the issue of Kosovo,

and Albanian-Serb hostility; they all show that by putting the problems under the carpet we do not solve them.

We just aggravate them

– Worse of all, dear friends, is what I have described in a lecture of mine elsewhere and, with your permission,

I will repeat here: I call it «the dual loss of legitimacy» problem.

And by this I mean the disturbing Europe-wide development whereby the European peoples all-over the Union lost faith both in the nation-State, seeing it as unable to face the many problems exceeding its competences, and in the EU, seeing that it is also unable to face problems, both internally and externally.

Ladies and Gentlemen

As Europeans we are also obliged to remember our immediate neighbourhood; and what happens in our neighbourhood is something no less than tragic:

– The Mediterranean Union we so laboriously worked to bring about has practically collapsed following the negative turn of events after the Arab Spring in several of the Southern Mediterranean countries.

– The Middle East, particularly Syria, is developing into the most massive human catastrophe since World War Two.

– In the Caucasus and in Transnistria we have nothing less than frozen conflicts.

– In the East we face the great problem of the Ukraine and the new Russian assertiveness.

– Last, but not least,

Turkey is again completely out of the lawful track and her policies are reversed to the worse behaviour possible:

complete disregard of European and international Law; at the moment of speaking her warships are deep inside

a member State’s (Cyprus)’exclusive economic zone’; threats of annexing the Northern part of Cyprus are voiced by no less a person than the Turkish President; and we should never forget that Turkey continues to bluntly occupy 37% of an EU member-State’s territory!

Hearing about these outrageous facts,

some say here that they have become «tiring»; that «the Greeks keep telling us about Turkey», and so on.

Oh yes, Ladies and Gentlemen! When such grave breaches of International and European Law persist, be sure that we will also persist in reminding the world about it!

And I will be clear.

Greece has repeatedly supported Turkeys accession to the EU, as we believe that the latter is not a closed club.

But Turkey will join the EU only by fulfilling the necessary obligations and by adopting the aquis communautaire.

Ladies and Gentlemen

In facing these grave problems in and around the European Union we need to follow the ancient – and wise – Chinese advice:

«Fix your house first if you want to fix your neighbour’s».

– We must see to it that we fix the issues of any persisting democratic deficit within the Union.

This need not be done by altering the Treaties.

– We should institute an essential Eurozone governance.

– Alleviate the problems of poverty and introduce development strategies for the entire EU, particularly the debt-stricken and other poorer member-States.

– We must «rediscover» the Western Balkans, see that they do not explode again and re-open to them the European perspective.

– Turkey must be called upon to choose whether it will be inside or outside international legality; if the choice is the former we must see how we can bring it closer to Europe; and if it is the latter we must see that it will face the consequences.

– Exactly the same can, in the current situation, be said about Russia.

– We must re-organise and revise our Mediterranean Union policies to stand up to the new developments

since the Arab Spring.

– In collaboration with the United States we need an all-encompassing new Middle-East policy

reaching far beyond dealing with the immediate consequences of the various crises there.

Ladies and Gentlemen

This is the situation in and around the EU; and it is critical, in and out. We therefore need to pull ourselves together and act; and act decisively.

We need to act for fixing our home and, to the measure of our abilities, help fix the neighbourhood.

Ladies and gentlemen

Every European remembers the day that the Berlin wall fell. I hope that the Nicosia wall, will soon come down and will stop being the last dividing line in our continent.

Thank you for your attention

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