But two “mega trends” seem clear: the broadest and deepest wave of globalization the world has ever seen, and the rise of new world players from Asia and elsewhere. We also hear ever-louder calls for more effective global coordination in meeting the great challenges of our times. As the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, the European Union is, I believe, uniquely suited to take on its leadership responsibilities.
The world has been well served by economic globalization. Remarkable growth in the emerging economies has lifted millions out of poverty and created major new opportunities for investment and prosperity. This has helped great nations such as China and India to self-confidently assert themselves as global powers. Brazil also is finally fulfilling its great potential. In the West, the United States remains a global economic powerhouse and the European Union, too, has capitalized on globalization to consolidate its position as the world’s major economy and trader.
But globalization also increases competition and exposes weaknesses. Workers globally fear for their jobs because they feel they are being by-passed by economic change. The economic crisis has exacerbated the perceived downside of globalization. As a result, our economic interdependence requires careful coordination, not just in the coming weeks, but, crucially, in the longer term. We need to revisit the structures of global governance, to ensure that they work better for people everywhere, and in the interests of both present and future generations. The EU has led the discussion within its own structures and taken it to wider international fora. We welcome the emerging economies’ call for the reform of global institutions.
Trade is a case in point. It is in the enlightened self-interest of us all not to give in to the temptations of protectionism. The economic crisis has made progress in the negotiations of the Doha Development Agenda in the World Trade Organization (WTO) even more important. The WTO framework to which the EU has always given a priority is increasingly recognized as fundamental to our prosperity. It helps to anchor the global economy in an open rules-based system based on international law. But more needs to be done.
The world faces traditional and non-traditional security fears. Many of our countries are targets of terrorism, which eight years on from Sept. 11, 2001, we must recognize is down, but by no means out. There are fragile states to contend with as well as the dangers of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, authoritarian regimes, and the threat of extremism. Globalization has also thrown up non-traditional security challenges with no respect for national frontiers. Global pandemics can spread faster; a lack of secure and sustainable energy could push us into a world-wide recession; and climate change, beyond its environmental consequences, could have serious geopolitical and social repercussions.
Multilateral engagement is essential for dealing with these threats. The EU has multilateralism in its DNA. Others too can benefit from its experience. Europeans are long-standing champions of the UN and international cooperation, and continually seeks to ensure that stability, freedom, democracy and justice prevail as cornerstones of international relations. It is also doing its share of the heavy lifting. It has nearly 100,000 peacekeepers, police and combat troops on the ground, helping to consolidate peace in the world’s hot spots. At the political level, too, the EU is increasingly shouldering its share of the burden. An example was the EU mission to Moscow and Tbilisi by President Sarkozy and myself. This allowed us to make concrete progress on the implementation of the EU’s six-point ceasefire plan between Russia and Georgia.
Reaching agreement on climate change is an immediate priority for all of us. We can only tackle this if we work together. We all stand to suffer significantly from the effects of climate change including increased droughts, floods and other extreme weather conditions. The EU is facing up to its responsibilities. It has set itself ambitious targets for the future and is taking the lead in seeking an international comprehensive global agreement, including a very significant effort on funding.
Climate change also represents a case study of how we can make a virtue out of a necessity. Development and use of green technologies can be new sources of growth. Building a sustainable European economy will help to ensure our peoples’ prosperity. It also shows how Europe can only meet its objectives at home by a proactive and global approach. It is this approach that underpins our external policy. We cannot meet the challenges faced by the EU effectively and successfully without a strong Europe in the world. Prosperity and growth, security and stability and the long-term sustainability of the EU necessarily pass through the promotion of our interests and values abroad and the engagement with external threats and global challenges.
The European Union’s commitment to the multilateral system of global governance through the UN and other bodies is clear. We already speak with conviction and clarity on the major challenges that face us. The Lisbon Treaty allows us to achieve a greater coherence and gives us a much greater capacity to act. It will allow diplomacy, crisis management and an emerging European defense capability to be used hand in hand with more traditional policies such as trade and development.
More than that, it is often said that the EU’s comparative advantage lies in its normative power or the power of its values. I think this is right. In the post-crisis world, when people are looking for new ways to ensure their well-being, peace and prosperity, the European experience has a great deal to offer the world.
*José Manuel Barroso is president of the European Commission. © Project Syndicate, 2009