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Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting with President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović

European Council - Tue, 01/09/2015 - 14:39

Let me first thank President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović for her kind invitation to Zagreb, the warm welcome I have received, and the good exchange of views we had. Equally, I look forward to meeting Prime Minister Milanović later today.

Our discussions focused on challenges facing Europe both within our continent and beyond. Many challenges stand out. I have no doubt that creating and keeping unity within the European Union is key to responding to any of them.

We talked about the ongoing migration crisis on our borders and what the European Union can do to help to solve it. Europe's priority remains preventing migrants from losing their lives when trying to reach Europe. Whatever the challenges migration might bring, there is never a justification for hostile, racist or xenophobic reactions to migrants.

Another important issue that I had a chance to discuss with the President is the situation in the Western Balkans. I came here to listen. I am always very happy to hear first-hand from countries like Croatia how you see the situation in our neighbourhood. We agreed that enlargement, despite the prevailing mood of some kind of enlargement fatigue, should remain a strong priority for the European Union. This is also my personal deep belief. In this context, I thank the Presidents of Croatia and Slovenia for their joint letter on enlargement that I received yesterday. Good cooperation between your two countries on regional cooperation and European integration is a promising sign. For sure we need it, especially in this region.

We also discussed Russia and the crisis in Ukraine. We are rapidly approaching the deadline for the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements. It is critical that everyone makes every effort to ensure that this deadline is respected. Let me add that I am concerned about the violence in Kiev yesterday. In a sense this shows the strong determination of the Ukrainian government and parliament to honour their obligations and implement the Minsk agreements, also on very sensitive issues such as granting special status for parts of Ukraine. It shows Ukraine is ready to pay a high price for peace.

To conclude. All of these challenges are very serious. All of them can only be overcome by a united European response. And I strongly believe in the determination and political will of all EU countries to prevail. Thank you.

Categories: European Union

Video of a committee meeting - Monday, 31 August 2015 - 16:10 - Committee on Foreign Affairs

Length of video : 137'
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Disclaimer : The interpretation of debates serves to facilitate communication and does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. Only the original speech or the revised written translation is authentic.
Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP
Categories: European Union

Speech by President Donald Tusk at the 2015 Bled Strategic Forum

European Council - Mon, 31/08/2015 - 17:39

I have recently read an article by Ivan Krastev, which reminded me of a book I came across more than thirty years ago, written by Raymond Aron and entitled "In Defence of Decadent Europe." As a then editor of an illegal periodical, (it was the time of the Communist regime in Poland) I was looking for inspiration, something that would help me go beyond the simple division: the political power versus the underground opposition. The reflections on freedom of authors such as Raymond Aron, Michael Novak, Friedrich Hayek, Karl Popper or Isaiah Berlin formed a foundation for my personal and political optimism, mixed with cautious scepticism. Today, I feel duty-bound to undertake an effort, both intellectual and political, to once again defend the decadent Europe along with her old-fashioned values, above all freedom and democratic capitalism. By a fortunate coincidence, I am saying these words on the 35th anniversary of the birth of the Solidarity Movement, which was also my experience, maybe the most important in my life.  

When Aron was writing his defence of Europe in the mid -1970s, the prevailing mood was one of pessimism and doubts about the future of democracy and free market, as well as about Europe itself. Religious violence ran riot, with geo-political consequences. Nationalists rose on the left and right; the energy crisis shook the European economy, discrediting mainstream politics. Terrorist groups emerged, particularly aggressive in Italy and Germany while the students' revolts and radical movements, often backed by Soviet secret services, shattered societies from within. Europe was losing clout on the world stage and many thought that they had found themselves at a crossroads of blind alleys, as Ivan Krastev so aptly described.

The voice of Raymond Aron, barely audible in the seventies and drowned out by the avant-garde outcry of radical intellectuals, proved to be the voice of reason and shrewdness. Europe and her traditional values which constitute liberal democracy, have not only survived, but have also become, once again, a universal positive model for millions of people, not only Europeans.

There exists a good number of reasons also to defend today´s decadent Europe. To every sensible observer of the global scene, Europe is still clearly the best place on Earth. In fact, migrants who put their lives at risk to find their way across to our continent know it better than anybody else, unintentionally becoming the most obvious proponents and advocates of the decadent Europe. One can´t help but notice the stark contrast to some of today's European intellectuals who are always outraged, ready to offer scathing criticism of their own community and at the same time being completely unable to find practical solutions. By the way, in the past the main task of intellectuals was to think while today it is to be outraged. They are too busy looking for an ideal, ready to abandon reality for destructive projects which look and sound creative and attractive. The last thing Europe needs today is new theories and grand visions. In fact what we really need today is sound judgment, determination in action and common sense.

For sure the European Union is not the best of all possible worlds. But surely it is the best of the existing ones and in all likelihood the best among those that human kind has seen across the centuries. Europe is safe and prosperous and shows respect for the rule of law and the rights of individuals. The poor are offered help, universal education and medical care are provided for. We are not perfect, but are still doing better than at any other time or anywhere else. Europe has also found a way how to durably substitute conflict and violence for dialogue and consensus.  Isn`t this enough to defend her?

I often hear that what Europe lacks today is energy, vitality and bravery. We are surrounded by nations and civilizations powered by the energy that they draw from nationalisms, religious orthodoxies and ideologies. It is often poverty that lies at the source of this energy, which was also our experience in Europe`s remote past. Today however, the attractiveness of Europe stems partly from the fact that our continent is largely free from these potent and dangerous emotions. Europe is secular, multinational, tolerant, wealthy and pluralistic. In a sense she was conceived and designed as an alternative to the 20th century´s hell of nationalism and totalitarian ideologies. Surely no-one in their right mind would want us to return to those sources of energy.

In fact, the question if anybody would like to go back in time is irrelevant. It is simply impossible if we want to continue to think about Europe as a political entity, about Europe as a whole. No European nationalism, just like no one European nation will emerge. It is also unlikely for one religion or ideology to conquer the hearts and minds of most Europeans. This is why our energy and determination must be powered by other emotions.

One such emotion is pride. Today we need to feel more proud about our common Europe, simply because Europe deserves it. Pride about our culture, wealth and the political idea of solidarity. I have in mind the same kind of pride which the ancient Greeks felt for themselves and for the barbarians. Not because the barbarians were worse, but because the Greeks lived differently. Pride is this galvanising value which breeds the feeling of dignity and the need to fight for it. Incidentally, we Europeans must today restore the ability to distinguish between pride and hubris. All too often we show hubris to our neighbours, and weakness to the stronger, forgetting that hubris is accompanied by weakness while pride is accompanied by strength. In the history of politics an arrogant weakling has been a most pathetic figure.         

We need to think about our Europe with greater tenderness and patience. We need to protect her not only against external threats when they appear, but also against internal temptations for revolutionary and total changes. The European Union certainly needs to adjust and improve itself, and it must do so constantly, but under no condition should we undermine the very essence of Europe or the political and legal norms of the Union.

There is more and more talk about the need for the new legitimacy of the European Union, as the historical reasons for its creation, the reaction to the tragedy of the Second World War and to the threats from the side of the Soviet Union will no longer suffice. New generations will look for new justifications but what will most certainly endure will be the positive legitimacy of who we are today and who we want to be in the future. And I have no doubt that we want to remain free, tolerant, wealthy and safe citizens of the national states organized in one European community.

If we stay true to our values we will win our future. To achieve this we need to be strong and smart, the most priceless assets in politics. Instead of concentrating on predictions about the distant future and long-term planning we need to stay in shape.  As the saying goes: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."  More important than ambitious visions are therefore our prowess, resilience, courage and determination. If we are able to rebuild them, we won´t be afraid of the new challenges, even if they take us by surprise.    

Pragmatic European leadership, both on the level of national states and pan-European institutions, must focus on practical solutions. Problems that we encounter presently can be overcome on condition that they do not become an excuse to turn Europe upside down. Equally important are mutual loyalty and solidarity among European players, in particular vis a vis external enemies. I don´t suppose anybody has any doubts that they exist.

On every issue on today´s agenda, the Greek crisis, war in Ukraine, migration, terrorism, potential Brexit, we take action, which - if only we are sufficiently loyal to one another and stand united - will bring about positive results. We will continue to live with the problems longer than we would like to - but this is not the reason to question our European principles.              

Is global disorder the new global order? No. In fact disorder has existed since the beginning of time. And indeed, the moderator of our session, Mr Nik Gowing, who in his very long and amazing career as an international broadcaster covered such dramatic events as the terrorist attack on Twin Towers, the Gulf War, Kosovo, Mumbai, the death of Lady Diana, the financial meltdown, and the imposition of the Martial law in Poland, which is especially important to me, is living proof that disorder and chaos are an immanent part of our human existence. Perfect order has always been a dream, while the world around us has always been full of conflicts and surprises. The real challenge is not to change the status quo in search of the perfect order. It is beyond human  reach. Therefore, the real challenge is to preserve and consolidate our imperfect order which we have enjoyed within the European community. Thank you.

Categories: European Union

Press statement by President Donald Tusk after his meeting with Miro Cerar, Prime Minister of Slovenia

European Council - Mon, 31/08/2015 - 13:20

Let me start by thanking Prime Minister Cerar for his invitation, hospitality and for welcoming me in Bled. This place is one of the most beautiful in Europe and the world. Unfortunately, the reality is not as nice as this place.

My visit to Slovenia, and later to Croatia, is the first one after the summer break. But the challenges facing Europe take no holidays. First of all, we talked at length about the ongoing migration crisis. This is the most important issue for Europe today. The summer has confirmed that migration will remain a key issue for Europe in the years to come.

The European Union cannot and should not be blamed for the migration crisis, but we need to do more at European level to solve it. We have to alleviate the unbearable human suffering and tragedies that have become almost daily news stories in Europe now. In short, the European Union has to help provide solutions to the major problems facing European citizens and countries today.

And this is exactly what we are trying to do. In April I called an emergency summit on the migration crisis in the Mediterranean. In June, the European Council agreed a new policy for relocation, resettlement and return that is now being implemented. In October the European Council is meeting again. In November, I will chair the Malta Conference where European and African leaders will meet and try to find practical solutions to this shared problem. Likewise will there be a high-level conference on migration along the Western Balkans route. And only yesterday, the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council called an emergency meeting of Justice and Home Affairs ministers to assess the situation on the ground, discuss next steps - to strengthen the European response. This will include Frontex, the EU border agency, the European Asylum Support Office and more work on our return policy, international cooperation as well as investigation and measures to prevent trafficking of migrants. Today this may be the most urgent challenge. As we have witnessed both in Austria and in the Mediterranean, human trafficking and smuggling of migrants are not only a dirty business, it is in fact mass murder. And smugglers today are potential mass murderers. We must do everything we can to stop it.

So a lot of work is ongoing. But the truth is that this is a very complex problem and requires a complex set of actions. There are no quick-fixes. Had there been, they would have been used long time ago. The reasons for the unprecedented levels of migration are war, conflict, failing states and poverty. I have no doubt that in the short term, we need to concentrate our efforts on containing the inflow of migrants - obviously in a humane way respecting all legal obligations.

Today, the Prime Minister and I had a good exchange on what the European Union is already doing - in terms of assistance and migration - and how we can target our efforts even more. This is as much a problem in the South as in the Western Balkans.

Finally, we also discussed the situation in the Western Balkans. Slovenia's experience and knowledge of the region is of great value. The Prime Minister and I shared ideas how the European Union can and should help create more stability and prosperity. And we agree that enlargement should remain a strong priority for the EU. Thank you.

Categories: European Union

Article - EP this week: Greece, migration crisis, GMOs and budget 2016

European Parliament (News) - Mon, 31/08/2015 - 12:50
General : A Greek government request for EP involvement in the regular review of the country’s third loan programme is to be discussed on Thursday at a meeting of the President and political group chairs. In the committees, members are to discuss migration and vote on the use of genetically modified food and on the next year’s EU budget. Parliament’s political groups also prepare for the plenary, including Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker's first State of the European Union speech and debate.

Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP
Categories: European Union

Article - EP this week: Greece, migration crisis, GMOs and budget 2016

European Parliament - Mon, 31/08/2015 - 12:50
General : A Greek government request for EP involvement in the regular review of the country’s third loan programme is to be discussed on Thursday at a meeting of the President and political group chairs. In the committees, members are to discuss migration and vote on the use of genetically modified food and on the next year’s EU budget. Parliament’s political groups also prepare for the plenary, including Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker's first State of the European Union speech and debate.

Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP
Categories: European Union

In-Depth Analysis - Exceptional measures: The Shanghai stock market crash and the future of the Chinese economy - PE 549.067 - Committee on Foreign Affairs - Committee on International Trade

This summer has been a dramatic one for China's stocks markets, with most indices registering losses of more than 40 % from their annual high. European markets have also suffered, and many observers across the globe are now nervously focused on the Asian giant whose economy drove so many other countries' in recent years. Yet the real economic significance of the drama in China may not stem from its bourses' losses; those who lost money on China's stock market are only a small percentage of its citizens, and many are simply shaving their precipitous profits, rather than facing calamitous losses. A more significant economic outcome may result from the Chinese government's efforts to intervene in its stocks markets. The measures adopted by Beijing since the sell-off began – in some cases, measures that were quickly abandoned – would be unthinkable in a fully market economy. Many measures largely contradict the government's commitments to open and transparent financial exchanges. As the liquidity that a slowing Chinese economy badly requires is frozen, it could be Beijing's heavy-handed involvement in local markets – and not their pared prices – that determines the economic fallout from the summer losses.
Source : © European Union, 2015 - EP
Categories: European Union

Why is Britain so against migration?

Ideas on Europe Blog - Fri, 28/08/2015 - 18:33
Some of the media seem to be in a state of panic this week with the news that the number of foreign-born people living in Britain has reached 8 million, and net migration to the  UK has reached record levels.

So what’s the big deal here?

Not all those born abroad can be described as ‘foreigners’, contrary to the alarmist reports splashed in newspapers such as The Express, The Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

For example, London Mayor and Conservative MP, Boris Johnson, was born in the USA. Ashes winning cricketer, Ben Stokes, was born in New Zealand.

Actress Emma Watson was born in France. Mo Farrah, Olympic gold medallist for Britain, was born in Somalia. Actress Joanna Lumley was born in India. And the Queen’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, was born in Greece… to mention just a few.

In any case, why does it matter? Where we live is surely more important than where we’ve come from.

We have all arrived from a long ancestral journey that spanned the planet for tens of thousands of years. We are, actually, all descended from migrants.

But it’s not only the record number of foreign-born residents in Britain that has been targeted as ‘bad news’ by much of the media and many politicians this week. The word ‘migration’ now seems to have become toxic. So also presented as ‘bad news’ this week was the report that net migration to the country reached a new record high in the year to March 2014, with 330,000 more migrants coming to the UK than left.

This was reported as presenting a big headache for UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, because he had promised to bring down ‘net migration’ to tens of thousands from the current level of hundreds of thousands.

But why is migration here considered such a terrible thing? Instead, the record numbers of people wanting to come to Britain could be celebrated as a huge success story.

The fact is that most migrants come to Britain to work or study – and that’s primarily what they do. Most migrants who come to work in Britain are in gainful employment, making significant net contributions to our treasury and helping the British economy to thrive.

And those migrants coming here to study are contributing billions to the running costs of our colleges and universities – foreign revenue which those educational establishments very much need, and which the wider community also benefits from through extra spending by foreign students.

The reason so many migrants are currently coming here to work is because the British economy is doing so well compared to other European countries – resulting in many new vacancies being created which cannot simply be filled by those unfortunate to be registered as unemployed.

Benefit tourism? Where’s the evidence for that? The proportion of migrants claiming benefits is considerably lower than for British citizens. Three times the European Commission asked the British government for evidence of so-called ‘benefit tourism’ by EU migrants coming to work in the UK. Three times the British government failed to provide any.

And migration is not a one-way trip. Many British people also migrate to other countries mostly for the exact same reason that migrants mostly come here: to work. Britain is the biggest exporter of people to the rest of Europe, and the world’s third biggest exporter of people across the planet.

Isn’t it a bit odd that people in Britain should consider migration here to be such a bad thing, when British people make fuller use of ‘free movement of people’ across Europe than any other EU nationality?

And another thing: many migrants quoted as coming to Britain were actually British people returning home from living abroad. How many newspapers reported that?

The British government has pledged to reduce net migration to less than 100,000. Why? I cannot find any economic reasons for such a policy. And in the absence of an economic reason, what other reason could there be to want to reduce migration to the country? Could it simply be that the government has been responding to an irrational fear and dislike of foreigners?

Has anyone actually considered that reducing net migration to Britain to less than 100,000 might make the country – and all of us – poorer? Do we really want to deter workers and students coming to the UK who are making such a significant contribution to our economy?

Rather than continually trying and failing to stem the flow of natural and legal migration here in pursuit of jobs and studies, wouldn’t it be more cost effective for the government to invest considerably more in our infrastructure, such as homes, schools and hospitals? In that way, the residents of Great Britain – of whatever nationality – could be properly accommodated, allowing them to get on with what most of us want to do: work or study.

Other articles by Jon Danzig:

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When I ask racists if they believe the descendants of immigrants should ‘go home’, they invariably reply, ‘Yes’. Watch the video to hear my withering response. (1 minute):

Click here to view the embedded video.

Media in panic because 8 million foreign-born live in Britain. So what? See my Facebook post:

— Jon Danzig (@Jon_Danzig) August 28, 2015

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Categories: European Union