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Dialogo Europeo – Keynote Presentation

Dialogo Europeo – Keynote Presentation
Europe and the Mediterranean
Offices of the European Commission –
Madrid
4th February 2004


Introduction

It is a great pleasure for me to be here, once again in Madrid . I feel at home here today.

Madrid , a beautiful and vibrant City, with a great history and an encouragingly strong future ahead it.

Madrid , and Spain , in general, have come a long way since their entry to the Euopean Union, then the EEC.

Dear guests, before I start, I would like to thank Dialogo Europeo for their invitation to Madrid and to participate in this morning’s dialogue.

I would also like to thank the European Commission represented here in Madrid for hosting this meeting in this visionary building, distinct from the 19th Century skyline of Madrid; and you, Madame Ambassador for receiving me and putting up with me during may short stay in here in Madrid.

I Thank you all present here. I have to do my best with my speech, as Mr. Danier Morera, jokingly or not, threatened of testing Gallieleo’s gravitational theory should I fail my test this morning.

Valletta  

Before I pass on to the theme of my presentation, I would like to say a few words about Valletta, my Capital City, the one I was born in, live in and work for.

Unlike other cities, Valletta did not start off as a small urban, quasi-rural settlement, to grow bigger and more important in time. Valletta came straight from the drawing board of three men - A warrior engineer, a local architect and the leader of the Order of the Knights of St. John, later to be known as the Knights of Malta, who came from all corners of Europe .

Their final project, Valletta, was probably not so much the result of these three men’s combined thinking, as that of their, at times, complete disagreement on matters which the professional engineer or architect is familiar with when dealing with a client who knows exactly what he wants and how to get it.

Valletta was to become the new seat for the Knights of Malta after the Great Siege of 1565, which was primarily an attack on Christianity. It had to be a City capable of defending its people as well as its Christian faith.

In a few decades, after 1566, from the drawing board came kilometres of fortifications, a Grand Master’s Palace, a magnificent cathedral, one of the largest hospitals of the time, one of the oldest universities in Europe, Eight Auberges, eleven squares several churches and private palazzos and homes.

This project was so successful that since 1566 there were no other sieges on Valletta except for the air raids of the II World War in the early 1940’s. The City developed from a fortified city of the late 16th Century and the Early 17th Century and a Superpower of that period, into a leading commercial and cultural city, unique in its grid design and elegantly dressed in baroque attracting some of the most famous architects, painters and artists of the period. The Valletta Grand Harbour developed from a port of war and industry into a port of peace and tourism. The cold war and the iron curtain were sunk in the deep blue Mediterranean sea by Bush and Gorbachev in 1989.  Today, the city has developed from an “exclusive” city for the few into an “inclusive” city living and experiencing a new renaissance.

Valletta is a synthesis of a United Europe. The Knights, called themselves the Knights of Malta, notwithstanding the came from Spain , Portugal , Britain , Germany , France , Italy .

They all kept their diverse national identities, respected each other’s customs and traditions but nurtured the principle of “unity in diversity. They spoke different languages but had one common language. The also had, one single currency, the scudo. The order was guided by the principle of solidarity, aiming towards a better quality of life.

In this respect, Valletta and the people of Malta can fully understand the principles tied with the European Union, for we have lived with these guiding principles in our genes for 250 years.

Our fortifications today are not a barrier to Europe , as much as they have been to the enemy when they were designed. They are a living symbol of what Europe stands for; fortitude, solidarity, faith, patience, perseverance, freedom and inclusion.

To put Valletta into a Spanish context, to a certain extent, Valletta knows its destiny also to Spain . Malta was granted to the Knights of St. John , thirty years before the founding of the Citta’ Nuova by the King of Spain, Charles I.

Significantly, since Independence in 1964, all Prime Ministers have sat in Spanish Auberges. First the Auberge d’Aragon and today the Auberege de Castile e Leon .

 

Theme of presentation

When first contacted by Dialogo Europeo, the theme chosen for my presentation was:

EUROPE AND THE MEDITERRANEAN .

An open-ended theme requiring more than a morning session to debate. The real Euro Med debate started here in Spain triggered off with Barcelona Process and has ever since, never stopped. So one can imagine, the immensity, the beauty and the complexity of the subject.

Regional and ethnical diversity, culture, history, the sea, architecture, language, and above all the people in the region are all main contributors to the search of shared values.

During this morning’s debate, I would like to put questions, rather than to give answers.
The reason being that this is the basis of Dialogo: to ask; to question; to investigate; to think; and maybe; to form an opinion, or maybe to come to a conclusion.

1 First set of Questions

A What is the Mediterranean ?
B Where does it start?
C Where does it end?

2 Second set of Questions

A Could we speak of a typical Mediterranean identity?
B Who are its people?
C What are their cultures and traditions?
D What is their language?
E Who are our neighbours?

3 Third set of Questions

A What role does the Mediterranean region have today?
B Can we have convergence?
C Can we work for and promote the concept of
a Mediterranean Common Cultural Heritage?

These are a few questions which should set us thinking this morning. We may not agree, or have different views, but the strength of the Mediterranean is its cultural diversity and this must go hand in hand with dialogue. Dialogue must be based on the respect for the cultures of others.

It does not call for a common language, a common thought or a single line of action. There can be NO dialogue if we all thought the same thing.

Where do you get the best fish in the Mediterranean (if there are any left)?

Undoubtedly, the best fish are found in the Strait of Gibraltar , where the cold Atlantic currents meet the warm Mediterranean sea .

Difference is a crucial point for dialogue, but convergence is the art and fruit of vital differences. In this complex multifaceted and diverse scenario, dialogue necessarily calls for a basis of shared values.

Managing Diversity

One of Europe ’s major challenges today is managing Diversity. From a group of 6 to a group of 15, and in a few weeks time to a group of 25, internal management of diversity within the European Union MUST play a significant role. It not, the same principle of unity in diversity which united Europe for the past fifty years may tear the continent apart.

This is why I believe that greater opportunities for the Mediterranean , its member states ( Spain , Italy , Portugal , Greece , and soon Malta and Cyprus ) lie ahead. Together we can pull the Union further towards the South in a collective, and concerted effort.

The tensions in Central Europe in the Cold War period have, necessarily attracted the attention of the Union . Who would have predicted such a change in the area of the European Continent.

The principle of convergence towards the East MUST and WILL necessarily follow in the Mediterranean region because the Union cannot, and will not, be complacent to the tension in this area, the conflict and the cost of innocent lives.

The Principle of Proximity designed by the European Commission is the step in the right direction.

The visions of Monnet, Schumann and De Gasperi, and others fifty years ago developed a unique political model built on the principles of solidarity, mutual understanding and diversity and above all on the principle of human dignity guaranteeing the fundamental rights of the individual. Many say that Europe united economically before it united politically. This may be a fair comment, even if one were to see the differences to the First Constitution of Europe.

I tend to differ completely because the European Constitution, is putting into written form the European Common Political Heritage that has been acquired during the past half a century.

The European Union emerged from the debris of the Second World War. The political vision, then, was to start from scratch, to rebuild Europe , initially, (and I stress the word INITIALLY), through an economic unity. But that was just a tool for the political unity and security of the people. Together these have formed the basis of peace and prosperity in Europe .

Yet the European union, as it stands at its own crossroad in the process of enlargement and integration, necessarily needs to make one big leap forward.

Culture

Jean Monnet was quoted as saying: If I had to star again, I would start from CULTURE.

As diversity has proved to be a strength for Europe , it is still a cause of conflict in the regions close to its new borders. The atrocities of Milosevic and the continuous rise of militant fanatism are just tow examples of what goes beyond the geographic dimensions of Europe .

While democracy, mutual understanding and respect for human dignity in its widest sense has been the cause of political prosperity, democracy still remains unknown or at least a desired way of life in areas close to the new frontiers of Europe .

Similarly, as social inclusion strengthened by the application of the principle of solidarity, one of the main pillars of the Union , geared at improving the quality of life of its people, close to the frontiers of Europe , close to the frontiers of Europe , economic and political instability has slowed down or halted the process of social development.

If the II World War is seen as one of the biggest killers of innocent lives, it is statistically proved that more lives have been lost worldwide from 1945 to date.

The European Union has a duty towards maintaining peace and stability in the interest of its people and in the interest of its neighbours.

Common Mediterranean Cultural Identity

The European political model developed in the last fifty years, is the only model representing in concrete terms of political theory, the application, in practice, of stability and of political, social and economic prosperity.

In an informal debate with journalists yesterday, we discussed, with some disagreement that it is difficult to speak of a Common Mediterranean Cultural Identity. On the one hand, some may say that the diversity in the region is too apart and convergence is remote.

In a region where Europe , Asia and Africa meet, through the common Mediterranean sea , a link for trade which had developed the riches civilisations of the world, convergence of cultures, religions may seem a difficult task. Indeed it is.

But would have anybody thought that the extermination of the Polish Jews at Awtschiz by Hitler, and the communist political domination in Central Europe .

The can be said with the Balkan region in the Mediterranean - an area of pitiful ethnic conflict. Who would have though that the situation in the region could have evolved so positively since 1995 with Croatia applying for membership to the Union ?

The principle of conquest of civilizations and attempting to change them according to ones belief, of building Empires is an issue of the past and which has led to nothing but conflict. The Age of Empires is over.

Europe is no empire. It is a shared civilisation of different cultures, languages traditions, religious belief based on peace and dialogue. Culture with its multi-faceted dimension is at the hearth of Europe ’s strength.

I remember I had shock Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament last May during a working lunch for the Capital Cities of the acceding countries when I compared the impressive wooden structure of the new European Parliament as a Trojan Horse.

He relaxed when I said that, unlike the Horse used to attack and conquer your neighbour, the structure brings all the peoples of Europe united under one institution. to govern themselves in a democratic way, and in respect of diverse cultural backgrounds rather than to conquer.

Soft Security vs Strong Power

Speaking at two separate fora, one in New York , at the New York University Law School and at the Tempus Meda Regional Conference at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt , Romano Prodi speaks about Cultural Diversity and the sharing of the values of stability and prosperity. He deal with the issue of strengthening democracy in the global economy and that in the fight against terrorism, which hits directly the lives of innocent people, “No single state can go (for) it alone.”

This reminds me of a book I read recently by John Nye, former member of the National Security Council of the USA , during the Clinton Administration titled “The Paradox of American Power. Why the only remaining superpower cannot go for it alone.”


In this field of International Relations there are at least two political and philosophical approaches. Strong Power and Soft Power. Whereas the
USA and some other counties may adopt this approach, the European Union has historically, throughout its existence, adopted the latter approach which Romano Prodi defines as Soft Security rather than Soft Power. The Proximity Policy adopted by the Commission and the Union , in general, is one example.

Security of the people, which necessarily leads to economic and political stability and prosperity, does not come with stock-piles of warheads. There is no doubt that, at war, the unemployment rate is higher and the standard of living is lower than what the union has achieved throughout its history.

Stronger, peaceful relations and exchanges are the only form of security that is ultimately sustainable, which Romano Prodi outlines as “the new philosophy of cooperation and partnership” through the creation of a new political economic and human area.


The New Mediterranean Destiny - A Common Cultural Mediterranean Heritage

This is a philosophy I fully adhere to and a as local politician, doing politics on the streets, can see it happening on a daily basis. While Militant groups are taking extreme measures to impose their cultures and beliefs, children with diverse political, cultural and religious backgrounds sit in the same schools, play in the same grounds and live in the same neighbourhood. This simple example of community life at such a micro level, can be easily transported on a micro level.

Europe has successfully managed to carry out this duty with its members, with the eastwards approach to the enlargement process gather more states that the remaining Mediterranean states of Malta and Cyprus .

I am sure that the Union will developed further this philosophy in fostering Mediterranean integration between the European Union and the neighbouring Mediterranean states within the basin through cultural and political dialogue, education, investment and trade.

The Mediterranean is the richest area in the world in terms of multicultural heritage. It is the cradle of civilisation based on knowledge. Human Architecture, and Literature are two examples having the greatest possible influence in the region and beyond.

I believe that the Mediterranean can, and will, develop on its potential through mutual understanding and cross-cultural dialogue. We have to redefine our boundaries now our neighbours and work together to maximise on the opportunities. Madrid and Lisbon are geographically closer to Morocco than they are to Stockholm and the Netherlands . Yet, perhaps, psychologically and politically they feel closed to the latter cities.

There are sceptics who say that stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean Region, as much as unpursued political ideas may become simple clichés.

It is in the interest of all the stakeholders in the Region to promote dialogue in an inclusive manner, and to convert words into concrete actions, with the participation.

A Common Cultural Mediterranean Heritage, based on diversity, the sea and heritage, is the new gateway for development and security of the region fostering unity amongst the peoples.
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