Debata: Building a successful and sustainable Europe: Choosing the right priorities
17 września 2008 roku odbyła się debata Building a successful and sustainable Europe: Choosing the right priorities z udziałem Jima Murphy, Ministra ds. Europy Wielkiej Brytanii. Organizatorem spotkania było Centrum Stosunków Międzynarodowych we współpracy z Klubem Polskiej Rady Biznesu, przy wsparciu Ambasady Wielkiej Brytanii w Polsce.
Building a successful and sustainable Europe: Choosing the right priorities
Jim Murphy, 17 września 2008 roku, Warszawa
I am delighted to be here in Warsaw. There has never been a more productive time to be the UK Minister for Europe in this great city. The relationship between our countries probably has never been closer.
This is partly because our mutual of the European Union has caused us to actually o beyond our natural instinct to work together and created a structural dynamic that ensures it is in our mutual interests to be working so closely together. The inward looking sense of European decision making, the inward looking sense of European power, and the dynamic that works within it, has brought us closer together.
What I want to argue is that, for the European Union, the period of introspection must, for all our sakes, come to an end. We have spent eight very long years debating the old European Constitution and its successor, the Lisbon Treaty. And even those eight years have not come to an end, with the result, of course, of the referendum in Ireland – of course, the United Kingdom ratified the Lisbon Treaty after the Irish voted no in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
In an era of globalisation, the challenge is for us no longer to look inwards at our own institutions, as though we were creating ancient European cathedrals, worthy of celebration and praise in and of themselves. I believe it is about, in a globalised world, increasingly looking outwards, beyond European borders. Many of the solutions to the problems we face as Europeans now lie beyond our borders.
And while, of course, Poland and Britain lie at two the geographic extremes of the European Union, we both understand the strategic importance, and the strategic compulsion, to look beyond European borders.
Over the past twenty years, you know better than I ever will, Europe has changed, and Poland has re-emerged as a good international partner in the European Union, a strong international player in the UN and a trusted NATO ally – especially in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
With this track-record, it is no surprise that Poland has a reputation as a country that does want to engage – the natural instinct of this modern, democratic, outward-looking Poland is to engage beyond her own borders and beyond Europe’s borders to tackle some of the big global issues.
Over the past few months, we have seen yet again the responsibilities that Europe has as we look beyond our own borders to the global problems that our world faces – the responsibilities that Europe has when we look at the global commodities shock; when we look at the fact that 130,000 people lost their lives because of cyclone in Burma; when we see 100,000 Georgians displaced by Russian aggression. Each of these challenges, each of these tragedies, brings a unique European responsibility. The United Kingdom and Poland are an important part of that.
So the title of today’s seminar is how we can build a successful and sustainable Europe for the future.
I believe this hinges around two concepts – delivering security and opportunity for all European citizens. This is about a modern definition of security which needs not based on an old sense that our security is guaranteed by the hard power and glittering uniforms of our cavalry regiments, but a wider, more multidimensional sense of what security actually means in today’s world. So, a modern definition of security based around the daily needs of European citizens, not around the machinations of those in the Foreign Ministries and Foreign Offices, like myself. As well as the traditional hard power issues of security, a secure Europe must be sustainable climatically, which means not just strong and stable growth but also fair and green growth. Its economic and social ambitions should support and reinforce each of these agendas.
Today I’d like to focus on prosperity – how we can deliver a better quality of life for all Europeans, particularly as we face this period of economic uncertainty.
The challenge and the question, as often is the case in politics and public life, is easy. The answers are much more difficult. I think we all accept that in public life and in politics, most of the easy things have already been done. The hard challenges are the ones that remain unresolved. So posing the questions is much easier than coming to a consensus around the responses. But we do have to ask the tough questions – like how do we fund this ambition? In a world where so many have a good claim on European Union funding, how do we decide our priorities, and, importantly, how do we shape our budget?
Europe’s economic challenges
Warsaw is a good place to address the economic challenges. Because, as you know better than I ever will, this country has, over the past two decades, pursued some difficult economic reforms, I would argue with good results – in terms of selling off state industries, reducing inflation and leading the way in showing other European countries how to wrestle with the controversial issue of pension reform.
But we also, I sense, have to address many of these issues and focus on them, and understand the interconnected relationship and the multiplicity of the challenges and reforms that we are addressing. The link, for example, between energy and prosperity, also provides a fresh perspective on the debate on renewable energy. A low carbon economy becomes an opportunity, not just an environmental cause. It can be an economic opportunity.
We also need to keep a close eye on our competitiveness, of course, in this context and the challenges of Asia and from the Americas.
The Need for Change
So my government, the United Kingdom, wants to see Europe change. That great city of Lisbon has given the European Union two important documents in recent years – the Lisbon Agenda for growth and jobs, and the Lisbon Treaty. Of course the Treaty is strategically important, and it’s in Britain’s interests, Poland’s interests, and the European Union’s interests. So while the Treaty is strategically important, it is much less important to the daily lives of Europeans than the Lisbon Agenda for jobs and growth. But unfortunately, and I take a share of this responsibility, over the past eight years politicians like me have been fixated on one, I would argue, at the expense sometimes of the other. And I wish us all to focus as much energy, and ambition, and political attention, upon the renewed Lisbon Agenda for jobs and growth as we have over the past eight years on the old Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty.
So responding to climate insecurity, to the economies of the emerging powers, to migration and international crime will require this type of reform and this type of shift away from an internal viewpoint to one which is relentlessly focussed on the external challenges.
We all know that Europe’s old generation inherited a tradition of centuries of Western domination. But Europe’s next generation will face new challenges to Europe’s relative influence and importance.
Demographically – by 2025, Europe will constitute just 6% of the world’s population.
Economically- developing countries’ share in world trade will rise from 30% to 50% over the same period.
Unless we act, Europe will become dependent on others for its energy supply.
Europe will face more and more consequences of climate insecurity.
In this context, I know there is a temptation in European capitals, in towns, cities and villages across the European Union, to react to the difficulties and shocks by looking inwards, to erect barriers and to see the rest of the world as something that we can hide ourselves way from, comforted in the supposed security and the supposed certainty of protectionism.
I think we all have to address these two questions today:
Can we really erect a barrier against the rest of the world in any meaningful way? And how should such a project be constructed, if, in some sort of wrong-headed, philosophical approach, we choose to do so?
In the next few years, our two countries and our two capital cities will be emblematic, I would argue, of this outward looking philosophy. London and Warsaw will host two of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. In 2012 Warsaw, with Kiev, will stage the European football championships. And London will host the Olympics.
But as we make preparations for these great events, we also need to look at the EU policy equivalent – the start of the second phase of the Lisbon strategy – which must also be the Warsaw, and the London strategy. If we get this right, if we are confident and well equipped to compete with the US and Asia economically, we will find, just as we did in the Olympics, that we will all benefit from raising our game and improving our performance.
And it’s crucial that we do this. It’s crucial strategically, but it’s also crucial for the human spirit and human potential. We all celebrate the enormous success that the European Union has undoubtedly been and can undoubtedly be. But when we, perhaps in a more reflective moment, consider that there are in the European Union 92 million economically inactive citizens – that’s the equivalent of the entire population of those new member states of the European Union and Scandinavia put together. It’s difficult to defend a social model and an agenda for jobs and growth that tolerates an economic inactivity figure of 92 million.
100 million people are still living on the equivalent of €22 per day.
And there are currently around four people of working age for each person of pension age in the EU. Four today, but by 2050, that ratio will change from 4:1 to 2:1.
These three facts demonstrate that change is essential. When we look at these statistics, can we really say that we are delivering on jobs and skills? That we have a sustainable future? That Europe has kept its promise to its dispossessed and its unemployed?
So the next Lisbon strategy should focus on the things that will undoubtedly equip our economies and our citizens for the global challenges we will face from 2010 to 2020 and beyond.
To answer to the two questions I posed all of us, the key to meeting these challenges lies not in retreating in difficult times from the rest of the world, but in proactive engagement. We cannot build barriers against the challenges of globalisation. If we try to do so, we will inevitably fail. There is too much to gain in looking outwards for us to invest any energy in this continued introversion.
There is no certainty in protectionism, but there are things we must aim to protect. We need to protect, fundamentally, the workers of Europe, but not the jobs – there is an important distinction in protecting the worker and not protecting the job. We need to protect the environment. And most of all, we need to protect the future, rather than continually focussing on the past.
So we should ask ourselves honestly, where are the jobs and growth going to come from in the next twenty years?
As the business organisations of Poland have said “The consequences of climate changes will affect us all. And tackling them may become a stimulus to create a modern and competitive economy”
You have your own context in Poland, but in the UK, we currently have 400,000 people who are employed in the environmental sector. And it is our aim over the next few decades to get that to a million of our citizens employed in “green collar” jobs. Most of these million workers are already in work in other sectors. So the need for re-training and re-skilling is immediate. And it is important also to recognise that these jobs are better paid and better skilled in the UK economy than average – the UK average wage for a “green collar” job is £34 000 a year: over £10,000 more than the average wage in the United Kingdom.
So that throws up challenges for many of us in the restructuring of our economies and the improvements that go alongside it. But of course, reforming our policies will require a change in the EU’s budget. In fact, it is our argument that the Union’s budget requires radical reform, to better equip the European Union to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
We are calling for the budget to be reoriented towards three specific areas. Firstly, building a prosperous Europe within a strong global economy. Here we see the budget playing a key role in supporting Member States’ own efforts to make the transition to high value added economies. Secondly, and I’ve alluded to this already, the budget must, in a way that it just does not at the moment, support high growth, low carbon sensitive efforts to tackle the challenges of climate change. And thirdly, it should ensure that security, stability and poverty reduction that I’ve already spoken about.
So I emphasise that resources should be reprioritised towards these areas. And some of this is controversial, I know. But difficulty of politics is to say that something is a new priority. The truth is, for that to mean anything, something else must be less of a priority. And that’s reflected in what you then spend your money on. That’s the same in government and in any organisation, if prioritisation is to mean anything.
So in the current financial perspective, we have to ask ourselves whether it is right that 40% of the European Union’s expenditure goes on the Common Agricultural Policy. Yet just 53bn euros – from a total of over 850bn – is earmarked for innovation, which is so crucial for our continued competitiveness. We would argue very strongly that agricultural support across the EU must be reduced.
We need a farming sector that is genuinely sustainable; an integral part of the European economy; one that allows its farmers to be internationally competitive without reliance on subsidy or protection on the current scale.
As part of this budget refocusing, structural and cohesion funds must be better focused on the less prosperous member states. Structural funds in the richer member states – including the United Kingdom – should be phased out. Including in the United Kingdom.
Poland and the UK agree on so many things. But I know that on this issue, perhaps, we take a different viewpoint. But let me make one thing clear, we do not begrudge Poland, or other European countries, European Union funds. Far from it.
We want EU funds to spent where they are most needed and will have the greatest impact.
This does include helping Poland and others make the transition to a high value added economy. A measure of success for Poland will be that it no longer needs some of these funds.
But the aim of the European budget of the future cannot be supporting uncompetitive sectors of the European economy. That will only make it harder to adjust towards new, more productive, sectors. And I say that as a politician from the Labour party. A politician proud to be from the centre-left of European politics.
One of the frustrations I experience in politics in Britain, and in politics generally, is that there is often a confusion, and a conflation, between means and ends. And our end should surely be getting more of those 92 million people out of economic inactivity and into work, many of those people who suffer mental illnesses, or learning difficulties to get back into work or into work for the first time. To change the structure of so many families where the only thing that children inherit is a poverty of aspiration. When unemployment is generational – and it certainly is in some parts of the United Kingdom, as in other countries – unemployment is a chain that is passed from one generation to another, and it is now in the third generation where, in some families, noone has worked.
For me, that is the end. I am entirely dogmatic about the end. And I am entirely pragmatic about the means to achieve it. And I think that one of the ways of achieving the ends that we share, the ambitions that we share, is by the radical reform of how we spend our money and what we spend our money on.
Free Movement Of Workers
I think that this open philosophy, the philosophy and posture that the United Kingdom wishes to strike in Europe and beyond, was at the heart of our decision to open our labour market to Polish workers and other workers in 2004. If we had been interested just in old style, traditional protectionism, we would have refused access. We would have listened to the many loud voices that said that it wasn’t in our country’s interests, and that protectionism was a solution.
But that, of course, would have been wrong. It would have created a large illegal workforce, on the margins of society, not paying taxes and whose particular social needs we would never have met.
I know that some people in Poland worried at that time about losing some of their brightest young people to the UK. But I think we all know that we are starting to see, for many reasons, not least as Poland becomes more successful, more people returning from the United Kingdom to Poland. And this isn’t unique to Poland. This is the trend, as many of you will be aware, that happened when Spain joined the European Union – many Spanish workers travelling and then returning.
So our two countries on opposite sides of Europe’s geography now again have a new generation of people to people links. Most people in Britain have learnt more about Poland in the past four years than they learnt in the previous decades. And this is thanks to the many thousands of Ambassadors Poland now has in the United Kingdom.
As some of your young workers return home and start their businesses and find markets for their skills, I do hope that they will retain their links with the United Kingdom. I know for example that, since 2004, Polish migrants have set up a remarkable 40,000 companies in the United Kingdom. 40,000 new business enterprises in the United Kingdom.
So, in conclusion, the United Kingdom’s vision and Poland’s vision, I am sure, is for a strong and influential partnership between our two countries. A Poland which is assertive, a Poland which is influential. A Poland working alongside the United Kingdom in an effective Europe. A Europe that responds nimbly to the challenges, not by erecting barriers but by embracing change. A Europe as innovative as Marie Curie, as challenging as Lech Walesa, and as wonderful and wise as the late His Holiness Pope John Paul II. These Poles changed Europe forever. And Poland and the United Kingdom can change Europe again. Because the United Kingdom and Poland are unquestionably natural partners in this endeavour.