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We are living in a remarkable time – a time that tests our ability to deal with a wide range of new threats to humanity, threats bearing not only fight against terrorism on our security, but also on our environment, and generally on our civilization. This is a major challenge, imposing great demands not only on the new EU Member States and on the NATO Alliance as a whole, but on the entire human race. The global protection of human rights , the rule of law, climate change, and the maintenance of world peace are the most important tasks.

“The world will never be the same again”, said European Council President Herman van Rompuy after Crimea, conjuring up a geopolitical awakening at the heart of the EU. The EU strongly supported the holding of free and fair Presidential elections on 25 May and called on all parties to join in this support, to help overcome the crisis and allow the Ukrainian people to choose their own future.

Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister of Sweden acm_panel_europe_crises

Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister of Sweden, Emma Bonino, Former Foreign Minister of Italy, President Toomas Ilves, President of Estonia, Jo Johnson, Head of Policy Unit, Office of the Prime Minister of the UK, Norbert Röttgen, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Bundestag Moderator Sylvie Kauffmann, Editorial Director, Le Monde

Every year, the ECFR Council – an unrivalled European strategic community of over 200 members – meets as a full body in a key European capital at the ECFR Annual Council Meeting.

This year’s meeting in Rome look at the results of the European Parliamentary elections and what they mean for Europe; what lies ahead for the EU-Russia relationship after the events in Ukraine; the possibility of world peace, agreement with Iran and risks of a war in Asia etc.

The EU is dealing with three simultaneous major crises: a geopolitical crisis in its neighbourhood (eastern and southern); an economic crisis in the eurozone; and a political crisis following the European elections.

These crises are also leading to divisions between member states – between East and West, North and South, eurozone and euro-outs as well as between mainstream political parties and the new forces that have risen to cope with them.

Major steps have been taken towards more and better integration, towards a real economic and monetary union, despite the crisis or rather because of it. But Europe has to go beyond the Treaties, because, at present there is a deep problem of trust of the European citizen in the EU.

Current discussion on the future of the EU is predominantly focused on the federalism-subsidiarity dilemma. Meanwhile, values like freedom, tolerance and solidarity, known to all of us as European, are more and more subject to threats and have become a matter of dispute, not only in member states, but in elected EU institutions as well. Therefore, when discussing the future of Europe, the question we must first address is what are the values the EU is based on today and how they reflect on member states, potential member states and all EU policies, including the Enlargement Policy.

One of the reasons why the term federalism (discussed at this year ECFR council meeting) is the suspicion that countries would be overshadowed by a unified, centralised federal state. For countries which have fought long and hard to become united and independent, the thought of being a mere sub-federal entity is unbearable. The problem is howeve, in this position and in our view, not political integration in the first place, but to have an integrated single national unity system at the European level.

A standard definition of federalism is that it is “a system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and constituent political units; an encompassing political or societal entity formed by uniting smaller or more localized entities”

Monnet’s Federalism was a European concept going back centuries. It usually operated within individual states, where power and responsibility were distributed among local, provincial, and national levels of government. Monnet, however, wanted to elevate it to being the basis for a federated Europe. It was a radical, distant goal, which he helped make possible through the practical, iterative steps he prescribed during his lifetime.

The European Union already has a number of undeniably federative elements: a supranational European Commission:  Article 13 of the Treaty on European Union lists the following institutions: a European Parliament; a European Commission: a European Court of Auditors; a European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice based on a system of the rule of law, the primacy of which is recognised over national law. Federalism is a dynamic concept, a process towards and ever closer union continues. Europe is a community based on law and common principles, not, as in the past, on balance of power.

What we obviously see now is also that Europe reaching the limit of courrent policies and needs leverage to provide sustainable growth based on increased competitiveness. The biggest lesson from the crisis is that growth based on debt is not sustainable. Europe needs systemic growth, based on increased competitiveness. It is not enough to have the right policy, this policy also has to merit political and social acceptance in all 28 Member States. This is where Europe did not do everything right.

In terms of changes of international politics Italy, Poland, Spain, and Sweden, are convinced that the EU needs a broad strategic approach for its external relations. Some Member States have even announced that they will increase their defence budgets. At the very least the crisis ought to produce a stabilization of European defence spending – any further defence budget cuts will raise some eyebrows among the general public. The most cost-effective way to use European defence budgets remains cooperation.

In the last few days, there have been numerous bilateral talks with Iran on the nuclear issue. Iran and the P5+1/EU nations appear to be fulfilling their commitments under the six-month interim agreement. The interim nuclear agreement raises the possibility that Terhran will drop the Assads in pursuit of entente with the US and EU – but reaching a final deal will be challenging, as the sides remain far apart on key issues.

Russia, which provides the Syrian regime with arms and a diplomatic shield in the UN Security Council, would also need to be on board. In Carl Bildts opinion, there is still potential for a settlement with Iran, but it requires, of course, good will from both sides. Temporary accord was intended to give negotiators more time. If there is to be a deal with Iran, it needs to be speeded up.

Another important development are: Thailand´s military coup, which has launched its 12th coup of the modern era, plunging southeast Asia´s second-largest economy into a fresh phase of its crisis and raising the prospect of international sanctions. Armed self defence units are forming across Ukraine´s east to fight rebels.

Over the last few days, Sunni militants have swept through northern and western Iraq. Anti-government forces, mainly under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or also known as ISIS), a group that has fought Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military in Syria, have taken over the cities of Mosul and Tikrit. This should not come as a surprise.

The current event in Iraq remind us how important it is to focus on what comes after the military intervention. The problems aren´t gone when the troops leave. We need to think about this with Afghanistan. KEYNOTE ADDRESS Federica Mogherini, Foreign Minister of Italy

“The world will never be the same again”, said European Council President Herman van Rompuy after Crimea, conjuring up a geopolitical awakening at the heart of the EU. EU-Russia relations have recently been going through a challenging period and in this context the EU will seek to engage Russia in a firm yet forward-looking dialogue about the future of economic and political relations on our continent.

By annexing Crimea and intervening in Ukraine, Russia has raised fundamental questions about the principles of EU-Russia relations. Every agreement made with them since the Second World War, from article 2 of the UN Charter to the Helsinki Accords and the Paris Charter, has been violated by Russia.

When the Cold War ended, many Americans and Europeans seemed to think that the most vexing geopolitical questions had largely been settled. Both would rather move past geopolitical questions of territory and military power and focus instead on ones of world order and global governance: trade liberalization, nuclear nonproliferation, human rights, the rule of law, climate change, and so on. Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, the most important objective of U.S. and EU foreign policy has been to shift international relations away from zero-sum issues toward win-win ones.

A crucial question for the EU now is how to envisage EU-Russian and EU-NATO-Russian relations in the future, said Federica Mogherini, Foreign Minister of Italy. Despite the urgency of the situation, we must not rush to hasty conclusions.

The truth is that, both before Vilnius and now, the EU has offered the Ukrainians less than they want. We need to discuss our regional responsibilities, says Carl Bildt.

The southern Crimean Peninsula is till heavily ethnic Russian, and it is the home of Russia´s Black Sea fleet, providing Russia´s only outlet to the Mediterranean. Luhansk is the biggest city in one of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine where separatists have declared People’s Republics and want to join the Russian Federation.  Next, Putin ordered military maneuvers in the part of Russia adjoining eastern Ukraine, in order to demonstrate Russia´s geographical supremacy over the half of Ukraine that is pro-Russian as well as the part of Ukraine blessed with large shale-gas reserves.

Moscow knows as does the West that a flat topography along the long border between Russia and Ukraine grants Moscow and overwhelming advantage not only militarily but also in terms of disrupting trade and energy flows to Kiev. Mariupol is considered strategically important because it is situated on major roads and steel is exported through its port.

To live in a world where geography is respected and not ignored is to understand the constraints under which political leaders labor. Leaders beyond America and Europe tend to be highly territorial in their thinking. For them, international relations are a struggle for survival. As a result, Western leaders often think in universal terms, combined with the role of law, while Russia, the Middle East and East Asia think in narrower terms; those that provide advantage to their nations or their ethnic groups only. We can see this disconnect in the Middle East. The interminable violence and repression in eastern Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sunnistan, covering both western Iraq and Syria.

On June 12, unmarked tanks and another armored vehicle — bearing no unit markings or other identification, beyond a Russian flag — drove from Russia into southeastern Ukraine, according AtlanticCouncil source. Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko recently stated that Ukraine would never cede its claim to the Crimean peninsula to Russia, despite the fact it has lost de facto control over the peninsula and has almost no chance of regaining it through force or negotiations, as it has been annexed by Russia.

This attitude is relatively new. It also changes the character of international politics. As the atmosphere turns dark, the task of promoting and maintaining world order grows more daunting. One main weakness of the Russia-Ukraine approach reviewed in thediplomat is – Instead of a territorial dispute being decisively resolved in favor of one side or the other, it festers, sometimes over decades, leading to the long term chilling of relations between countries. By turning a strategic and political issue — which territorial disputes ought to be — into a moral cause, it inflames passions, making normal relations between countries even more difficult.

The Russian leadership should be clear that the international community stands ready to impose further sanctions if Moscow continues to provoke instability and does nothing to stop further violence. NATO SG continue to urge Russia to complete the withdrawal of its military forces on the border with Ukraine and call on the Russian Federation to meet its Geneva commitments and cooperate with the government of Ukraine as it implements its plans for promoting peace, unity and reform. No doubt crisis will continue- we need more not less cooperation and deeper understanding, not least in Member States.

Attitudes similar to Ukraine’s are found all over the world where there are territorial disputes, such as in the South China Sea, over the Senkaku islands, in Israel and Palestine, and in India and Pakistan. Today tensions in Asia are at an all-time high because of the significant risk of skirmishes and misunderstandings over disputed territory in the South and East China Seas. Ukraine doesn’t just divert time and energy away from those important questions. Thus, Ukraine can become a prosperous civil society, but because of its location it will always require a strong and stable relationship with Russia.

The Arab world can eventually stabilize, but Western militaries cannot set complex and highly populous Islamic societies to rights except at great cost to themselves.

President Barack Obama said on Friday that the U.S. will not be sending troops to Iraq as militant Sunni extremists march toward Baghdad. “The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together”.

If there is good news here, it is that most of the borders that are being redrawn or just reunderlined exist within states rather than between them. Perhaps states ought to change their views on the norm of territorial sovereignty, writs the diplomat, and become more committed to reconciling with facts on the ground. This would make negotiations more productive and treaties settling territorial disputes more likely, reducing the chances of conflict.

The Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich, who worked on territorial disputes in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, provided another solution. While he emphasized the necessity of treaties in ensuring the legal resolution of disputes as opposed to arbitrary, unilateral conquest, he advocated the limited use of force to induce favorable negotiations or sometimes change the facts on the ground when old ones no longer worked.

Metternich also observed the siege and fall of Valenciennes, an experience he would later look back on as teaching him a great deal about warfare. His decision to oppose Russian imperialism is also seen as a good one.

Russia needs to commit to defusing tension. This means securing borders, withdrawing all military forces, and preventing further violence in eastern Ukraine, and cooperate with the government of Ukraine to meet its Geneva commitments.

Europe stands ready to facilitate and engage in meaningful dialogue involving Ukraine and Russia. The EU has actively supported multilateral initiatives towards that aim and it continues to do so.

  • Frequently asked questions about Ukraine, the EU’s Eastern Partnership and the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Fact sheet

What will the longer-term global consequences of the Ukraine crisis be? Read – Ten global consequences of the Ukraine crisis by ECFR  discussed at this years ECFR meeting in Rume 12-13 June 2014