Speech/statement | Date: 2015-05-06 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
State Secretary Ingvild Næss Stub's speech at the Europe Day Conference held in Oslo by the European Union Delegation to Norway on 6 May 2015.
- Thank you for inviting me to this conference and to the celebration of Europe Day - three days in advance. I am very happy that Helen, after only a couple of years in Norway, has so thoroughly integrated that she has even adopted our very sound tradition of celebrating the really important stuff tri heile dagar til ende - for three whole days.
- Europe Day is an opportunity to step back for a moment and reflect on developments in our part of the world. A continent that has fluctuated between cooperation and conflict, between separation and integration, between security and insecurity for centuries.
- In two days’ time it will be 70 years since the Second World War ended on 8 May 1945, and most of Europe has enjoyed peace during this period. We should not forget how unique these years of peace have been in our history.
- In November 1918, people said ‘never again’. But just 21 years later, the unthinkable happened. Europe has seen two world wars that virtually tore the continent to shreds. In the words of Stefan Zweig, who was writing at the time the Second World War was raging through Europe, ‘Every hour of our years was linked to the fate of the world. (…) Every one of us, therefore, even the least of the human race, knows a thousand times more about reality today than the wisest of our forebears. But nothing was given to us freely; we paid the price in full.’
- This hard-won knowledge explains why Europeans chose to establish supranational cooperation. And the EU is a project that has largely achieved its goal: no more war on the European continent. Seventy years is not a very long time, but Europe has nevertheless undergone major changes during this period: the values and rights we believe in have become more widespread; the economic opportunities have multiplied; personal freedom has increased.
- Last year, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the end, it was the people who were divided by the Iron Curtain who tore down the Wall.
- People who wanted to be free from fear, free from authoritarian regimes. People with hopes of a united Europe, just like those people had at the end of World War II. And indeed, the fall of the Berlin Wall was the start of a period of wider integration in Europe – both in the EU, and between the EU and its neighbours.
- Germany was reunified. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania regained their independence. They then joined NATO and the European Union, as did most of the former Warsaw Pact members in Central Europe. The EU signed partnership agreements with Russia, Ukraine and other post-Soviet states.
- However, the horrors of the wars in the Balkans demonstrated all too well that our continent has not been free of violent conflict, despite the lessons we should have learned from the Second World War.
- Apart from these wars, there was a general feeling of optimism in Europe. The political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote a book entitled The End of History and the Last Man in which he claimed that there were no longer any serious competitors to liberal democracy.
- Today –we know better. This is not the end of history. On the contrary, the history we now see unfolding in Europe is one of conflict and division, notably in the eastern parts of our continent. The historian Robert Kagan has even suggested that we are witnessing the ‘return of history’. Yet again, armies are crossing internationally recognised borders in Europe.
- The Russian annexation of Crimea and the ongoing military operations in Eastern Ukraine are illegal and unacceptable. And they are putting the very idea of European integration and cooperation to the test.
- At the heart of the crisis is the fact that Russia wants to prevent the country from forging its own course – towards European cooperation. However, Ukraine should not have to make a choice one way or another. European cooperation is not a zero-sum game. Unfortunately, we have seen that the leadership in Moscow is still caught up in the logic of the Cold War. We have been shocked by the Ukraine crisis and Russia’s annexation of the Crimea – but not into silence.
- NATO has confirmed its crucial role, combining deterrence with reassurance. But the predominant response has not been and should not be military. In this situation we have seen the EU, acting with remarkable resolve. Never before have we seen the EU play such a leading role in response to an international situation. And rightly so. When part of a sovereign country in the heart of the European continent is annexed by its neighbour, Europe must react. The restrictive measures imposed on Russia by the EU, Norway and other countries give a clear signal that Russia’s actions are unacceptable.
- We can see that both the restrictive measures and the retaliatory import restrictions introduced by Russia pose challenges, and are at times painful for Norway’s and the EU’s business sectors. However, we have no alternative; doing nothing would lead to far more dismal prospects for Europe and European security.
- Within Europe too, we are experiencing setbacks. This shows that the fight for freedom and respect for human rights must be fought every day, in every country, by every generation.
- Another challenge is the belt of instability in Europe’s neighbourhood to the south that is home to failed states, conflict and terrorism. Many of today’s Europeans originate from this region. Among them are young people who see their region of origin excluded from the opportunities of Europe, but also find themselves excluded from opportunities in their new home countries. This is an explosive combination.
- Far too many young people are being radicalised, and then travelling abroad as foreign fighters, claiming to find justification for violence in the teachings of Islam. The threat of terrorism is real, and it is essential that we maintain public security. We must be aware of the links between what we do abroad and what we do at home. We must bring our common European values into play, and we must address the challenges we are facing in a balanced and sensible way.
- Here in Norway, we have been heartened, after the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, by the peaceful demonstration of solidarity by young Norwegian Muslims who encircled the Oslo Synagogue in a "Ring of Peace". It is their spirit of solidarity and rejection of extremism we hope to bring to our European conference on combatting violent extremism to be held in Oslo in June.
- Meanwhile, more and more people want to come to Europe to live and work. Others find themselves forced to flee from conflict and persecution in their home countries. Human tragedies of dramatic proportions are being played out in the Mediterranean. We have all been moved by the pictures we have seen. The photograph of a fisherman carrying a drowned child ashore in Greece. The images of overfilled boats risking the dangerous sea crossing. We are all touched as fellow human beings. We all have a responsibility to take action.
- Norway will shoulder its part of this responsibility, as a European nation and as a member of the Schengen co-operation. The Government will step up its efforts in the Mediterranean by sending a vessel and crew to the civilian border patrol operation Triton. The vessel has a very significant search and rescue capacity. And we are in dialogue with Frontex on contributing yet another vessel to Frontex, which we will make available as soon as the EU needs it, where it needs it.
- We also see that there are close links between the migration and security problems in the Mediterranean region and the need for broad engagement in countries of origin and countries of transit. It is in the interests of Norway and Europe as a whole to help to build up inclusive institutions and political processes in our neighbouring countries to the south, and thus help to stabilise the region. Norway’s efforts in North Africa are closely coordinated with those of the EU.
Ladies and gentlemen,
- Europe Day is the celebration of an idea. The idea that mutual dependence and closer integration between European states will make war “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible” as proclaimed by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, on 9 May 1950. We are privileged to live in a part of Europe where this idea is deeply rooted. However, we cannot be complacent. We have to nurture this idea every day.
- Europe Day is not a big event that attracts huge crowds, in either Norway or the EU member states. It is quite different to the way Norway marks its national day next week. Nevertheless, these two days have several things in common. Both 17 May and Europe Day celebrate the best of what Europe has to offer: peace, equality and protection against the abuse of power. To me, this is the essence of Europe. And the essence of Europe Day.
- Thank you, and congratulation!