Introduction by Dick Benschop

Secretary of State for European Affairs (1998-2002)

Contents

1.

Introducing Javier Solana

Javier Solana is the answer to an existential question for the European Union: what is the foreign policy performance of the European Union? This question has been asked for a long time, inside and outside the European Union.

Inside, because people expect – and rightly so – an effective common foreign policy. It looks so obvious. What do we need the European Union for? For those tasks which a single state cannot effectively fulfil anymore. This logic also asked for a common foreign policy.

In practice, that has not been that obvious. National reflexes, a narrow definition of the national interest, have for a long time stood in the way of a common foreign policy.

The same question has been asked by non-European partners as well. Where is Europe? What can you, the Union, contribute to our problem? Does Europe really speak with one voice? Who can we call?

The good thing is that there is something happening. The Balkans, the European nightmare of the nineties, have taught us important lessons. Like the need for more effective European military capabilities.

2.

European co-operation

Smaller member states, like the Netherlands, have realised for a long timethat their foreign policy ambitions would be much more effective if channelled through European co-operation. Now all member states seem to realise that. It was London and Paris that took the initiative for European security co-operation. The new confidence of the Berlin government is an important asset for Europe as a whole.

And more is happening. The role that the European Union should play in the world, is becoming a major driving force of European integration. The single currency, the unparalleled internal market, the huge amount of trade and investments, development aid, global environmental negotiations, our contribution to peace and stability – they all point into that direction of Europe’s external role and responsibilities. And they are great assets as well.

We are not there yet, of course. The strength and coherence of Europe’s external role still needs to improve a lot. But the direction, the course, now seems to be set. By the member states and by the European Commission.

This is where Javier Solana comes into play. Through his function and through his personality as well. As High Representative for our common foreign and security policy he plays an important role in formulating our foreign policy, as a honest broker between fifteen member states and in good co-operation with the European Commission.

At the same time he conducts vital aspects of the European foreign policy. He is the key player in containing the crisis in Macedonia, travelling there two or three times a week. In the Middle East he contributed to the Mitchell report and because of his abilities Europe is now playing a more active and appreciated role.

Javier Solana brings personality to the job as well. His great experience as a former foreign minister and as NATO’s secretary general. His charm and his outspokenness at the same time. I always admire his contributions to the debates, short – often the shortest – but very to the point. Friendly and razor sharp at the same time.

Javier, you have a gruesome schedule. Therefore, we appreciate it enormously that you have been able to be here with us tonight. The floor is yours.

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