Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is the fourth time that I have had the opportunity, and honour, to address this Chamber as Minister for Foreign Affairs and to illustrate the principles, objectives, long-term perspectives and challenges of Luxembourg’s foreign policy in the way that I view, apply and meet them.
However, the current circumstances are exceptional, and so it is necessary to place our debate within the context of the war in Iraq in order to draw conclusions for international relations and, naturally, also for Luxembourg. For even if we did not want the war, we now have to deal with its repercussions.
In a dramatic way, the war in Iraq demonstrates the important place that foreign policy holds in society and the influence it has on our existence and coexistence.
Since Thursday, 20th March, Iraq has been bombed and placed under military control by a US-led coalition. There have been casualties among the military and civilian population. I wish to express our sympathy to all the victims’ families and friends. We as Luxembourgers, and I as Luxembourg’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, make a commitment that military intervention as a last resort will no longer be appropriate to resolve international crises. War is not only a failure of politics and diplomacy, but it also causes immeasurable suffering, destruction and loss of life.
Therefore, we hope that the war will come to an end as soon as possible, that the loss of life will be kept to a minimum, and that the moment will come to build an Iraq that respects human rights and that will itself become a respected partner in the international community. The UN and the EU can help overcome the aftermath of the brutal Ba’ath regime.
Since October, I have regularly outlined before this Chamber the position that the Luxembourg Government has adopted on the Iraq crisis. I would like to briefly outline the events of the past weeks and months once again, so that we bear in mind, despite all the images of war, how the present situation came about:
During the summer of 2002, with increasing signs that the American Government was losing patience with Iraq, the international community, and Europe in particular, had to use all its power of conviction so that the issue could be treated within the natural framework of the United Nations Security Council. Before the General Assembly in New York on 12th September, President Bush accepted to follow this path without excluding the use of other means in the event of failure. The objective, then, was to have a Security Council mandate to resume inspections in Iraq for a period long enough to enable the peaceful disarmament of Iraq and the removal of weapons of mass destruction and to provide written proof that such weapons had been removed.
On 4th October, when I was in Washington for talks with the American administration, I personally outlined our position to the American Secretary of State.
On 8th November, the Security Council unanimously voted for Resolution 1441, and inspections resumed. But the text clearly indicated that this would be Saddam Hussein’s last chance for peaceful disarmament, and that false or incomplete declarations would no longer be tolerated and would lead to serious consequences, meaning a military disarmament of Iraq.
Chief inspectors Blix and El Baradei then made regular reports to the Security Council on their work in Iraq. These showed that Iraq had not cooperated actively enough, even though the regime in Baghdad had not hindered inspections. With time the pressure exerted by the international community brought first results, such as the destruction of Al Samoud 2 missiles. In parallel America and England sent thousands of troops to the region.
We can argue that the UN completed its work, but suddenly progress was halted. The combination of inspections and military pressure could have shown the way forward. Unfortunately, there was no coordination between the two, and so they became competitors.
On 24th February the moment had come for America, England as well as Spain to indicate more clearly that the end for peaceful disarmament was drawing to a close. France, Germany and Russia opposed this view and presented their arguments to the Security Council. On 26th February, the Luxembourg Government told this Chamber that it was convinced by the arguments in favour of continued inspections and that it affirmed its commitment to peaceful disarmament.
Though efforts were made to reach a final compromise between the two camps in the Security Council, it was obvious that, in the eyes of the President and his administration, the deal was done and war was only a question of time. The ultimatum that was issued on 17th March only confirmed this view, and we knew what the unfortunate outcome was going to be. Shortly before this ultimatum ran out, the Security Council once again met Mr Blix in the presence of the French, German and Russian ministers for foreign affairs, to discuss his work schedule and priorities, but this meeting was to change nothing.
On 18th March, the Luxembourg Government held a special session and informed the Parliament of its position in the event of war.
During this session, I was pleased to observe a common analysis and support for the Government’s position beyond all political differences. We agreed then, and agree now, that the moment of the very last resort, i.e. the time to take up arms, had not arrived, and that there were still options, based on the inspectors’ latest reports, to disarm Iraq peacefully. Also, I was fully aware of the potential consequences of military action in Iraq for the region and the balance between the various big partners across the Gulf and the entire Middle East. No one could predict whether these consequences would create more positive perspectives, as Washington had hinted at, or whether they would lead to more complications, as many Europeans had feared, and so the risk was too great to take.
Furthermore, we could not approve this military action because it was decided on unilaterally, outside the multilateral institutions, which were set up after World War II in order to resolve crisis situations.
During discussions within the UN, NATO and the European Union, many efforts had been made since January to preserve, or regain, unity. In talks with fellow foreign ministers, I repeatedly insisted on the need for more moderation, collaboration and unity. To this end, I also addressed the Security Council member nations by calling on their ambassadors here in Luxembourg to make a last effort.
This crisis has strained relations between America and the UN, and between America and the EU.
This is not good, because much is at stake, and we must help bridge the divide between America and the EU. We need, and want, transatlantic relations established on absolute confidence this is important for world stability.
We have to ask ourselves: how can we redirect the following trend that appears to be growing in America day by day: the preservation and defence of American sovereignty by openly disregarding the relevant multilateral fora and by relying on military means that far exceed those of the rest of the world?
Europe has renounced the concept of power politics, both internally and beyond its borders, and has instead committed itself to peace and development through dialogue and cooperation, through balance and compromise. America thinks differently.
The trauma of 11th September reinforced those in United States who believed it was good, even necessary, for America to go its own way to defend its interests and security.
In our eyes, this analysis follows a path fraught with dangers many more dangers than advantages, many more dangers than organised cooperation within international structures which, although they demand concessions, guarantee security and assistance in return.
Luxembourg is therefore opposed to unilateralism as a policy.
Debates over Iraq raised many comments on the role and credibility of our common institutions.
Have they reached their limits? Have they succeeded? Are they adapted to our times? Is multilateralism still in tune with today’s needs?
I’d wish to give a clear affirmative answer to these questions. Now, more than ever, we need multilateral fora which ensure that international law is defined and respected, where rules and regulations facilitate the cooperation between large and small nations, and where procedures are defined to guarantee human rights and resolve conflict situations. This is not a pious hope; it is in our interests. A country like Luxembourg needs such frameworks to be able to develop economically, politically and from a security point of view. Over the past fifty years, our prosperity has been built on the stability and security offered by the EU, NATO and the UN.
Therefore, we must not only pursue the development of such institutions, but we must also actively participate in strengthening them. Most of all, we must contribute constructively through committed cooperation.
The United Nations are, of course, the foremost place for such cooperation. They have proven that serious crises can be avoided under their leadership, and that they can establish a new order after crises, like for example in East Timor. Here, the UN went through all stages from the bilateral talks through to the referendum and the set up of the interim administration, as well as the military control after the outbreak of violence. The new nation eventually became a member of the UN on 27th September 2002.
In Afghanistan, too, the UN is not just involved in humanitarian work and construction; it also actively supports the preparations for establishing a new administration and is, for instance, preparing the 2004 elections and the drawing up of a new constitution. The security of the capital, Kabul, and its suburbs is guaranteed thanks to the ISAF.
Closer to us, in the Balkans, the UN was on hand to establish a certain normality, for instance in the running of the police force. In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Nations prevented the escalation of violence among the various ethnic groups. Today, Kosovo is still under a UN administration mandate, preventing what would otherwise certainly be serious confrontations.
Not all of this is perfect, but these are concrete steps that would not have been possible without the active intervention of the UN and its various bodies. Of course, Luxembourg has participated in these efforts as far as possible. We have for example helped to finance the education of the Afghan police force. We are also sending military staff to Afghanistan in a Belgian contingent as part of ISAF III in order to help the Dutch and Germans secure Kabul Airport.
Ourincreased development aid allows us to play a more prominent role in the UN agencies, like UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF. As temporary members of their administrative councils, we have actively helped to make these agencies more efficient. Development policies contribute their share to crisis prevention.
Of course, there are also many examples where UN contributions are not as clear-cut or where objectives have simply not been met. The most recent case, unfortunately, is Cyprus. Here, the Secretary General has been trying for years to bring both parties closer together, and in November 2002 he presented a draft settlement for an agreement between the two communities before Cyprus’ accession to the European Union. Kofi Annan fought until the end to achieve this goal, but in The Hague on 10th March, he had to realise that the parties were not ready to take that last historic step. The Republic of Cyprus will sign its EU Accession Treaty in Athens on 16th April, but the Turkish part of the island will not be part of it. This demonstrates that the UN can help to lead parties along the right path, but results always depend on the political will of the players.
The same is true in the Middle East, where the international community has been unable to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, despite many efforts. It is absolutely essential that the roadmap for peace in the Middle East elaborated by the Quartet will be implemented without delay, so that in 2005 the two States may live peacefully side by side.
Terrorism and the proliferation of weapons know no bounds. The danger they represent must be fought throughout the world, within the framework of the UN. Thanks to a series of resolutions, we have been cooperating ever more closely to fight terrorism since 11th September, inter alia, by preventing the financing of terrorist organisations. Luxembourg expressed its solidarity with the United States by enhanced bilateral cooperation in this area. In terms of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, North Korea poses a particular challenge to the international community and the Security Council. International agreements must be honoured, for it is the security of us all that is at stake.
Progress in international relations also depends on the development of international law and, of course, on the will to apply it. To this end, the efforts of the International Criminal Court are a great step forward. Luxembourg is the eighteenth country to have ratified the Rome Statute. I was pleased to be present in The Hague three weeks ago when the judges of the court took their oath in the presence of Kofi Annan. It is our policy to support all international courts responsible for crimes against humanity. This has been the case with Sierra Leone, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. Of course, we now also support, to a larger extent, the court in The Hague. Crimes against humanity cannot go unpunished. This rule must be applied to all those who are guilty. In our talks with those nations who are not yet part of the court, we insist on convincing them of the importance of this institution.
Our dedication in this area is intended to not only strengthen international law, but it also forms part of our general endeavour to acknowledge and support human rights.
We pursue this objective in international fora as well as in our bilateral contacts. We committed ourselves to constantly support the efforts of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. I stated this commitment to Mrs Robinson last year, and I was able to reconfirm it to the new Commissioner, Mr. Viero de Mello, this year. A first step consisted in increasing our financial assistance. The work of the High Commissioner is central to furthering a whole set of important issues. The problem of racism is one example. In 2001, I attended the World Conference against Racism in Durban to participate in the fight against all forms of racism. This is certainly a principle to which we must devote great and renewed attention every day in all societies. Another subject that I am particularly concerned about is the respect of human rights within the context of the war on terrorism. This is of special importance to me and was also one of the central issues of the Luxembourg Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe that we held from May to November 2002, where we defined guidelines on this matter.
Respect for human rights is a topic brought forward in our bilateral diplomatic relations with due respect for our partners, but also with determination. During my visits to Iran and, recently to Cuba I focused on this aspect and held talks with the opposition and dissidents.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Within the framework of the UN, there is an array of activities in which Luxembourg actively participates in order to implement international guidelines.
Those who said that the United Nations would no longer be relevant due to the Iraq crisis and the differences in the Security Council must be proven wrong. More than ever I am convinced that the UN is, and remains, relevant, and that we need its means. Our candidacy for the Security Council in 2013/2014 must be seen within this context, and it shows that we are ready to accept our responsibilities.
Concrete plans have been drawn up by the UN agencies to rapidly bring humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people. Talks are well under way to define a new framework in the Security Council, where the ‘oil for food’ resolution has been restored in the interests of the population. But the UN must also adopt a clearly defined role in the interim administration and the rebuilding of the country as soon as military action has ceased. Luxembourg is offering direct humanitarian assistance of EUR 3.5 million through the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the ICRC. We will also help with post-war reconstruction efforts, either through international agencies present in Iraq or through Luxembourg NGOs willing to become involved there.
The debates over Iraq have also focused on another institution of which Luxembourg is a founding member: NATO.
Our transatlantic alliance was able, internally, to take a new step by increasing the level of common capacities at the Prague Summit in November 2002. On this occasion, Luxembourg too made clear commitments to honour its responsibilities and to make further investments that are in tune with the entire modernised alliance.
The Prague Summit was a historic occasion because NATO invited seven Central and Eastern European nations to join the alliance. In a town as marked by the Cold War as Prague, it was moving to see how the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, were able to take a seat at the table of the alliance for the first time. We were also very pleased that relations with Russia were placed on a new and solid foundation.
After 1999, when Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland joined, this was a natural continuation of NATO’s expansion process, but it also felt like the end of a darker era in which Europe was still split into two. In a certain way, NATO has peacefully achieved one of its main political goals. On 26th March, Accession Protocols with the seven nations were signed in Brussels. These will be submitted to the Parliament as soon as possible, so that we may demonstrate through a rapid ratification process just how important this is to us. We will then be 26 at the next NATO summit in 2004.
The summit also paved the way for the alliance’s mandate, inter alia, in relation to the war on terrorism. However, these new tasks should not detract from NATO’s important peacekeeping role. In the Balkans, the UN certainly played a key role, but much would not have been possible without NATO. It is only now that a first European mission is replacing the NATO mission in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.
Let us not delude ourselves: the Iraq issue has left deep marks in the alliance. I do not want to return to all the details we have already discussed here. To me, it does not seem helpful to talk of the so-called old and new Europe, when we have just created a united Europe in terms of security. Such categories create divisions when it is the exact opposite we need.
The main objective of the alliance is, and remains, collective defence. This also explains why we agreed with the preventive measures accorded to Turkey under Article 4 in the Washington Treaty. Luxembourg has fulfilled all its obligations to NATO and will continue to do so. In the sometimes problematic debate within NATO, the issue was not, as some would have had it, an alternative between more Europe and more America. None of us wanted to accept such a choice, and the situation was particularly difficult for the candidate countries, which also explains certain positions. We want, and need, both.
Because of our common history and the values that we often stand for together, Europe and America can only be complementary. America gave us back our freedom, and many Luxembourg families, indeed the country, are grateful to this day. Though we may now disagree with certain decisions taken by the American administration, this does not question our fundamental friendship. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have made a point of meeting my American counterpart each year, first Madeleine Albright and then Colin Powell, to discuss all issues. Only direct talks make it possible to develop a receptiveness to the other party’s arguments and, at the same time, to express concerns. More often than not, we found that we held a common position.
The coming weeks and months are bound to present new challenges to us, and to NATO, including the situation after the military intervention in Iraq. We are committed to meeting these challenges in a spirit of serenity and friendship and to doing whatever we can to make unity possible.
The European Union, core of our foreign policy, was unable to follow a common path in the Iraq issue. The foreign ministers from the 15 Member States defined a common position in their session at the end of January, because we agreed on the analysis of the situation and on the nature of the objective. On 17th February, the European Council tried, once again, to preserve unity. But we could not find a common ground on an agenda nor on the moment at which military means should be used. The four European members of the Security Council had clearly taken two different directions that could no longer be reunited.
It was sad to see that the Union was not yet strong enough to represent our common interests together to the outside world. And maybe this situation also reinforced America’s position. However, despite the stark reality of this example, we should not forget that when Europe manages to define a common policy, it achieves results of which we may be proud. This is, of course, the case with our common currency, the euro, and also with our common foreign trade policy. Here, Europe has not been forgotten or bypassed.
These are examples we must follow to become more efficient with regard to our foreign and security policies. The High Representative has proven he could overcome the crisis in former Yugoslavia. For instance, he was the one who enabled the new state structures for Serbia and Montenegro to be drawn up and achieved acceptance for them with the different parties. His efforts in Skopje prepared the ground for the transition to a new government. Europe already has a foreign policy in the Balkans. Members of the Luxembourg police participate in the European police mission in Bosnia and we will also take part in the EU mission in Skopje replacing NATO. The EU plans to take over the entire mission in Bosnia in 2004. All these are first signs of our common security and defence policy to which we are dedicated.
With its present foreign policy, the European Union occasionally lacks a common will, is often devoid of sufficient means and always lacks reinforced structures. But a common political will, more financial means, increased personnel and improved structures are not enough; we also need to define common interests at European level.
The European Convention on the Future of Europe that has been meeting since mid-2002 under the presidency of Giscard d’Estaing intends to develop better structures and methods for European foreign and security policies. It also aims to formulate a common defence policy that, political will permitting, will make Europe a fully fledged player on the stage of international politics.
Wherever European integration is fostered, we have to make great efforts towards that goal. We have accomplished a certain pioneering task with the Schengen Agreements; we have actively followed all progress in the common economic and monetary union, and we have participated in the development of common justice and interior policies. There is simply no other place for Luxembourg than at the heart of those countries that are willing to realise and further the visions of Schuman and Monet.
Luxembourg seeks closer collaboration on all issues at the Convention and at the intergovernmental conference that is to follow, because a stronger and more unified Europe is in our interests.
This explains why we have joined the initiative of Belgium, Germany and France to investigate how a common security and defence policy can be applied more effectively. In our opinion, this should provide an impetus for all EU members to take an active step towards implementing their commitments contained in the treaties. For us, these common tasks are not intended to exclude or oppose other nations. They are aimed at inclusion not exclusion.
The Convention started its work just over a year ago. During this time, a proper dynamic of commitment has developed, and this has now led its members to draw up a preliminary draft for a constitutional treaty. The various study groups have written reports on the main issues of the Convention, for example on the role of national parliaments, subsidiarity, foreign policy and on security and defence policies.
The Praesidium put forward the structure of the treaty last autumn, and articles based on these reports will now be submitted for the draft treaty. The first series of articles called for more than thousand amendments. The Luxembourg members of the Convention as well as the government representative submitted amendments wherever they felt that the committee’s texts were not satisfactory, either because they lacked a certain visionary ambition or because the direction they were taking did not meet expectations.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I have set up a special working group to follow the efforts of the Convention in detail. This work will help us define our position in relation to all the articles and procedures of the new European Constitution at the intergovernmental conference. I am pleased to note that we also enjoy good relations with this Parliament. The debate held on 13th February and its concluding motion have shown that we in Luxembourg have an agreement across all parties on how we see the future of Europe.
Concerning the institutional framework of the enlarged Union and the work the Convention is carrying out within this context, together with our Benelux partners we drew up, last December, a common memorandum which includes a range of new ideas. We also indicated the limits that we felt should not be exceeded in this undertaking.
Expanding the community method with the Commission in a central role and, of course, the balance between the institutions, are vital for our country. This also applies to the principle of equality among Member States, whether in regard with the composition of the Commission or the presidency of the Union. It is not acceptable for the European Council to be presided by an external president, especially on a permanent basis. In our opinion, this causes instability and a duplication of the institutions. In the interests of better and more efficiently coordinated foreign policy, we would like to see the functions of the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and those of the Commissioner in charge of foreign policy combined, because this is the only way for Europe to impose its political will and wield its power at grass roots in a concerted and well-directed manner.
Many Member States and candidate countries have met the main ideas of the Benelux Memorandum with great approval. As part of our current role of Benelux Presidency, we have organized a number of meetings at the Foreign Ministry with like-minded Member States and with candidate countries in order to draw the broadest support possible for our common ideas. This will enable us to meet with greater purpose at the Convention. A summit meeting of like-minded nations will be held here in Luxembourg tonight in anticipation of the Convention’s forthcoming events, such as the debate with Mr Giscard d’Estaing in Athens on 16th April and, possibly, a special European Council on 30th June to conclude the Convention’s work.
I also attach great importance to the work of the six founding members of the EU, because together we are the guardians of the Union’s traditions and ideals. It is in my interest to preserve and build on our objective of integration in an enlarged Europe. The talks I had in Rome last week clearly strengthened this view. At the Convention, it is our role to give impetus, whether alone or together.
The Convention was set up with the intention of preparing the European Union for the forthcoming enlargement and thereby avoiding related problems.
In 1993, the heads of state and government defined the criteria for admitting new Member States. In December 1997, we designated those countries that would be included in the process. Since then, negotiations have been held and, after much work and willingness to compromise, it was possible to conclude the work with ten candidate countries in Copenhagen in December 2002. On 16th April of this year, we will sign Accession Treaties with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Republic of Cyprus. Romania and Bulgaria were not ready and have until 2007 to prepare their candidacy.
A clear agenda has been set for Turkey, according to which, at the end of 2004, we will have to take the decision whether the country fulfils the criteria, based on a report by the European Commission, so that accession negotiations can begin, possibly under the presidency of Luxembourg in 2005.
The European Union is taking a great step forward and is finally realising the hopes our neighbours from the other part of Europe entertained after the Wall came down. After so many years and difficult negotiations, the enthusiasm for this historic enlargement has occasionally waned. But at the European Council in Copenhagen last December, no one thought any more about the difficulties as we all appeared before the press as one big family.
Likewise, the circumstances surrounding the Iraq issue should not alter the course of European integration. We have a deliberate and long-awaited common destiny that binds us. For all candidate countries, I trust that the referendum on EU membership, and NATO membership for certain countries, will achieve the expected results. In Slovenia, I had the opportunity to personally explain how important Europe is to us, and how important Slovenia is within Europe. I am pleased about the positive results of the referendum in Malta, as well as in Ljubljana.
Though the historic and political importance of the enlargement of the European Union cannot be overestimated, and though, within this context, there is often a mention of the resulting economic potential, I still have the impression that the economic aspect has been underestimated in the past.
Even today, many still speak of the potential of these export markets as a phenomenon in the distant future. However, businesses have been much faster in reacting to the strategic changes in Europe, not least, I am pleased to say, thanks to the Luxembourg Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. The trade figures relating to the countries concerned speak for themselves.
Since 1993, the year in which the single European market came into existence and the enlargement process was decided on in Copenhagen, our exports to Poland and the Czech Republic have increased elevenfold. Over the same period, our worldwide exports have not even doubled. Today, Poland ranks twelfth in our export market. But this reflects only one-quarter of what we sell to Spain, a market of the same size. So there is still great potential to be developed there.
My conviction to take our Luxembourg economic missions mainly to those Eastern European countries has borne fruit, as confirmed by the statistics. Since the summer of 1999, I have visited almost all the future Member States of the European Union at least once with representatives of Luxembourg businesses.
On the other hand, we have not neglected the big markets, since their potential demands all our attention. Accordingly, our trade with Russia has almost doubled, while it has increased fivefold with India. Trade with China, though it increased by around 250%, is still less than with the Czech Republic or Poland.
But our three neighbouring countries still remain our greatest trading partners by far. We sell 54% of our products to them, and buy more than two-thirds from them. Over the past ten years, France has been the most dynamic of our three partners. While already high, trade with our French neighbours has now doubled.
Worldwide trade has increased more rapidly in services than in products. The success of the financial sector, but also the dynamic development of other services, obviously explains the huge increase in services in Luxembourg. Therefore, services today represent 70% of our total exports, a very high percentage by international standards.
The importance of the service sector has led me to expand our foreign trade instruments in order to better enable businesses in the service sector to benefit from assistance. Now, all our businesses with export activities have one interlocutor for assistance, export insurance and information: the Office du Ducroire. The large number of requests from local businesses received by the Committee for the Promotion of Luxembourg Exports, which operates within the framework of the Office du Ducroire, underlines the need for this reform and our export traders’ interest.
Moreover, the importance of the service sector also illustrates why the current negotiations within the World Trade Organisation are so important for our country. The Commission in Brussels is currently defining the European Union’s position in these negotiations in cooperation with the EU Member States. I have made efforts to ensure that our interests in this matter are preserved, as I explained here in this Parliament during the debate on current events on 19th March.
The Luxembourg economy is one of the most open and, therefore, all negotiation rounds at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are important to us. They allow us to access new markets and to obtain rules governing competition in the international markets.
During the Doha Round, the current cycle of negotiations at the WTO, special efforts are being made with regard to developing countries. The main aim of the round is to harmonise the opening of world trade with the needs and capacities of the developing world. Through its inherent dynamic, world trade can certainly contribute to solid and lasting economic growth in developing countries, provided the results of the Doha Round respect their specific interests. Luxembourg is determined to do this. Therefore, I regret that it has been impossible until now to finalise an agreement that would enable developing countries to provide medicine for AIDS and other dangerous diseases at a reasonable price, despite a firm commitment on the EU’s part. In Doha, we committed ourselves to this aim and set a deadline that has not been met. I hope that we can still make progress in the very near future, since the credibility of the entire Doha Round is at stake.
Once again, I wish to underline quite clearly that the Doha Round aims to liberalise and not deregulate trade. Governments will retain the right to regulate trade and to invoke the notion of public service. The objective of the round is to create a framework for world trade in which there will no longer be a place for national discrimination and competition distortion, and where minimal social and environmental standards are set.
I have expanded upon this subject in order to place European enlargement not only in its political, but also in its economic context.
To us Luxembourgers, Europe signifies, besides the convention and enlargement, something else that is very close to us, namely the European institutions and services that we are proud to have accommodated here for the past fifty years.
But this cannot be considered as an inalienable asset: on the contrary, it requires a firm commitment and a dynamic leadership policy. This is particularly important now that the European Union is expanding. We need to adapt to the changing circumstances rapidly.
The new EU of 25 means more European officials in Luxembourg who we have to integrate, with their families, in a pleasant environment and conditions that make working here in Luxembourg an agreeable experience. To this end, we need the second European School in Mamer, and more offices for the European Commission, the Court of Justice and the Parliament.
Of course, our policy on the seat of the European institutions has to take full account of enlargement, but it mainly has to guarantee the stability of presence and strengthen certain “areas of excellence” in Luxembourg, in particular the legal, financial and linguistic sectors.
This strategy and our commitment have brought us success in our endeavours over the past months. Luxembourg was confirmed in its position as the legal and quasi-jurisdictional capital of Europe, when, after long negotiations, the decision was taken on 3rd March to install the jurisdictional authorities for the new Community Patent in Luxembourg. This patent is essential to complete the single European market. Between 2007 and 2010, up to 100 highly qualified lawyers will be accommodated by the Court of Justice. Furthermore, we should remember that there will be further positive consequences around this the area of jurisdiction. We shall of course also be monitoring development towards the establishment of a ‘European public prosecutor’s office’.
After almost two years, the negotiations with the European Commission over restructuring a number of its services finally came to an end last Monday. They were held with respect for the historically relevant decisions on seat of EU institutions. Today, I was able to confirm our agreement with the Vice-President of the Commission, Mr Neil Kinnock, in an exchange of letters.
Our ambitions here were twofold: firstly, we wanted to increase the number of Commission officials in Luxembourg. We have clearly achieved this aim. In the future, the Commission will be accommodating a minimum of 3,400 workers here. With the exception of translation services, this figure does not take into account the effects of enlargement.
This number is important, but it is not everything. Just as important as this quantitative aspect is our second objective: the strengthening of the autonomy and the efficiency of the services provided here. This is in the interests of the staff providing these services and it is also central to ensuring the effective functioning of the Commission on the whole.
We have made sure that the rights of the personnel working in Luxembourg are protected. We have made efforts to guarantee that interesting tasks in essential areas of European policies remain in our country. A large part of the Directorate General for Public Health, among others, will stay here. Against this background, I am particularly pleased that we shall be continuing in Luxembourg with the work carried out in the field of communicable diseases that is so important for the European population. We were also able to secure for Luxembourg services over the long term that had initially not been included in the proposals in Brussels. We are pleased to see that there will also be a medium-term centralisation of half the Commission’s translation services in Luxembourg.
During these talks, we remained in close contact with our MEPs, just as I kept this Chamber up to date on a regular basis. Together with my closest collaborators, I also met the European unions in Luxembourg regularly. This is how we achieved this success.
Concerning the European Parliament, I have insisted more than once on the necessity to respect the agreements signed by our Prime Minister with the successive Presidents Mr Haensch and Mrs Fontaine. Our MEPs, as well as the Members of this Parliament, supported these efforts. Unfortunately, there is not only positive news on this front. On 11th March, the Parliament Office decided to transfer the Directorate General IV for Research from Luxembourg to Brussels. This is unacceptable, as I expressed in a letter to the President of the European Parliament, Mr Pat Cox. We are currently examining further steps to take in this matter.
As seat of important EU institutions and services we not only have rights, but also obligations to the Union, the Member States and those who live and work here. We take these obligations and tasks very seriously. The Kirchberg quarter, symbol of European presence in Luxembourg, is undergoing major transformation work, so that we may accommodate the institutions of the enlarged Union as soon as possible. Coordinating these works is a great challenge, and I would like to thank all those administrative authorities that have enabled us to meet our obligations.
The European presence enhances our standing as a country and enriches our daily lives. This is true on a professional and also on a personal, cultural and social level. By sharing our lives with neighbours from North, South, East and West, we gain experiences that we no longer consider as new. This illustrates how normal this situation is to us today.
As you an see, we have a whole series of projects for the European institutions in Luxembourg. The EU, for its part, has great ambitions for our common future, both in the Convention and for enlargement, which will become effective in May 2004, when the Accession Treaties will be ratified. In June 2004, elections for the newly enlarged European Parliament will be held, and the expanded Commission will begin working shortly afterwards.
On 1st January 2005, Luxembourg will take over Presidency of the Council of the EU of 25. Beforehand, from December 2003 to December 2004, we will hold the Presidency of Eurocorps in Strasbourg, and we will participate in the EU Troika from mid-2004.
All of this will pose a great challenge. Luxembourg Presidencies of the past can be proud of their achievements. Great and important chapters in the history of European unification were written during their terms. Expectations, therefore, are very high.
Moreover, let us hope that our experience and pragmatism will help us hold this Presidency successfully, in line with the construction of Europe and with a view to presenting Luxembourg positively and professionally at international level. This is the best public image we can convey.
In order to prepare this Presidency correctly, we have already set our first milestones. One week ago, I held initial talks with our multilateral ambassadors on the deadlines set for 2005. A project group that was set up in January is presently compiling an inventory of our duties, as we currently understand them.
Based on this account, we will then have to increase our human resources in the relevant departments. Beforehand, we intend to consult all ministries in order to develop common strategies in the various areas. Aside from the thematic preparation, a logistic cell has also been set up to deal with the logistic preparation.
I resolutely want to lead a technologically and organisationnally strong Foreign Ministry into the 21st century, and I have taken steps towards a sweeping reform process based on previsous plans and studies. Work-process structures and information-management methods will be revised. The aim is to set up a high-performance network between the department and our missions. The efforts made in our ministry in the areas of information management and computing push us to further reforms. We have to be able to respond even more rapidly, and service quality must be further improved especially in those areas where we are in direct contact with citizens. I am convinced that the deep commitment of the entire team at the ministry will make this reform a resounding success.
We also have the means to further promote the image of our country abroad and to foster the values to which we are dedicated in the interests of Luxembourg’s ‘brand image’. More actively than in the past, we want to market such local advantages as our traditional economic and social openness, our internal and external solidarity, and our harmonious coexistence in the European society that is Luxembourg. At the same time, we also intend to counter the false and one-sided clichés that we often endure.
But we are also aware that this represents a long-term effort that is never truly complete. Yet this effort is worth the input and depends on the cooperation of a whole series of participants, from the public sector as well as private businesses, which will need to be coordinated.
The Presidency will be a challenge for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and of course for all the other ministries, for our missions abroad, for our entire administration, and indeed the whole country. We shall meet the challenge, provided we stand together. The input of each and every one is necessary.
Luxembourg will be one of the first countries to preside over a Union of 25 States. With some of them, we have enjoyed close relations throughout our long history, and we look forward to this new collaboration. But, after a long separation and a divided Europe, we need to make an effort to understand these countries better, to familiarise ourselves with their nature and to encourage an understanding of our concerns. This is another point the Iraq crisis has demonstrated very clearly.
Luxembourg’s strengthened presence in these countries is therefore indispensable. As previously announced, we intend to be directly present in Poland and Hungary by the end of 2005.
During our state visit in October of last year, we opened our Embassy in the Czech Republic, an emotional and historic moment. Good relations in the past provide a sound basis for dynamic and efficient collaboration even today.
Luxembourg must be present in all EU Member States and all candidate countries, through resident and non-resident missions. Why do we need this instrument now more than ever before? Do we not know our neighbours well enough? Do we still need people to explain to us how the country in which they represent Luxembourg functions?
The answer to these questions is obvious. Yes, we need our embassy network. We need it first of all because we require people on site who can present, explain and, where necessary, defend our interests. For the Government and our economy, our missions are the filter that extracts key data for us at a certain moment or in a certain situation from the great wealth of information that we have access to today. They give us access to the national feelings of the country in which they are, and they know when situations reach the limits of political capability. For our entire administration, this instrument abroad provides information and knowledge that give added value to the Luxembourg ministries on particular issues. The missions also assist our citizens abroad. In addition the Honorary Consuls of Luxembourg throughout the world provide an important network of assistance to Luxembourgers, and they represent the country abroad. Therefore, I have decided to invite our Honorary Consuls to Luxembourg on a regular basis in order to give them the opportunity to become more acquainted with the challenges our country will face.
A large part of the functions of our embassies and consulates will be in particular demand during our Presidency in 2005. Therefore, we need assurances for more staff in our diplomatic network.
This year, I have treated different issues with less attention than they deserved. This is not only true of our successful Presidency of the European Council from May to November 2002, but also of our bilateral work. You will find these issues addressed in detail in the annual report that has been submitted to this Chamber.
I would just like to point out a very important event of last year, namely the new agreement of the UEBL, the Economic Union between Belgium and Luxembourg, which I signed in Brussels on 18th December. Based on the foundations of a hitherto mainly economic and monetary union, the new UEBL represents a broader and more privileged framework that affects a whole series of new sectors and that further confirms Belgium as our foremost partner.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In these times that are marked by the war in Iraq, I considered it essential to focus my speech today on the importance of the international institutions which are directly involved. Of course, the European Union and the forthcoming Presidency are very close to us within this context. I also wanted to explain how, and where, our diplomacy works. The discussions on Iraq have demonstrated that diplomatic efforts are essential in situations of crisis and that their failure can have dramatic consequences.
We need a unified EU that has the means to act, a transatlantic alliance based on partnership and, finally, a UN in which all members work together to respect international law, prevent wars and resolve crises.
Luxembourg is a founding member of the UN, NATO and the EU. We continue to believe in these structures. The world depends on them. They need to be reinforced, and this calls for a new impetus. Luxembourg wants to help pave the way for this impetus.
We have the capacity to make an active contribution, in Europe and beyond. We want to, and we shall, make full use of this capacity.