Check against delivery

1. Introduction – things are better than they sound

  • Europe will be very different place in five years' time, in a good sense, if we can deliver on our objectives. Despite the worrying signals that we are hearing, we must not be distracted by what others say about us, but focus on what we set out do to.

  • We are not in a crisis, and we need to move our minds away from crisis mode.

  • However, we cannot neglect that we are witnessing troubling times. I often say I hope not too many American children followed the US election campaign, because it gave a weird idea of being an adult, of normal adult interaction.

  • We are living in a world where compromise and political correctness have become swear words.

  • Changes to technology, new business models like Uber and Airbnb - these are good for consumers, but challenging for regulators.

  • We live in a more open, free society, but the benefits of it have not always been distributed fairly.

  • I am a conservative with a small c - I believe things should be kept in order. I believe in the rule of law, in respect - even for political opponents.

  • This is why I believe there is a need for global governance to ensure that globalisation is rules-based, fair and sustainable.


2. Making globalisation work for Europeans

  • There are three parts to this challenge. The first part is being a responsible global partner, working with our allies to shape the forces of globalisation according to EU values, like democracy, fairness and the rule of law. And there, for example, trade policy and agreements play a crucial role and the EU institutions are in the driving seat.

  • The second part of this task is to make sure the opportunities and benefits are felt much more equally here in the EU than they have been.

  • Fair distribution of wealth is a task for governments and national politicians. We have to acknowledge that many people have seen the costs, but not the benefits.

  • The third part is strengthening the resilience of European people and societies.


3a. Being a responsible global partner

  • So, the first part. What does this mean?

  • It means writing the rulebook for globalisation, and enforcing these rules. The EU is a champion of a rules-based international system, both internally inside the Single Market and externally in our dealings with other countries and regions.

  • We can shape the terms of globalisation by setting high standards that project our values and protect our interests.

  • This includes the global trade discussions in WTO and in bilateral deals, where we are pushing for high regulatory standards and ambitious free trade deals.

  • This also includes standards for particular technological areas, such as 5G, and cross-border data flows.

  • We must support the conditions to allow EU companies to invest overseas and vice versa. I call this economic diplomacy.

  • This means bilateral trade deals, as well as engaging with businesses on the ground to understand and address barriers to investment.

  • EU trade policy means rules-based trade, involving social and environmental values. This is the best tool we have for shaping globalisation.


3b. Addressing inequalities within the EU

  • Here at home in the EU, globalisation is sometimes seen as driver of inequality.

  • Developments in mobility, business models and technology have contributed to increased returns for skilled labour – making some people richer – while some lower-skilled workers compete against cheaper labour elsewhere. The opportunities and benefits are not equally distributed.

  • But labour market changes do not give us the full picture. Increases in trade have also reduced the cost of consumer goods. The poorest families today can afford a better quality of life than a family on an equivalent income sixty years ago when the Treaty of Rome was signed.

  • And increasing our exports generates wealth for Europe. 31 million jobs in the EU depend on exports. That is one in every seven jobs. This economic activity means that we can finance our social model and invest in our future.

  • Globalisation and inclusive societies are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to have a strong, outward looking economy without compromising social care and inclusion. Many countries could not afford generous welfare systems without trade. Here the emphasis is to tell governments - don't kill the trade cow, but do distribute the milk more fairly.


3c. Resilient societies

  • We need to strengthen our resilience. We do not know how the fourth industrial revolution will shape our world. The future is more volatile than the past. We need to look at education, providing EU citizens with the skills they need to not just survive but thrive in this new and changing world.

  • One area we should pay more attention is to teachers' training. I was surprised to discover that not all teachers in the EU have to have a higher university degree. For me, this is a low-hanging fruit. If we want to invest in our young peoples' resilience, we need to invest in teachers' training.

  • Member States also have to be ready to modernise social welfare systems. A universal basic income system such as they are trialling now in my home country, Finland, could be an interesting idea.


4. Responsibility of politicians

  • Member States need a reformist attitude - we need reform at Member State and EU levels. Agile social security systems are a Member State competence, and we need stronger education systems.

  • We want to encourage more collaborative business models. The EU is working to lead the circular economy development. We need to continue to implement the single market projects we have in the pipeline.

  • However, without leadership from and within Member States, we cannot deliver this vision.

  • We need Member States to take ownership of this challenge, and of their role in meeting it. We need them to stop making the EU the bogeyman, blaming Brussels every time citizens are unhappy.

  • The best way to stop progress is to say, 'no'. Too often in recent years Member States have said 'no' without saying what they want to see instead.

  • Imagine a national MP who works on EU issues. It is not a rewarding job now to take on EU affairs. But politicians are responsible for the future - of our country, our citizens and the EU.

  • I speak as someone who has been on the other side of this relationship - a national politician in the Council of Ministers.

  • We don't want to create a conflict between the institutions, but without stronger political ownership from the Council, the EU cannot be a strong, open and free continent as a whole.

  • I will end where I started. Europe is on a good path. We must not be distracted by what others are saying, but focus on what is important for us.