Good evening everyone. I would like to talk a little bit about the security challenges which face Europe today, and the need for a more global response. Building a more effective common approach to threats has been a large part of my work as EU Commissioner for the Security Union over the past two and a half years.
Indeed, the clue is in the job title – we are seeking to build an effective and genuine Security Union in the EU, whilst recognising, and fully respecting, the fact that security is a national competence, for individual Member States.
So, our efforts have been directed at providing support to our Member States, financial and otherwise, to agreeing common rules, and developing ways for them to work together more effectively in this field.
In this time, we have been faced by a range of security issues. We have worked to tackle terrorism, by closing down the space in which terrorists operate – cutting down on their access to money, weapons and explosives, and making it harder for them to travel around – by building our resilience to attacks and our ability to recover from them, and by tackling the radicalisation and online terrorist content that fuel extremism.
We have undertaken efforts to combat the growing and evolving array of cyber and cyber-enabled threats, by putting in place a new EU cybersecurity strategy in order to build our resilience, strengthen our deterrence and support Member States in cyber defence; and then by working to strengthen election security and tackle disinformation online, including by working with Member States and the big internet platforms.
We have made a lot of progress since 2016 – and there has been a growing recognition in EU capitals that the indiscriminate cross-border threats we collectively face and the increasing instability beyond our borders mean that there is real value in EU-level action and support. By working together, we can be stronger and more effective when it comes to countering terrorism, tackling cyber threats and fighting organised crime.
This is also true beyond the EU’s borders. We can achieve more if we work in tandem with like-minded third countries – those who share our values, who stand together in what used to be called the West. What today we call European values were, not so long ago, simply Western values.
Whether it’s fighting Da’esh-inspired violence, right-wing extremism, hate speech, or state-driven malicious cyber actors from the likes of Russia, North Korea or Iran, including seeking to interfere in our democratic institutions, the more we cooperate and combine our efforts, the more effective the response will be.
We should focus on what unites us, not what divides us. After all, some security challenges matter every bit as much as trade tariffs.
Take 5G – we have proposed a common European approach that reflects that Europe has an open market – those who abide by the rules can access it. So we want to identify and mitigate the risks and vulnerabilities, rather than issuing blanket bans against specific companies. But we’ve been clear from the outset that possible mitigation measures could include identifying products, services or suppliers that are considered potentially not secure. We believe this approach can work effectively, reflecting our values and building a strong basis for cooperation with likeminded countries.
Again, take defence cooperation. For years the Europeans have, rightly in my opinion, been challenged to do more to pull their weight. The EU has accepted the challenge, and has set out in the so-called PESCO a series of concrete projects to plug capability gaps, and in the European Defence Fund some serious proposals to organise and fund defence capability programmes.
These initiatives are absolutely not about weakening NATO, cooperation between allies or transatlantic links. We believe these initiatives will strengthen European capabilities and therefore strengthen NATO. They will not, as is sometimes suggested, lock non-EU partners out of this cooperation.
EU funding will go to EU-based businesses, but surely that’s legitimate. There are issues around sharing intellectual property, but that is not a novel issue: indeed, it will be familiar to those who work on US defence projects. The EU defence market remains fundamentally open: more open than other defence markets.
So, again, let’s focus on what we all stand to gain by reinforcing our capabilities. Take the UN, famously a forum where not everyone agrees on everything. Likeminded countries, including the Europeans and the US, have shown that they can give effective leadership when they work together, whether on tackling bad actors – for example, through sanctions against North Korea – or building capabilities – for example, making African peacekeeping operations more effective.
In these, and many other areas, we all stand to gain by working together. I don’t want to sound naïve – there will be issues where the EU and the US pull in somewhat different directions: I’m sure you can all think of some. But ultimately we share a deep belief in what used to be called Western values, built on a belief in the power of democracy and democratic institutions.
Some others don’t agree. Let’s remember that.
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, we believe in the ballot, not the bullet, whether physical or virtual. Let’s root our cooperation on that.