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Our Collective Interest: why Europe’s problems need global solutions and global problems need European action

Our Collective Interest: why Europe’s problems need global solutions and global problems need European action

This major report was published on 1 September by the European Think Tanks Group. I am one of the core team responsible for the project. The report is the second the ETTG has produced to mark the appointment of a new Commission in Brussels. The last one, 'New Challenges, New Beginnings' was launched in February 2010. The new report makes a strong case for a new development agenda, broader in its outlook and with strong links to internal EUEuropean Union policy. What are the challenges and global problems to which Europe must respond? Probably the best thing is to read the Preface by the four Directors leading the ETTG institutes: this is pasted in below.

Don't forget also that the Independent Vision Group published its thoughts on the future of European Development Cooperation back in May. The two reports are consistent in their approach. Now, isn't that a surprise?!

'In 2010, the group of European think tanks which we lead, published a report addressed to a new leadership in the European Union (EU). In 2014, welcoming a new team of European leaders, we again call attention to the importance of a global perspective in European policy-making. The report is issued in the name of our four institutions and of the 26 authors who have contributed to the text. It calls for a new understanding of the EU’s global role, and in particular, a new approach to international development.

The key message is that the EU’s ambitions for its own citizens – for prosperity, peace and environmental sustainability – cannot be divorced from its global responsibilities and opportunities. As the title of the report suggests, Europe’s problems need global solutions, and global problems need European action. A shared collective effort is in our common interest.

Seen from within Europe, the rest of the world is a vital source of raw materials, manufactured products, markets, innovation and cultural enrichment. It can also be a source of environmental degradation and insecurity. The EUEuropean Union can only benefit if the rest of the world, and developing countries in particular, pursue a path of successful sustainable development.

Seen from the outside, the EUEuropean Union is a source of goods and services, of technology, of aid, and of inclusive and accountable political and social models. At its best, the EUEuropean Union can offer technical, institutional and financial contributions to global public goods. However, it can also be a factor in financial and political instability.

We identify five global challenges which will shape the future of the EUEuropean Union and the world, and in relation to which the EU’s performance as a global actor can be judged. These are

  1. The world economy. Is the world economy becoming more equitable, resilient and democratic? Is the EUEuropean Union contributing to better and more inclusive trade and finance regimes, which allow for full participation by all?
  2. Environmental sustainability. Is the world set on a more sustainable path, in which the EUEuropean Union is playing its part internally and externally, especially with regard to climate change and the necessity of a green economy?
  3. Peace and security. Is the world becoming more peaceful and secure? And is the EUEuropean Union contributing to the prevention of violent conflict and to peaceful societies?
  4. Democracy and human rights. Is the world better governed and more democratic? Is there greater respect for human rights around the world? And is the EUEuropean Union acting effectively to understand and support democratic political change?
  5. Poverty and inequality. Have poverty and inequality declined? And is the EUEuropean Union acting effectively to understand and tackle the drivers of poverty and inequality?

We do not contend that the EUEuropean Union offers a panacea. However, faced with global challenges, the EUEuropean Union is often better placed to act than its individual member states. This is because of its economic weight, including its position as the world’s largest trading bloc. It is also because the EUEuropean Union can act in a more neutral way than individual member states. The EU’s role has to be seen in the wider context of member state contributions to global governance, in particular the UN, NATO and the international financial institutions, as well as groupings such as the G7 and G20.

Some may think that we stray beyond our development remit in tackling global trade and finance, peace and security or climate change. We emphatically disagree. International development will always have poverty reduction and human security at its core. However, it is no longer simply about a one-way relationship of support to developing countries – and especially not only about aid. We understand international development in this century to be about all countries and their citizens tackling shared problems of sustainable development, and with each partner playing its part. Do not be surprised by the repeated calls in our report for action within the EU, and for coherence between internal and external initiatives.

We recognise that new thinking about the scope of international development means new ways of working in EUEuropean Union institutions – not new structures, but rather a new strategy and new commitment to joint action and problem-solving, across traditional boundaries. Every part of the EUEuropean Union institutional apparatus, including the Council, the Commission, the Parliament, and the European External Action Service (EEAS), must seek to approach complex and inter-dependent problems in new ways.

We repeat that the report is issued in all our names. This does not mean that every single author agrees with every single judgement. However, we are united in our optimism about the potential of the EU. The period to 2020 offers a real opportunity for transformation towards a more inclusive, peaceful, prosperous and equitable world, and Europe has a central role to play.

Dirk Messner
German Development Institute / DeutschesInstitutfürEntwicklungspolitik (DIE)

Paul Engel
European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM)

Giovanni Grevi
Fundacion para lasRelacionesInternacionales y el Dialogo Exterior (FRIDE)

Kevin Watkins
Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

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