Europe’s global role is a matter of political passion and will

Günter Verheugen at the DOC Research Institute New Year’s reception

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“The European idea of peace, integration and sovereignty was already much more advanced in the past, than it is now,” said former EU Commissioner for Enlargement Günter Verheugen during a speech at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute on Tuesday.

According to Verheugen, Europe spent far too long focused on the Single European Market and Monetary Union to exclusion of political matters. It missed the opportunity to be sovereign and to play a larger role in both European and global peace initiatives.

Verheugen emphasised that peace between the EU and Russia is dependent on dialogue between civil societies and civilisations.This needs to happen hand in hand on the basis of an equal partnership.

At the same time he mentioned an official US document that was declassified in December and shows the arrangement of former Soviet Union and the United States, that no NATO forces would be stationed on the territory of member states of the former Warsaw Pact due to the fall of socialism in countries like Poland, Hungary, Baltic States and Czech Republic. This arrangement was disregarded and led to tensions on the continent that are now more visible than ever.

In today’s climate, it would have been impossible to build a construct like the EU and the Union needs to face the facts, explained Verheugen. Weapons of mass destruction and militarisation, failing states, terrorism and social tensions are just some of the world’s most common problems. No one was “brave enough to foresee how many migrant movements and their consequences would affect not only the European Union, but Russia, China, USA and others,” the ex-Commissioner said. Therefore, Europe and Russia need each other.

“Europe is a continent with a lot of traditions, cultures and languages. This is not a weakness, but a big strength. Which role Europe will want to play in the future is a question of political passion and political will but developments can still be changed,” concluded Verheugen.