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Commissioner Stylianides' Speech

Dear Minister Giro,

Dear Ms. Nathalie Tocci,

Dear Ms. Antonio Missiroli,


Dear Colleagues,

The timing of this conference could not have been better. Not only because this is part of the ongoing consultation on the new European Union Global Strategy. Which, as you know, will be presented to the European Council next June by High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini. But also because the challenges in Europe, in our neighbourhood and beyond are truly unprecedented. 

This is not a cliché. It is not an exaggeration. It is the reality of our world today.

In formulating the New Global Strategy for Europe we need to grasp this reality. We need to face it head-on. Prudently. Methodically. Collectively. 

I would like, therefore, to thank the Instituto Affari Internazionali and the European Union Institute for Security Studies for their kind invitation to address this conference today.  Special thanks also to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy and the European Centre for Development Policy Management for making this event possible.

This is a great opportunity for me to share with you how I see the larger picture. How I see Europe as a “global actor”. And, of course, to talk about the current challenges for the humanitarian and development communities.

I hope that my presentation will be a contribution to the wider dialogue about the new EU Global Strategy.

Dear friends,

We are operating within an “inter-polar international system” as some political scientists have called it. That is, a world which is multipolar and interlinked. I share Federica Mogherini’s assessment that our world, as well as our Union, is more connected than at any point in the past.  

The refugee crisis has made this point abundantly clear. The hard way I would say.  It made all of us realise that our world, our continent, is so much interconnected. Nobody can claim that it can face the challenges alone.

It also made us realise that Europe is not isolated from the effects of crises, conflicts and disasters outside Europe. For example in the Middle East. In Africa. In Asia. And elsewhere.

Therefore, within this context, we need to reflect about which Europe we want.

Also, within this context we have to identify how Europe can be truly a “global actor”. 

Moreover, within this context we need to define what it means for Europe to be a “global actor”.

Because, dear friends, nothing is the same today as it was only few years ago. 

Go back just a year ago. At the first stages of the refugee crisis.

We must admit: initially we underestimated the impact of this crisis. And, also, its extent.

We did not foresee the gravity of the crisis. But we are learning from this experience. Our experiences.

One conclusion is absolutely clear: we cannot continue business as usual.

These are extraordinary times, demanding extraordinary actions.

Did anybody think a year ago that we would establish an instrument for emergency assistance within Europe?

But now we did. This is an issue I will talk more about shortly.

Did anybody think that NATO would be engaged in the efforts to manage the refugee crisis?

But NATO's involvement became necessary. Especially in a sensitive region. 

These are significant developments that cannot be underestimated. Because they transform traditional assumptions. They break taboos and stereotypes.

And they show something crucially important: that the management of global challenges requires an ability to adjust. And it also fits with one of the principles of the EU Global Strategy: to work together in a more complex world.

Obviously we are walking on a new landscape.

A more complex one.
More demanding.
More unpredictable.

One that requires from all of us prudence and pragmatism. But also to think out of the box. And to be innovative.

Dear colleagues,

There are at least two main requirements for our European Union to be a global actor:

First, credibility. If there is one thing I learned over the many years of my involvement in politics is that: credibility counts. Credibility is the backbone of a strong actor. It is the backbone of an effective actor. 

That means, making commitments and meeting these commitments. It means delivering concrete results.

Second, EU resilience. That is, strengthening our Union. Preserving our unity. Safeguarding the pillars of our Union: namely, political integration, the economic and monetary Union, Schengen and the freedom of movement.

Resist fragmentation. And resist a return to the devastating politics of disintegration.

But what does it really mean for the European Union to be a global actor? 

Firstly, it means a Union that it does not look inwards. And does not fear to engage. A Union which is a protagonist in the big decision making processes.

The central role that Federica Mogherini played in reaching the Iranian deal is a clear and tangible example of what I am suggesting. This was a deal that promises to reshape the geopolitical character in the broader Middle East.

Secondly, it means collective action. The European Union has all the means to be an influential global player.

Provided we have close cooperation and coordination.

Unilateral actions are highly counterproductive. Working together is key.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. A couple of weeks ago we launched the European Medical Corps. This instrument came out of the Ebola lessons learned.

This is a model for how we can work together in Europe. Allowing Europe to deploy medical teams, field hospitals, public health experts, labs.  Rapidly and predictably. Pooling our resources to make a difference. Preparing and responding together when the next disaster strikes.

Thirdly, the EU should remain a “soft power”. A “magnet” that keeps the European continent united. Regardless of the pressures Europeans are facing in these difficult times.

Fourthly, it means that the Union continues to lead in humanitarian and development aid fields. Our citizens support EU’s leading role in the provision of humanitarian assistance. We have-to continue on this path. It is our moral duty. It is a matter of credibility.

Dear friends,

As I already said, the refugee crisis is a defining issue for Europe. Especially for us who work in the humanitarian aid and development fields.

This crisis has been a major stress test for all of us: European institutions and Member States.  And, unfortunately, the end is not in sight.

As we speak, refugees continue to escape conflict. And arrive in neighbouring countries. But also in Europe.

Without a doubt the numbers of refugees continue to rise. Outside and inside Europe. Therefore we must be prepared to help those in need.

I want to re-emphasize: this is our historical obligation. This is our moral duty.

Nobody denies that the crisis is putting a huge pressure on our societies. Whether you are in Italy, in Greece, in Slovenia, in Germany or anywhere else, our people can feel the ripple effects of the crisis.

However, raising new barriers will not solve the problems. It will not alleviate the pressure our citizens feel. On the contrary. It will create a fortress Europe based on fear and isolation.

This will be the beginning of the end of a united Europe.

We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot return back to the politics of disintegration.

But I want to be clear: better management of our borders is a must!

Dear colleagues,

As you know, last week the Commission adopted a proposal for the establishment of an instrument for emergency support within the Union. To alleviate the pressure from overwhelmed Member-States. 

First time ever the EU is creating a dedicated instrument for emergency support inside Europe. To complement Member States actions.

This action clearly demonstrates our commitment to help Member States under huge pressure to cope with the refugee crisis. It is part of the European solution.

An amount of seven hundred (700) million Euros has been allocated. For the next three years. And it will become immediately available after approval by the European Council and the European Parliament.

This is to provide basic necessities. In close coordination with Member States and by humanitarian organisations on the ground.

This is in addition to the funding provided in host countries and in conflict areas. And this is complementary to the funding provided for capacity-building in the Member States. 

This new instrument will be very helpful to address the needs of refugees in Europe. But we should have no illusions. To bring sustainable solutions to this crisis, we must address its root causes in countries of origin. In Syria. In Iraq. In Afghanistan.

This is why, as Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, I am committed to ensuring that the EU continues to lead the international humanitarian response to the Syria crisis.

And, of course, to other humanitarian disasters around the world. This is an integrated part of the EU as a global actor.

Dear friends,

Let me now turn more specifically to protracted displacement. A major humanitarian and development challenge. This is why is an important priority for us.

We need to work towards global durable solutions. We need to address the root causes of forced displacement.

People need to be able to go back when conditions allow. Or be integrated. Or resettled.

In reality, they are often stuck. Sometimes for generations. Like the Afghanis and Somalis. And most of them not in rich developed countries. But in already fragile and poor communities.

We must cultivate the potential of the displaced and their hosts in many aspects.

By investing in job opportunities.
By investing in education.
In infrastructure and social protection.
Our objective is to make people more self-reliant.
To end their aid dependency.

We need to enhance the resilience of both the host and the refugee communities. This requires political, economic, development and humanitarian actors to work hand in hand.

This is why we are working on a new strategy on Forced Displacement and Development. Which we will publish in April.


Dear colleagues,

I would like now to focus on resilience.

In the long-term is necessary to build institutions and societies that are resilient.

To help states and societies develop the elements that will help them withstand new shocks.
To become independent of the need for aid.
To become self-reliant.
And, most importantly, to reclaim their dignity.

This is why resilience is a central theme of our global strategy.  This is why resilience must be a common goal for both humanitarian and development actors. In order to reduce humanitarian needs. In order to build inclusive and stable societies.

We provide aid not as a matter of philanthropy. We provide aid to help communities and populations to become more resilient.

To be able to absorb new shocks.
To be able to stand back on their feet after the next disaster or crisis.
So that they do not have to flee their homes and properties.
So that they do not become the refugees of tomorrow.

To that end there is a need for a new model for humanitarian-development cooperation. One that includes joint risk analyses. Multiannual programming and financing. And an exit strategy for humanitarian actors. A model that addresses early response and preparedness.

As you know, last year the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted. It was a major step to advance the global agenda on disaster risk management and resilience. The framework became part of the Agenda 2030.

Eight of the Sustainable Development targets are linked to disaster resilience. And the framework had an important contribution to the climate change discussions in Paris.

Our operating principle must be simple and clear: when a crisis strikes, an early response should address immediate needs. But also help affected populations to avoid future losses.

Dear friends,

It is obvious that the linkages between humanitarian aid and development are strong. An excellent example of this is education in emergencies. Which is one of my priorities as Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

Education is essential.  It is the foundation of everything else. Because education is a real shield for vulnerable children.

Protecting them from radicalisation.
From forced recruitment.
From forced marriages.
From entering dangerous migration routes.

Last year I committed to increase our financing to education in emergencies from one (1) percent, to four (4) percent by 2019. I am very pleased that we will already reach this target this year!

Dear friends,

Unprecedented humanitarian needs require an unprecedented response. The World Humanitarian Summit taking place in Istanbul in May is a unique opportunity to reflect on this. But also to renew. To reset.

Increasing the effectiveness of humanitarian aid must be our goal. Our assistance must be capable of addressing the needs on the ground.

In most conflicts violations of international humanitarian law shrink the humanitarian space. We have an opportunity in Istanbul to renew our commitment to international humanitarian law.

And we need to reset the humanitarian system. In order to improve the efficiency of humanitarian aid. Funds do not keep up with increasing needs.

Donors and implementing agencies must work together to get additional funds and use available funds more efficiently. From new donors. From the private sector.  Engaging with the private sector is key.

The EU must be ambitious in promoting clear commitments and deliverables. We must speak with one voice. Strong Council conclusions on the Summit under the Dutch Presidency are essential.

We also need to reach out to other states and private actors. The Summit, however, can only become a success with strong political commitments.

Dear colleagues,

We all recognize that, at the end of the day, humanitarian and development aid is not a solution to political problems.

We need to address the root causes of conflicts. And find political solutions. Our Union has the means and the instruments to be a key actor in the efforts to do so.

I have no doubt that the new Global Strategy will reflect that. Through this kind of dialogue and consultation we can formulate a Strategy that has a clear direction. And a greater ability to set priorities and make choices.

Thank you.

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