Commissioner Lamy insists that the EU for the 21st century must be a stronger, political Europe, able to transform its interdependence into solidarity. That is the basis for enabling the EU to promote its model of society on the global scene.
Commissioner, you’ve accepted an invitation to participate in the “Hearing from Europe” conference. One of the issues to be debated at this conference is ‘What is the EU for in the 21st century’. What is your answer to this question?
I welcome the initiative of Friends of Europe to organise such a big event across the whole of Europe to debate the future of the EU. We need to discuss together what plans we have for the Europe of tomorrow. And we have to encourage all European citizens to take part in the shaping of this project: it is about the future of our children, and it is as important as education, health or the environment.
The EU for the 21st century must be a stronger Europe, a political Europe, able to transform its interdependence into solidarity. That is the basis for enabling the EU to promote its model of society on the global scene.
Do you believe that the proposals made by the Convention are good enough to prepare the EU for the challenges of enlargement and globalisation?
For the moment, I would give a good mark to the Convention, but with the comment that it could do better. The Convention still has to discuss an important part, concerning policies, which defines “what we want to do together”. I’m convinced anyway that the result of the Convention is much better than that of an intergovernmental conference. For the first time, it puts the citizens in the center of the scene, instead of the diplomats. At this stage, I’m happy with the first two parts of the European Constitution, and I’m also happy that we have only one text with no options. The acknowledgement of the legal personality of the EU, the legal force given to the Charter of fundamental rights – which is a clear step forward -, the strengthening of the powers of the European parliament and so on are progress in the right direction.
But, from my point of view, the section on common policies is too weak. Three crucial elements for the promotion of the European model of society are missing: the means for economic governance, tax harmonisation, and the recognition of services of general interest. Some progress must be made on these three points between now and July and during the meeting of the Heads of State and governments.
What impact is enlargement likely to have on intra-EU trade and on the Union’s position in the global markets and in the WTO?
Today, the EU is the biggest single market in the world, with common rules on free movement of goods, services, and capital. The addition of 10 new countries, representing 100 million people, is obviously an asset to strengthen our weight. The candidate countries are the second main trade partner of the EU. With the Accession Agreements, almost all the work of harmonisation of rules has already been done and the bilateral trade between the EU and the candidate countries has already been largely liberalised. This is to the advantage of our companies which will benefit from the simplification of trade.
On the global scene, we are in a world of elephants! With enlargement, the EU is going to be a bigger elephant, and will be able to promote its model with more influence. But the importance of enlargement is mainly political, historical and cultural: Europe takes its revenge on Yalta!
What are the chances of the current round of WTO negotiations succeeding, when the US has increased farm subsidies and the EU is not willing to implement a radical reform of its Common Agricultural Policy in the short run?
First of all, let’s be precise: the WTO negotiations are not only about agriculture! Agriculture is one of the 20 topics to be dealt with by 144 countries. Inside the EU, the reform of the CAP is necessary because we need it, and we want to do it for our own our farmers’ interests. We want to continue s upport of agriculture. We can’t deal with agriculture as we do with textile or cars. Agriculture is much more than production of food: it is about protection of the environment, food security, and animal welfare too. The reform will add to my credit for negotiation. I’ll be able to push harder for our objectives. And I’ll be able to accept more global disciplines, as long as they are accepted by our partners too.
I’m convinced that the chances of success for the negotiations are high. Compared with where we were at the same time during the Uruguay round, we have made a lot of progress. Discussions are taking place on every topic, and we’ll see in Cancun if the political will exists to succeed by the end of 2004, which is what I am working for.
The world’s poorest countries often complain that they cannot take advantage of global trade liberalisation due to strong domestic market protection by the rich countries, e.g. the sugar market in the EU. Is the current WTO round likely to give more access to developing countries?
The current round has been called the Doha development agenda. All is in the name… This round has two objectives: to settle common rules to regulate globalisation and to help developing countries to integrate into the global trade system. On every topic, from trade in goods, to agriculture or services and all the others, our proposals are largely development-friendly. We aim at giving developing countries better access to our markets, and at helping them comply with the rules of the WTO.
Are more trade disputes between the EU and the US to be expected in the future, or do you think the two partners will eventually find an understanding on contentious issues, such as GMOs?
The EU/US trade relations are healthy and vigorous. Look at the figures: we exchange one billion dollars each day! US affiliate firms in Europe directly employ 4.1 million workers, and European affiliates employ roughly 4.4 million American workers. The EU and the US share an indispensable partnership. Disputes are a really small part of the trade relationship: although transatlantic trade disputes steal the headlines, US-EU trade disputes account for less than 1% of transatlantic commerce. I think it shows the good functioning of the system: the WTO is one of the main international institutions where multilateralism works and where the US are playing the game. But the disputes don’t poison our day-to-day constructive relationship.