SPEECH by forrests



Romano Prodi
President of the European Commission

Cultural diversity and shared values

New York University Law School New York, 3 November 2003

[Dean Revesz,] distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you, Dean, for your kind words of welcome and greetings to all of you here today. It gives me great pleasure to be back at New York University. As an academic, I always feel at home in universities. And I feel even more at home in a Law School that houses the Jean Monnet Center for International and Regional Economic Law and Justice. I think it was back in 1998 that as Prime Minister of Italy I was here, together with Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and others, to speak of strengthening democracy in the global economy. A lot has happened since then, especially here in New York. You have witnessed one of the most horrendous terrorist attacks of all time, which killed so many innocent people and targeted this city as a symbol of western freedoms. In those terrible hours and the days and weeks that followed, the eyes of the whole world were on New York. We all remember how the world's sympathy and solidarity were focused on this city and that the international community stood side by side with New Yorkers and the United States. Unfortunately, that solidarity did not weather the transatlantic storms that have blown up since. Now we have learned that unless we all work together to build international consensus and unless we stand shoulder to shoulder,


militarily and politically, we will never defeat terrorism. To starve terrorism of its support calls for the cooperation of all. No single State can go it alone. Ladies and gentlemen, Five years since my last visit, I am back here to talk about cultural diversity. This is a key concept for us, because diversity is a fact of life in Europe and goes to the heart of the European Union -- a Union "united in diversity" as our motto puts it. New York is an excellent venue for this. The echo of events in far-off places is heard immediately here. And this world city sets trends that are felt throughout the world. New York embodies a diversity that goes far beyond the different cultures of the first wave of peoples that came from Europe to settle in the vast hinterland of this continent -- the Irish, Poles, Italians and all the others. Here we feel the cultural influences of Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia too. In the global world we live in, cultural diversity is a fact of life. It is a factor of political and economic life too. In today's interdependent world, I am convinced that cultural diversity and dialogue must go hand in hand. And this dialogue must be based on respect for the culture of the other. There can be no dialogue if we all think the same thing. So difference is vital. And we all know that the smaller the differences, the more heated the dialogue may become. Every family knows that!


Someone once said that Britain and America were one people divided by a common language. And English-speakers on both sides of the Atlantic are very sensitive to differences that I for one may overlook. But seriously, it is a fact that if the differences are not too great and there is common ground, then the dialogue will be more fruitful. Dialogue does not just call for a common language -- it calls for a basis of shared values. This is an idea I want to explore today. Ladies and gentlemen, Sometimes it takes a trip abroad to put cultural differences into perspective. The goldfish does not realise what its aquarium looks like from outside and we often take our cultural world for granted. When I arrived in New York, it struck me that Americans and Europeans share a great deal -- something many have forgotten over the last year or two. In fact Europe and America are part of the same cultural world. We share a deep commitment to democracy, basic freedoms, the rule of law and human rights. The spiritual heritage of Europe is present throughout American history -- from the Pilgrim Fathers to the Bill of Rights I do not want to minimise our differences. Just as Americans come from different cultural backgrounds -- African, native American, Hispanic, European, Asian -- we in Europe too have enormous cultural differences amongst ourselves.


We spend a lot of time pointing out these differences to one other and making fun of each other too. All of our European nations are attached to their cultural specificity, our customs and traditions. Some of us fear that the United States represents a threat to our national cultures. A fear I feel is excessive. Do Americans feel invaded culturally when European artists fill their museums? Or when European designers set up shop on their main streets? We know that trade -- within a framework of agreed rules and established standards -- can be a way of sharing the benefits of economic prosperity. And we are all aware that cultural goods and knowledge do not diminish -but increase -- when they are shared. These basic tenets form the foundations of the European Community, now the European Union. The original Member States pooled some of their sovereignty, they opened up their markets, they laid down common rules, they made provision for political representation, and they set aside funds to show solidarity to the less prosperous regions and sections of the population in Europe. And the results have been astonishingly successful. It goes further than that, however. We in the EU we have a quasiconstitutional obligation to respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. That is why the EC Treaty gives us the task of contributing “to the flowering of the cultures of our Member States”. That is why, for example, we have been active since 1983 in supporting regional and minority languages. It is our belief that helping our citizens to retain these elements of their identity is


the key to gaining their acceptance of the processes of European integration and of worldwide globalisation, and thus maintaining social harmony. And we are becoming ever more diverse and multiethnic in Europe, having become a magnet for immigration ourselves -- something the US has always been -- where such flows now largely sustain our population growth. Put simply, we need these flows of new people to our shores, both demographically and economically. Which brings the challenge of putting our policies where our mouth is: balancing the shared values of our societies with (increasing) cultural diversity. Here in New York, a place forever associated with the term “melting pot”, we are confronted with a paradox. It is clear that New York is not at all a melting pot, but rather a rich and complex multicultural tapestry, and one of the world’s shining examples of how diversity can achieve great things. Very different cultures reside side by side, largely get along, and contribute to the economic and creative powerhouse that is metropolitan New York. While the US supposedly aims for assimilation and integration, the actual result is a functioning multiethnic society. On the other hand, Europe preaches diversity and respect of cultures, but among the Member States, the goal sometimes appears to be to assimilate immigrants, rather than to cultivate, maintain and respect diversity. Given this paradox and this conundrum, we all should strive for balance between the need for migrants to accept certain fundamental values of the society to which they move, and the need for the society to embrace its


increasing cultural diversity. Here, I believe we can learn from each other. I believe this is a productive place for a transatlantic dialogue. An outstanding example of the Union's success in managing diversity I would like to highlight is our enlargement, growing from the original six to the current 15, soon to be 25. And while the Union has been expanding to include new members, it has also been taking the integration process further. The European way to preserve diversity while building unity is reflected in this twofold strategy of enlargement and closer integration. Let me start with closer integration. This is imperative because in a Union of 25 Member States -- half your number -- but with a population of almost half a billion, we need to make sure the Union can function. This calls for a radical overhaul. And the solution we are working on -- the European Union's first Constitution -- is currently being discussed in the Intergovernmental Conference and will hopefully be adopted next year. That Constitution seeks to make the Union more effective and more democratic and able to defend our values. With its growing responsibilities on the world stage, the Union must have the means to cope with its new tasks and to project its values internationally. To perform those tasks:  its decision-making procedures must be streamlined, with more decisions taken by a qualified majority;


 its foreign and security policy must be strengthened with the introduction of a European Foreign Minister, so the Union can speak with a single voice and defend its values more robustly in the international arena;  its democratic foundations must be strengthened: this calls for the European Parliament to have greater powers and national parliaments to have a stronger role in monitoring subsidiarity. Debate within the Intergovernmental Conference hinges precisely on the trade-off between greater effectiveness for the Union's institutions and preserving the legitimate interests of individual member countries -particularly with a view to enlargement. Next year's enlargement is not the end of the road. Bulgaria and Romania are expected to join in 2007 and Turkey is a candidate for accession. By the end of next year we will assess Turkey's compliance with the political criteria for opening membership negotiations. Meanwhile, the stabilisation and association process in the western Balkans is continuing and the whole region will ultimately become part of the Union. As with Europe as a whole, the challenge in the Balkans is to allow the region's diversity to flourish within a framework of political stability, economic prosperity and peaceful development. It is largely thanks to the United States that the stabilisation of the Balkans has been possible. At the time, the European Union was not in a position to deal with a conflict that had blown up on its very doorstep. And that


realisation was a major factor in further developing our foreign and security policy. It was only thanks to the joint efforts of the United States, which provided most of the necessary military means, and the European Union, which held out prospects of membership, that the region was stabilised. Who could have thought that the situation in the region could have evolved so positively since 1995? And that the Union could have already received a membership application from Croatia? The road ahead is a long one but we are making progress in the right direction. We need to foster stability even beyond the enlarged European Union's borders. Because we do not want to draw new dividing lines or build new walls, the Union has put forward proposals for a neighbourhood policy. It seeks to develop close partnerships based on shared values and common interests with our future neighbours -- from Russia in the north and extending right round the Mediterranean to Morocco. This calls for a new approach to regional relations -- an approach based on the realisation that we cannot rely solely on standing armies and stockpiles of weapons for our security. Our experience shows that there is only one way to tackle instability and the insecurity it breeds -- by attacking the root causes, developing good governance and vigorous civil society and giving people hope. The proper way to address these challenges is our neighbourhood policy and our enlargement strategy. They will spell the end of the divide that cut


Europe in two for half a century and will heal the scars of two world wars -those civil wars that tore our continent apart. The price of unification will, of course, be greater diversity. That diversity must be addressed or it will tear the continent apart again. And both within the enlarged Union and in our neighbourhood policy, we have endeavoured to apply the same principles. With that in mind, the Union has worked to spell out clearly the common ground of shared values. To illustrate this, for the candidate countries this meant carrying out farreaching reforms of their economies and administrations and meeting strict political, economic and institutional criteria -- the Copenhagen criteria laid down at the 1993 European Council in the Danish capital:  Political criteria: the applicant countries must have stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.  Economic criteria: the applicants must have a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union.  Institutional criteria: they have to be able to take on the obligations of membership by adopting national implementing legislation and effectively implementing the body of Community law. Naturally, this whole body of shared values and law did not exist when the Community was first founded, but has developed gradually.


For instance, the abolition of the death penalty has become a minimum requirement that all Member States must fulfil. It is set out in Article 2 of the Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights, to be enshrined in the Union's first Constitution that is currently being discussed. I have often been impressed by the way our Member States have arrived at the same basic values, often by very different paths and despite their diverse cultures and histories. By the same token, the Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights reflects many tenets of national law that have become universal in scope. The remedy against arbitrary arrest, for example -- what English law and the United States Constitution refer to as "habeas corpus" -- forms Article 47 of the Charter on the "Right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial". We Europeans earnestly hope that these universal values can be shared by all our neighbours and partners, however diverse their cultures and traditions. And we hope the United States will be by our side in this endeavour. The Union's constant concern to bolster international cooperation and safeguards for the rule of law explains its unwavering support for international institutions, such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. It is encouraging to see that the United States has recently placed more value on international cooperation at the United Nations. I hope this trend will continue and America will give its much-needed support to other agreements


and institutions, such as the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol. Ladies and gentlemen, Today's world is full of challenges and dangers. No single country can cope with them alone. Despite our differences, we Europeans share an aversion to our past of conflicts and national rivalries and we want to build a future of peace based on dialogue and shared values. Europeans know that war is the worst of all solutions and must always be the very last resort. And because they have always lived in close contact with other cultures and civilisations, isolation has never been an option for Europe. We know that the open societies and tolerant cultures we cherish are always the first victims of any conflict. Ensuring international stability and security, keeping the world economy on an even keel, safeguarding the environment for a sustainable future are beyond the capacity of any State on its own, however powerful and however limitless its resources may seem. Tomorrow will see the emergence of new powers and perhaps new superpowers. If we want the superpowers of tomorrow to acknowledge the values we regard as universal, it is vital for the European Union and the United States to find common ground and work together.


The future of us all -- and especially of the younger generation -- depends on this. Thank you.


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