Address by Minister Cowen at concert to mark EU Enlargement, United Nations HQ, New York
Mrs. Annan, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last Saturday, May 1st, in Dublin, the Heads of State and Government of 28 European nations gathered to celebrate what we in Ireland called a “Day of Welcomes”. It was a day on which it can truly be said that history was made; the day on which the European Union expanded to take in 10 new Member States; the day on which the post war division of Europe came to an end.
This is a moment of particular satisfaction for the peoples of the new Member States. Eight of these countries found themselves captives on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain that fell across Europe in 1945. For those who did not live through those years of silence, secrets and suspicion, it is hard to appreciate the extent to which those countries on the eastern side of the Curtain were hidden from the rest of us; how little we knew of them; how little they knew of us.
In the period since the liberating events of 1989 and 1991, the peoples of Europe have been like lost brothers and sisters, renewing our acquaintance. By now, we feel like a family again. We agree on most things. We have our occasional differences. But our relationship is sufficiently close to sustain the ups and downs of normal family life.
More than half a century on, we can see how effectively this noble ambition has been realised. The six have become 25, with still more knocking at the door. Our rivalries are now played out on the football field, rather than the battlefield. We have built a common economic area with an internal market of more than 450 million people. We have created a European currency. We are developing a common foreign and security policy. We are working towards the adoption of a new Constitutional Treaty as a foundation for our new enlarged Union.
Our greatest achievement remains the fact that it is unthinkable that Member States of the Union might ever again take up arms against each other. I do not exaggerate when I claim that the European Union is, quite simply, the most effective conflict prevention mechanism ever devised. A part of our planet which was once a byword for conflict has now become a zone of peace and stability.
The European Union is about common values and common standards. It is not a process of homogenisation. We aim to build both a Union of peoples and a Union of nations. We have no desire to eliminate the nations of Europe with their ancient histories, languages and traditions, but to bring them together in partnership and shared ambition.
There may be some here today who, listening to me extolling the virtues of the European Union, might be thinking that past European intervention had a somewhat less benign effect on the development of their own country. I can understand this. And I think it is right that Europeans should acknowledge that over the centuries, as well as light, Europeans have brought darkness to parts of the world.
Those days are long over. Today, the European Union is interested in giving, not taking. We seek partners, not subjects. We want to cooperate, not to control.
The European Union, together with its Member States is the world’s biggest donor of development assistance. We are the largest contributor to the United Nations.
The story of the European Union offers hope for other parts of our world still troubled by conflict. Europe learned the hard way of the existential need to put an end to conflict and injustice. I hope that the lessons we have learned can help others to avoid our past mistakes.
It is highly appropriate that this evening’s happy event is taking place here in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations, the institutional and physical embodiment of our shared commitment to multilateralism and cooperation among nations. The United Nations and the European Union were born of a common aim: to put an end to war and the divisions caused by bloody conflicts. The United Nations was accorded a global mandate. The European Union was intended to heal the wounds in one small but troubled part of our planet. The enlargement of the European Union represents a triumph for the United Nations and the ideals on which it is founded.
The Member States of the European Union now make up over one eighth of the entire UN membership. Our guiding inspiration in the United Nations continues to be full and sustained engagement with the wider membership on all the issues before us. I am convinced that our strengthening through Enlargement will enable us to engage even more fruitfully with the entire UN membership in the overall best interests of all our peoples.
In the European Security Strategy, published last December, the Union committed itself to an international order based on effective multilateralism. We recognised that the fundamental framework for international relations is the United Nations Charter. Strengthening the United Nations, equipping it to fulfil its responsibilities is a priority of the European Union and we will be making a submission to the high level Panel established by the Secretary-General. The Union is also committed to cooperating with the United Nations in the area of conflict prevention and crisis management.
I would like to conclude by warmly welcoming Jack Martin Handler, Musical Director of the performing orchestra, Solistes européens, Luxembourg, and the members of the orchestra. The membership of the orchestra, drawn from thirteen European Union states, reflects the diversity of European cultures but also, in the music we are about to hear, the ineluctable European character of our collective culture.
The European Anthem, “Ode to Joy” was never more apt than to this day. I invite you, the representatives of the world’s family of nations and all our guests, to join with the European Union in celebrating through music this rare moment of joy in which all can share.