Van Rompuy Utters Bold Analogy of EU's Position and Path in World
Herman Van Rompuy, the soft spoken, low-key President of the European Council, dubbed upon his appointment as the "accidental president," uttered one of the boldest analogies of the EU in a speech yesterday at the University of Zurich by referring to the EU as a Phoenix. Van Rompuy in doing so provided listeners with a picture of the EU's powerful position and path. The Phoenix, a mythological bird, is said to burst into flames when it died. It then rises from its own ashes with new life and strength.
Quoting Churchill who in that very same auditorium delivered a speech in September of 1946, pleading, "Let Europe Arise," Van Rompuy stated, "And Europe did arise from the ashes of the world war. Today, some problems notwithstanding, Europe is by and large the most prosperous, the most secure and the freest continent on earth."
Mr. Van Rompuy attributes the EU member states, which have joined the EU since 1950, including the admission of the Eastern European nations and their taking joint decisions together and helping to consolidate democracy throughout the continent, as contributing a major contribution to the rising of the EU Phoenix.
Van Rompuy states that the current financial crisis is a matter of member countries' weaknesses coming to the surface resulting from their "ill managed past." The EU not only takes responsibility for itself but for the world economy, which is interdependent.
Herman Van Rompuy acknowledged that the EU's most serious political challenge is markets "moving at the speed of a click of the mouse" against political processes that do not work so speedily within the EU institutional structure. Van Rompuy stated that the EU is now putting in "place rules and procedures that will both anticipate problems in the future and enable a more speedy and flexible reaction." Herman Van Rompuy states that the EU has "a real debate about the way forward." Their duty is to guarantee financial stability of the Euro area and also stimulate economic growth. Van Rompuy affirmed, "The European Phoenix, arisen out of the ashes of 1945, needs growth to stay on course."
Herman Van Rompuy outlines three trends that affect the EU. The high growth rates of the five BRIC countries, which the EU will focus its energies to engage their growth and create opportunities for itself. In addition, each of these countries are a strategic partner that can work with the EU on political issues. Second, the accession of Russia to the WTO. The third trend he cites is the strategic shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific and to deepen economic relations within that area.
"Power and influence in the world are more and more a matter of economy, and less of weapons." Power no longer only comes "from the barrel of a gun," meaning that the EU will develop its trade relations with these countries and in doing so will diffuse any political tensions and build its economy. The fourth factor is the Arab Spring. The EU's credibility will be determined by how it handles its neighbors from the Arab, Eastern bloc and Balkan nations.
Van Rompuy affirmed that while the EU is not going backwards their progress is limited, their "slice of the cake is shrinking." The EU is determined to live up to the challenges and being the world's largest market it has substantial cards to play. According to Van Rompuy, trade is the EU's smartest form of power, trade will engage the EU deeper into parts of the world that have the highest growth potential.
Herman Van Rompuy points out that the Euro is the world's second reserve currency and its health directly effects the world economy and while the EU works on solving its crisis he also calls on the US to stabilize its public debt situation, and for China to stimulate its domestic demand and make its exchange rate more flexible.
For the full text of Van Rompuy's speech see: