Civil society, foreign policy and the courage of rationality on refugees

Civil society, foreign policy and the courage of rationality on refugees

A day in Brussels: it began with the weekly meeting of the College of Commissioners, to prepare tomorrow’s European Council. Then the plenary of the European Economic and Social Committee, where we discussed the role that business associations, trade unions and NGOs have in our foreign policy. It is every day more evident that an effective foreign policy cannot simply rely on governments. Non-State actors have a growing relevance in our region and beyond: conflicts sometime grow inside societies, and only inside societies can we find real solutions to those conflicts. I also mentioned the extraordinary work that civil society is doing in welcoming refugees. During these weeks, too often we hear that Europe needs to “protect its borders.” In fact, we must defend borders from our enemies – not from people fleeing from war. We cannot afford to panic, we have a duty to be as rational as we can. And rationality tells us that all attempts to address the refugee crisis nationally have failed. The choice is whether to keep failing individually, or finally try and build an effective response – that is, a European response. Here is the video of our debate in the...
A day of true European unity

A day of true European unity

We had an important meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council today in Brussels. It was important for the issues on the agenda – from the situation in Libya to our relationship with Russia, from relaunching the Middle East peace process to the trip I am planning to Iran with other Commissioners. But it was also important because of a great show of unity on each of the issues on the table. We keep reading of divisions inside our Union, but in meetings like this it is clear we share the same interests and objectives, even – and mainly – on the most heated matters. Here is the video of the final press conference. After the Council I had two other important meetings. First I took part, together with President Ollanta Humala, in the signing ceremony of a visa-waiver agreement with Peru. Starting from tomorrow, our citizens will not need a visa for short stays. It is yet another sign of the everyday stronger relationship between Europe and Latin America, after the visa-waiver deal with Colombia, the relaunching of our relations with Argentina and last week’s historic cooperation agreement with Cuba. Later in the evening I chaired the second association council with Moldova, with Prime Minister Pavel Filip. As restated by the Foreign Affairs Council today, we have a strategic interest in deeper relations with our Eastern neighbours. Helping them on their path toward reforms is their interest as much as it is ours, for all the citizens of this...