Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Youth Interfaith Forum - Perth

I recently returned from Perth where we co-organised a Regional Youth Interfaith Forum with DFAT. These two days spent with 60 young people from many different countries in the region and across Europe and from various religious denominations was very refreshing.

I keep two moving images in my heart - a common lecture of the bible by a young Catholic and a Jew, and the kisses and friendship testimonies of the participants when they were leaving after only two days spent together.

The strong desire of these young people to talk together, to exchange and share common values of peace, tolerance and understanding is an illustration that religious beliefs are not, and should not be, a factor of division in today’s world. In the EU as well as in Australia we believe in respect and tolerance. Our institutions guarantee the fundamental freedoms, so we must share those invaluable benefits with our neighbours.

This was our goal during the two days of the Interfaith Forum and the main result from the gathering has been to initiate an informal friendship network that I hope will last for a long time, especially since it is composed of the young people who are our future.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Developments in the Pacific - visit to Tonga

After spending the last week in Tonga at the 38th Pacific Island Forum, I have returned to Australia full of hope. From this visit, I have realised that, by working together, States can promote genuine democratic values and operate as a real instrument for change when fundamental values are not being respected.

It is in this spirit that at the meeting last week, the Pacific Forum leaders endorsed the conclusions of the group of wise men and requested the interim Government in Fiji restore democracy in the shortest possible time. In the past, Europe has helped to restore democratic values in states like Spain and Greece. It is for this reason that it is so important that we help the Pacific Forum to strengthen its status and maintain peace and stability in the region.

The European Union has been active over recent months, using our mechanisms of cooperation with the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) regions to convince the Fijian interim government to restore democracy according to a strict agenda set out in the recommendations of the Pacific Forum’s group of wise men. This was underlined and raised during the Pacific Forum meeting in Tonga. We Europeans are committed to using our soft power wherever we can in the world to help democracy to progress.

My return also occurred at the same time as progress in the reform of the EU and its institutions. Here, I am confident that the historical agreement reached in the European Council last week to approve the new Treaty will soon produce one of its expected results, namely to improve Europe’s role in foreign affairs, and to allow us to make an even more positive contribution, not only for Europeans, but within the world as a whole.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

A new EU Treaty

While Australia entered its electoral campaign with discussions on how the future of this country could shape, the European Union has had a very decisive week with the European Union Council (the 27 Heads of States and Governments) approving the new Treaty of Lisbon last Friday (19 October).

The new constitutional treaty that replaces the EU constitution, which was aborted after the negative votes against it in France and the Netherlands in 2005, will be formally signed on 13 December. It is my essential view that this Treaty will give a new momentum to the EU construction, bringing more democracy (reinforcement of the national and EU Parliaments), stronger values (adhesion to the European convention on human rights and fundamental liberties), more visible, efficient and solid institutions (a European President for two and a half years and a high representative for the external and security policy). These elements among other enshrined in the new treaty are essential steps to bring forward the political integration of the EU.

As many strong believers in the European Union agree, I think this is a decisive step in the achievement of the construction of this extraordinary human adventure – one that has not only reconciled past enemies, but has also helped to build a solid economic bloc and a soft power able to balance the influence of the other major economic and political blocs throughout the world.

While the electoral campaign will be active in Australia, let’s also mark the important events for the future of our planet that are happening in the continent across the earth where about 90% of Australians and New Zealanders could claim heritage.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

A short stay in New Zealand

I was pleased to get back from New Zealand this weekend just before the news broke that the All Blacks campaign had come to an abrupt end. As a Frenchman, I think I might have outstayed my welcome! Mind you, the news was not much better across the Tasman – a good day for the EU and a sad day for the southern hemisphere, but I have no doubt the day will come when you can turn the table!

But during my short stay in New Zealand, I have once more realised how deep and friendly our relations are. PM Helen Clark was last week in Brussels where she met President Barroso over lunch, when they both had the occasion to praise the new EU-NZ Joint Declaration – a tangible sign of even closer relations for the future. Trade of course is one sector where we can always try to improve our mutual performance but our cooperation goes far beyond a testimony of our common set of values.

Let’s take the example of political and development cooperation in the Pacific. During my stay in Wellington, we had extensive exchanges on the situation in the Pacific with my Member State colleagues, the heads of European Delegations in the Pacific, MFAT and NZAID. Starting from a convergent analysis of the situation in countries like Fiji, the Solomon Islands or Vanuatu, to take a few examples, we have decided that we should increase our development cooperation in the field to reach our common goals: that is essentially peace, stability and economic development for the benefit of the local population. We have no other goal, no hidden agenda other than to help those people take their destiny in their own hands for the benefit of their population.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Trip to Europe

I have just returned from a few weeks in Europe.

My impression is that the mood there is far better than it was a few months ago. The EU Presidency, Portugal, is working hard to obtain an agreement on the new treaty that will replace the aborted constitution following the Dutch and French no vote. The feeling is that a positive decision will be reached in October and, after a rather speedy ratification procedure, the new provisions will apply in 2009.

There is a breath of fresh air with new heads of states in three of the larger Member States namely, Germany, the UK and France. The European economy has improved but there are still a number of reforms which have been identified and now need to be put in place. This will be a challenge but I am optimistic. The EU is a tremendous work-in-progress that is far from being complete but my feeling is that we are steadily progressing from the economic field to the political arena.

I am asking myself whether these evolutions, that are sometimes tiny but always progressive and irreversible, can be perceived let alone understood in distant countries like Australia and New Zealand.

A good sign is that last week we adopted a new joint declaration with New Zealand, and we are currently working on a new joint declaration with Australia which will be adopted in 2008. Both these declarations lay down the foundations of a closer, deeper and larger relationship with the respective countries that will certainly be enhanced by the growing political maturity of the European Union.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Friday, 7 September 2007


Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy reading about some of the things I and others at the Delegation are thinking and are doing.

I have been the Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Commission to Australia and New Zealand since 2005. I love living in Australia and working with the Australian people.

In area, Australia is a very large country – about twice the size of the area of the EU - but it is only when you travel that you actually realise just how big this country really is! This is the reason why I have decided to visit regularly each of the States. I want to discover the country, to meet the people and to talk about EU-Australia relations, and find out what Australian citizens are expecting from us.

Last week I was in Adelaide to visit the Governor, the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, members of the State government and a number of business people, as well as the European community representing the citizens of our 27 Member States. I also had a tour of the magnificent Barossa Valley where of course I tasted some of the best Australian wines that thanks to our new bilateral agreement, which we have initialled and will sign by the end of the year, will now be more easily exported to Europe. With a value of more than $A1bn Australia is already the largest exporter of wine to the EU and so it will be in an even better position to benefit from this trade. From our side our prized geographical names will be protected. This is an example of how trade is a two-way street for the benefit of consumers.

This kind of facilitation, among other things, is an important part of our work here at our embassy.

Thursday, 2 August 2007