Friday, September 22, 2006

Thoughts in Lyon

Well, it was a good meeting with the European Ideas Network here in Lyon.

EIN every years brings together thought and opinion leaders from the centre-right in Europe for a couple of days of brainstorming and provocative discussions.

And I have been invited to speak in Berlin in 2004, in Lisbon in 2005 and here in Lyon in 2007.

But others were here as well. Commission President Barroso delivered a good speech on the agenda of Europe today. Passionate in a way he isn't always.

And I took the opportunity of my speech over dinner - someone has to have that thankless task - of discussing the gathering storms around Europe and the urgent need to strengthen the soft powers of Europe in order to extent our zone of peace and stability.

At a time when there is a lot of discussion on "the borders of Europe" and "absorption capacity" I wanted to highlight what is really at stake if we suddenly decide to shut the doors.

If one door is shut, other doors are opened. That's the way history works. And if we close the door to European integration - however far down the road the ultimate goal might be - then we are opening up the doors to aggressive nationalism of a sort we have seen before.

Then we open the doors to instability at our doorstops - soon to spill over them into us.

I was primarily talking about Serbia, Ukraine and Turkey. These are the "swing states" that I see in the decade ahead. If they are turned away from us, the consequences over wide regions will be profound.

We must engage, engage and engage in order to change and change and change. There are no quick fixes to true peace.

Closing the door to them is to open the doors to new instability.

I'll see if I can post the entire text somewhere.