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Australia and the European Union: Partners and Friends

06 Dec 2018
By Her Excellency Federica Mogherini
Federica Mogherini at the EUALF. Source: Flickr.

Australia and the EU have a long history of friendship. They stand on the same side of world politics and are close partners in building a more cooperative and just global order.

This is an extract from Federica Mogherini’s speech at the EU-Australia Leadership Forum 2018. For the full speech click here.

[When I visited Australia last August] I found a country in amazingly good shape, with an economy that continues to grow, with great schools and universities, great young generations, and a more confident player in regional and global affairs. Once again I realised how much Europe and Australia have in common when it comes to our way of life, our societies, and our values. It was clear to me that we are at the same time so distant geographically – on the opposite sides of the world – and so close.

We believe in democracy based on liberal values and social justice; we have the same approach to global peace and security; we believe in international cooperation and multilateralism as the best way to address all sorts of disputes – and we have quite a number of disputes ongoing nowadays.

All this is based on a long history of friendship. We both believe that our chaotic, conflictual world needs cooperation, while confrontation only leads to greater chaos and suffering. We believe that the United Nations may not be perfect – I guess nothing is perfect in life – but the United Nations is the only viable framework for us to deal with the great issues of our times.

We believe that climate change is real – we see this having an impact on our lives and our communities – and we see that it is man-made. The Paris Agreement on climate is the right way forward for both of us.

We believe that international trade should be free and fair at the same time, and that globalisation can only be governed through modern trade agreements and through multilateral systems, such as the World Trade Organisation.

The European Union and Australia today are close partners to build a more cooperative and just global order. Beyond our cooperation at the UN (which is strong), beyond our cooperation in the G20 (which is strong), beyond our cooperation in WTO (which is strong), let me also mention the work that we are doing to stop the death penalty worldwide, because this is the kind of progress we both believe in and we are both building.

In recent years, I have seen this cooperation grow much wider than it was just a few years ago.

We are now working closely also in the in the Indo-Pacific region and in Asia for our shared interests and values, because as Australians were fighting for our freedom 100 years ago – it cannot be a comparison, but – we now see as Europeans that our security is also linked to security in your part of the world.

In recent years this cooperation has grown. We Europeans now know that our world is smaller and more connected than it has ever been and security in the in the Indo-Pacific region is today also crucial to our own European security. From the Gulf of Aden, to the South China Sea, from Afghanistan to North Korea: we share the same security agenda there .

Our Australian friends today, I believe, see us Europeans as a global security provider with a strong role to play also on the other side of the world. We have started to cooperate on maritime security. We took part in military exercises with the Association of South East Asian Nations. This is new. And we work together to prevent radicalisation and to fight terrorism. We take part in the same military missions to preserve peace and security around the world

We are increasingly working together to ensure countries and regions from the Pacific are better connected to Europe, and we work to make sure that this is done in a way that is sustainable, transparent and respects common rules. Above all, we both want that regional relations in the Indo-Pacific are based on cooperation and mutual respect.

We both believe that international politics should not be about “friends and foes”, but a patient, stubborn search for mediation. Where others might see disagreements and confrontations, we try to work to build win-win solutions. I think this is what binds us together: this vision not only of life, not only of societies, but also of foreign policy.

We stand on the same side of world politics and I am confident that this will continue to be the case in the years ahead. We have, I think, found a good basis for this to be solid enough in the years to come.

So, it is no surprise that our bilateral relations today are also closer than ever. Last year, we signed a new Framework Agreement that allows our bilateral relations to grow even further. And this is already happening, because we are implementing it. Even if I hope that ratification will come soon from all sides, but we have started to implement it already.

Last summer, we launched the talks for an EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement with formal negotiations already underway and encouraging. From what I hear both from our team and from the Australian team, things are going well and when trade talks start and both teams say it is proceeding and is proceeding well, that is really encouraging.

The European Union is already Australia’s largest trade partner in services; we are already the largest investor in Australia; we are also the second largest destination for Australian investment.

So it is no surprise that we see that European Commissioners are travelling to Australia more than ever before, and the same is true for Australian ministers. We both realise that we need each other and that our people can benefit from our cooperation enormously. This is true in all fields, from foreign policy to trade, to all other sectoral policies that we are working on.

So, I come to the reason why we are here today, why you are here today, and why we have decided to set up this EU-Australia Leadership Forum.

In a new era of our partnership, personal relationships between European and Australian leaders are and will be an even more important asset than before.

So, friendship between countries is built first and foremost, I believe, on friendship between people. And this is why investing in a new generation of Australian and European leaders that are friends is today our choice. We invest in a new generation of leaders that are friends and in a renewed friendship between Europe and Australia. 100 years after World War One I believe we are entering a new century of our friendship and with this forum we can really make our contribution, our personal contribution, to a stronger friendship and also – through this stronger friendship between us – to the cooperative global order that we all want to build.

Her Excellency Federica Mogherini is the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.

This is an extract from her speech at the EU-Australia Leadership Forum 2018, which took place from 18-22 November. For the full speech click here. It is republished with permission. 

The AIIA is part of the international consortium selected to deliver the EU-Australia Leadership Forum project, a three-year initiative funded by the EU. Click here for video highlights of the forum.