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It is time to to reverse the growing perception that the two-state solution is on life-support, slowly dying a death ‘by a thousand cut’

23/07/2015 Leave a comment
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UN Secuirty Council considers situation in the Middle East in open debate. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Today I spoke at the Secuirty Council open debate on the Middle East. 46 countries had signed up to speak on a number of issues that relate to the situation in a region currently torn by religious radicalism, age-old sectarian rivalries and geopolitical realignments, one conflict has endured for over 65 years. Some see it as the core problem in the region; others dismiss it as unrelated to the current turmoil. Either way, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is increasingly entangled in the tectonic shifts of the Middle East. Given the region’s massive transformation, it is imperative — perhaps more than ever before — that a permanent settlement be found, based on the concept of two states, Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestine, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.
In my remarks I noted that despite continuing security coordination in the West Bank, today the two sides are further apart from that goal than ever. Support for the two-state solution among both Palestinians and Israelis is fading away. The current situation on the ground is not sustainable as the two-state solution continues to be under threat including from settlement construction, security incidents, occupation-related violence, and lack of Palestinian unity.

In the absence of a political process, the rise of violent extremism and terrorism in the region present a danger as much to the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians for statehood, as to the security of Israel.

In the current environment of mistrust we in the international community must work with Israelis and Palestinians to create the conditions on the ground, regionally and internationally, that will facilitate a return to meaningful negotiations on the basis of an agreed framework and within a reasonable timeframe.

On the ground, both parties must undertake steps that demonstrate their continued commitment to a two-state solution, including through the implementation of existing agreements and by avoiding unilateral actions.

Advancing the two-state solution requires a fundamental change in policy with regard to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. I welcome the recent decision by Israel to add 8,000 new work permits for Palestinians from the West Bank, bringing the number of permits issued for employment in Israel to a new high of some 60,000. This and other similar initiatives should be sustained and expanded, while much more needs to be done for improving the quality of life for Palestinians.

Unilateral actions in the West Bank, including settlement construction, so-called legalisation of outposts, demolitions and evictions must stop.

While settlement expansion had slowed of late, planning for related infrastructure has not ceased. I am concerned by recent reports about the imminent approval of new residential units in the occupied West Bank. Such a decision will inevitably damage the prospects for peace and increase the risk for political escalation. I urge the Israeli authorities to reconsider this action. Settlements are illegal under international law and undermine the very essence and the viability of a future Palestinian state.

Meanwhile the Palestinian people rightly expect their leaders to act to advance unity and empower their government to take control of the border crossings in Gaza, implement civil service integration, pay public sector salaries and ensure that the governance framework between the West Bank and Gaza is integrated under a single authority. These efforts will pave the way for much delayed elections to take place.

I called on all Palestinian groups to avoid in-fighting and find common ground, on the basis of non-violence and reconciliation, to achieve national unity which is critical for a two-state solution.

The Secretary-General stands ready to work with the Security Council and our partners in the Middle East Quartet on a reinvigorated effort to create the conditions for the return to meaningful negotiations. In this context, I noted the proposed establishment of an international support group that could contribute to such efforts. In the past month, the Quartet envoys, as part of an active outreach effort, engaged constructively with Egypt, with Jordan and with the League of Arab States. I took the opportunity to encourage the leadership of Israel to endorse the Arab Peace Initiative as an important contribution to a resolution to the conflict.

July 8th marked the one-year anniversary of the outbreak of conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Gaza’s painstaking emergence from last summer’s conflict is undermining belief among the population that genuine progress can be achieved. Activities of Salafi jihadists and other extremist groups are a cause for concern not only in Gaza, but also in neighboring Sinai, where there are reports of their active support for militants on the Egyptian side of the border.

On 18 July, six cars were blown up in Gaza city. Palestinian Salafi militants launched a rocket at Israel on 16 July, which exploded in an open area near Ashkelon. In response, Israel conducted four airstrikes against militant infrastructure targets in Gaza. Militants also fired a rocket from the Sinai on 3 July, which landed in Israel across the Egyptian border, highlighting the potential for violence in the Sinai to expand beyond Egypt’s borders.

The Secretary-General calls on all actors in Gaza to provide information as to the possible whereabouts and conditions of two Israeli civilians who had entered Gaza sometime over the past year and remain unaccounted for, as well as to take prompt action to facilitate their safe return to their families.

These, and other incidents, underscore the fragile dynamics within Gaza that – without positive change – will continue to provide fertile ground for extremism to flourish.

Last month, the Palestinian Authority and Israel reached a welcome agreement on a new mechanism to allow Palestinians in Gaza access to construction material for the reconstruction of fully destroyed homes and for new construction. Close to 700 families have already been cleared and over 160 of these have purchased the required construction materials.

Given this positive development, I took this opportunity to once again, urge donors to fulfill their pledges, in particular those allocated to housing construction and to addressing Gaza’s urgent energy and water needs.

I also welcomed recent agreement to install an additional scanner for containers at the Kerem Shalom crossing. This should enable a substantial increase in exports from and imports into Gaza.

The lifting of the Gaza closures within the framework of Un Security Council has resolution 1860 (2009) remains an important objective of the United Nations. Absent this, the UN continues to work with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to support vital efforts to rebuild the lives of people in Gaza.

Turning to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, while the frequency of security incidents decreased compared to last month, the situation has remained tense.

Israeli security forces conducted some 186 search-and-arrest operations, resulting in the arrest of some 300 Palestinians. Meanwhile Palestinian security forces also arrested over 100 people in the West Bank. I continue to be concerned by the situation of Palestinian prisoners, including those on hunger strike, held in Israel. All held in administrative detention should be promptly charged and tried in a court of law, or released without delay.

In total, 50 Palestinians were injured, and four were shot and killed by Israeli security forces, including two at checkpoints near Nablus and Ramallah. Two members of the Israeli security forces were stabbed and injured, one seriously.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli civilians in the West Bank also continued, resulting in the death of one Israeli and injury to eight Israelis and nine Palestinians, including one child.

Just as such incidents contribute to the lack of hope and anger which feed a continuing cycle of violence and highlight the imperative to seek a resolution to this conflict, so too do the demolitions and displacement in the West Bank.

On 12 July, Israel announced that it would seek to execute demolition orders of structures in the Palestinian village of Susiya in Area C. This comes ahead of a court hearing, scheduled for 3 August, on a directly related planning-approval process. The Secretary-General joins the United States and the European Union in expressing his deep concern about the demolition and displacement plans for Susiya. Earlier today my Deputy Special Coordinator visited the community. We hope that the ongoing dialogue between Israeli authorities and the herding community will protect the rights of the persons affected.

Against this backdrop intra-Palestinian talks to form a national unity government have faltered. I noted the efforts of President Abbas and Prime Minister Hamdallah to reshuffle the current government and called on them to proceed without delay to appointing the new ministers.

The reshuffling comes at a particularly sensitive time as the Palestinian Authority faces significant financial challenges, including a budget deficit of some $500 million for 2015. This gap cannot be closed through fiscal measures alone, and I urged donors to rapidly scale up their direct budget support. In this respect, it is also important to revive the functioning of the Israeli-Palestinian joint economic committee.

While first and foremost it is up to the Palestinian authorities to take the lead, the UN stands ready to support the President, the Government and all factions in their efforts to reunite the West Bank and Gaza, in line with the intra-Palestinian unity agreement of 23 April 2014.

Palestine is one and the UN will work determinedly to advance unity through its legitimate institutions.

At the end of my presentation I tured to the rest of the region and noted that the UN’s broad engagement continued during the reporting period. Following consultations with Syrian, regional and international parties, next week the Secretary-General and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura will be briefing the Security Council on their recommendations for moving the political track forward.

In Yemen, Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed extends his good offices with all parties to restart negotiations on a political transition.

In Libya, the UN remains engaged in facilitating talks aimed at ending the current political and security crisis through the formation of a Government of National Accord.

In Iraq, the UN is working to promote political dialogue in the hopes of encouraging national reconciliation.

In Lebanon, Mr. President, concerns grow that political differences are preventing the effective functioning of state institutions, despite Prime Minister Salam’s commendable efforts to run government. There has been no progress in efforts to end the Presidential vacuum. The Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag continues to urge Lebanon’s leaders to put the country’s stability and national interests ahead of partisan politics and elect a President without further delay.

Meanwhile, the situation along the Lebanese border with Syria has remained stable, with the Lebanese Armed Forces continuing their operations to prevent the infiltration of armed extremist groups from Syria. In the south, the situation along the blue line has remained generally calm, despite almost daily Israeli overflights over Lebanese territory. We encouraged both parties to continue to make effective use of UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination mechanisms.

I spoke of my deep concerned about UNRWA’s current unprecedented financial crisis. If the current gap of USD 100 million is not closed in the next weeks there is a serious risk that UNRWA schools, which educate 500,000 children throughout the Middle East, will not open. This will have grave implications for Palestine refugee children in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and for the stability and security of a region already in turmoil.

I strongly urged donors to step up their support for UNRWA at this critical time.

Turning back to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I reiterated our collective resolve to prevent a further deterioration of the situation; to uphold the two-state solution; and to create the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas recently spoke and reaffirmed their desire for peace. This is a welcome sign. But words need to be translated into concrete and sustained actions on the ground.

But I was also abundantly clear: measures undertaken to improve the situation must not be considered an end unto themselves but part of a broader political framework with the goal of achieving a final status agreement.

Now is the time to act decisively, to act in order to reverse the growing perception that the two-state solution is on life-support, slowly dying a death “by a thousand cuts”.

A comprehensive agreement will require committed engagement with key Arab states, including through the Arab Peace Initiative.

The Secretary-General stands ready to support both sides in order to overcome their divisions and to rise to the challenge of forging a path forward towards a peaceful future.

In closing, I place on record my deep appreciation for the support that the Security Council and the Secretariat have given to the excellent UNSCO team on the ground.

I also welcomeed Mr. Robert Piper of Australia as the new Deputy Special Coordinator who will also serve as the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

My unyielding optimism for #Iraq stems from the spirit of its people

18/02/2015 Leave a comment
My last presentation to the UN Security Council on Iraq

My last presentation to the UN Security Council on Iraq

Mr. President of the Security Council,
As I complete my tenure as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, to borrow a phrase, I remain a paranoid optimist. An optimist because despite the year-long security crisis, Iraq’s political, community and religious leaders have coalesced to save their country from terror. Today, more than ever, there is a growing understanding that Iraq can only move forward based on the principles of democracy, rule of law, respect for diversity and inclusivity. This understanding has been increasingly evident since the formation of a new national unity Government set on addressing many long-standing concerns of the Iraqi people. I am however also paranoid that things can go wrong — ISIL remains in control of most of Iraq’s western provinces, the fragile efforts towards unity and reconciliation need to be carefully nurtured if they are to bear fruit while the economy has been hit by falling oil prices and skyrocketing security costs.

Since its formation in September of last year, the Government has taken important steps in fulfilling its agenda. It has engaged countries in the region, all with a view to regaining the confidence of Iraq’s population in the political process and promoting stability. Whilst pursuing these objectives, Iraq’s most pressing goal remains to win back territory taken by ISIL. In this respect, the Government has taken important measures for security sector reform. The authorities have pledged to provide military and financial assistance to local leaders and tribal fighters to aid their struggle against ISIL. Since the beginning of the year, at least 4,000 Iraqis from Anbar and Ninewa have signed up as part of the popular forces, an important first step in securing local forces for the liberation of Iraq’s western provinces.

I encourage the Government to empower and quickly provide all necessary means to these local fighters as they seek to free their homes from ISIL while also supporting recovery and reconstruction. I also encourage the Council of Representatives to adopt the necessary legislation to establish the Iraqi National Guard so as to allow the provinces to take greater responsibility for their own security. In January the Government submitted to Parliament a bill to this effect.

Mr. President,
An exclusively military solution to the problem of ISIL is impossible; indeed, it would be counterproductive. I therefore welcome the consistent calls for unity by the President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament. Any effort to achieve unity through reconciliation must be based on the Constitution and the full participation of political, religious and community leaders from across Iraq. A particular focus must be put on increasing the role and participation of women. As such, UNAMI has strongly supported the Government’s national reconciliation and social cohesion agenda.
Recently, we convened in Baghdad a roundtable on social cohesion with prominent Iraqi political, religious and civil society representatives. They discussed a number of recommendations which were presented to the Government. Subsequently, the UN convened roundtables in Karbala and Basra, bringing together civil society, community, tribal and religious leaders and scholars, during which participants reiterated the importance of strengthening social and religious cohesion, as well as rectifying divisions within Iraqi society. The United Nations Development Programme is also expanding its community reconciliation programme at the grass-root level.

In addition to these developments, the relation between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government has been improving following their historic agreement on energy exports and revenue-sharing. Improved cooperation is also evident between the Iraqi security forces, the Peshmerga, volunteers, local communities and the forces of the anti-ISIL international coalition. This cooperation has been key in dealing with the most recent security threats, including to the city of Kirkuk, the al-Assad air base and elsewhere in the country.

Mr. President,
Despite these positive steps, the process is fraught with risks. Armed conflict and acts of terrorism continue to inflict a terrible toll on the people of Iraq. In 2014, at least 12,000 civilians were killed and over 23,000 were injured. Just in January this year alone, there were over 2,200 civilian casualties, including 790 killed and some 1,500 injured. Almost daily terrorist attacks continue to deliberately target all Iraqis, most notably from the Shi’ite community, as well as ethnic and religious minorities. The continued reports of massive human rights violations and abuses being committed by ISIL against civilians are gruesome. ISIL has made a point of not hesitating to openly publicise their crimes committed against men, women and children. The safety and security of members of Iraq’s diverse ethnic and religious communities in areas controlled by ISIL remain of grave concern, particularly the thousands of women and children who remain in captivity.
Equally worrying is the increasing number of reports of revenge attacks committed particularly against members of the Sunni community in areas liberated from ISIL.

All of these ongoing human rights violations present a serious threat to the cohesion of Iraq.

Some of Iraq’s recent military gains in Diyala, Salah al-Din and Ninewa governorates have been marred by claims that militias have killed unarmed civilians, and intentionally destroyed property and places of worship.
It is imperative that the Government act swiftly and decisively to bring under control all armed groups that are outside of the Constitution. Failing to do this risks to undermine the much needed process of national unity and reconciliation. Political parties, however, should also show restraint in their statements in the face of such acts that are clearly aimed at destroying Iraq’s social fabric.

It is in this respect that I welcome the Government’s decision to conduct a full investigation into the alleged massacre in Barwanah, Diyala. To paraphrase Prime Minister al-Abadi — a crime is a crime, no matter who has committed it and all responsible should be held accountable. It is also encouraging that today, as we speak, Iraq’s President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament are holding a joint meeting to identify measures to address these events in the recent days.

The Government faces the additional challenge of a fiscally-constrained environment. In a hallmark of success in January the Council of Representatives approved the 2015 budget. Despite very tight spending limits, due to the fall in oil revenue, spiralling security costs and a massively expanded public sector wage bill, Parliament was able to set aside some 500 million USD to help rebuild lives and livelihoods in those areas that are liberated from ISIL. The United Nations is working actively with the authorities to set up a Recovery and Reconstruction fund through which Iraq’s allies, neighbours and friends can contribute to this process as well.

Most urgently perhaps, Mr. President, the Iraqi authorities and the United Nations need to redouble our efforts at supporting over 2 million internally displaced who have been forced from their homes since January 2014. Let me recall to the Council the gravity of the situation on the ground by highlighting some numbers— 5.2 million people need humanitarian assistance in Iraq today, of them, 2.25 million are displaced and 235,000 are refugees from the country of Syria. To date the population of the Kurdistan Region has increased by some 30 percent because of the influx. Despite the generosity of local communities from across the country, one-third of IDPs in accessible areas are living in unfinished and abandoned buildings, make-shift shelters and spontaneous settlements. They are highly vulnerable and dependent on assistance to survive.

Mr. President; Honourable Members of the Security Council,
Let me sound the alarm bells: Sixty percent of humanitarian operations in Iraq are likely to shut down or be curtailed unless funding is received in the next few weeks. The food pipeline will break in mid-May unless funding is received before the end of March. The essential medicines pipeline will break at the end of March.

The UN humanitarian country team, led by the newly appointed Humanitarian Coordinator Ms. Lise Grande, has put together a list of fast track priorities which cannot be postponed or ignored. We urgently need some 150 million USD to support IDPs, whose life-saving and protection needs are enormous, and likely to grow.

I use this opportunity to appeal to the international community at a time when Iraq is highly vulnerable and when support for the humanitarian operation will make a decisive difference in the direction of the country ahead.

Mr. President,
As I conclude my mission in Iraq I would like to use this opportunity to send also a message to the Government of Iraq. I would like to encourage the Government to move swiftly on the full implementation of the Ministerial Programme and the Political Agreement. Those documents hold the key to seeing Iraq successfully move forward. Discussions on approving the necessary legislation for a national guard should be swiftly finalised. This is important in order to empower provinces to take more responsibility for their own security; it will also help ensure that all weapons are firmly under the control of the state. Most importantly, the Government should act decisively to rebuild the armed forces on a truly national basis.

Part of this political agreement that has been the basis of the formation of the government of national unity is to grant an amnesty and to revise the Justice and Accountability Law in order to allow Iraqis who have not committed crimes under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein to move forward with their lives and find their place in their country.

While tackling the security and political challenges, the social and economic agenda must also remain in focus. Addressing pockets of deep poverty, particularly in the South of the country, providing quality social services, providing a business climate for investment, fighting pervasive corruption, and perhaps most urgently— facilitating the return of displaced persons to their homes and rebuilding areas liberated from ISIL, all such policies are all key to social peace in Iraq.

I use this opportunity to assure the people and the Government of Iraq that the United Nations will continue to provide international assistance and expertise in this process.

Mr. President,
Let me turn now to the fifth report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 4 of resolution 2107 (2013) on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country-nationals, and property.

Iraq-Kuwait relations today continue to be on the ascendant. High-level Iraqi visits and the results of the fourth Joint Ministerial Committee meeting are very encouraging. Kuwait’s consulates in Basra and Erbil, when opened, will take Iraq-Kuwait relations to the next level.

I wish that I could report similar progress to the Council on the missing Kuwaitis and Kuwaiti national archives since the last report.

The Kuwaiti Government and the people of Kuwait are understandably disappointed that nothing tangible has been achieved for many years now. UNAMI shares this disappointment. We have placed much emphasis on witnesses and continue to emphasise that the most modern scientific advances and technology should be utilised. A UNAMI identified witness travelled recently to Kuwait. During the visit, for which UNAMI and the Iraqi Government had worked hard, regrettably did not yield anything substantial. Time remains our most formidable foe. Our team is working to reach another witness, who has been overseas and who Kuwait believes holds the key to identifying a gravesite which possibly contains as many as 180 mortal remains.

Let me assure the Council and the families of the Kuwaiti missing persons that the UN will continue to do its utmost to fulfil its mandate. Nonetheless, the key to achieving tangible progress is primarily in the hands of the parties themselves. The goodwill between Kuwait and Iraq is at its highest since 1990. I believe that this is a very opportune moment for their respective leaderships to come together on this important humanitarian issue, review efforts so far and decide on a new course of action. Resources, technology and a fresh approach may all be required. UNAMI stands as always ready to support this process.

Mr. President,
As I conclude my tenure as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Iraq, let me say on a more personal level how humbled I have been by the people of Iraq. For decades they have lived with dictatorship, with conflict and with terrorism, yet they persist in their determination to build a democratic state. Generations have been scarred and brought up in fear— fear of oppression, fear for their future, fear for their lives. Iraqi society has been deeply scarred and will take a long time to heal. But the medicine is to look forward to unity and reconciliation, not to turn to the failed policies of the past.

ISIL, Mr. President, flourishes when Iraq is weak and Iraq is weak when it is divided by sectarian politics, when political patronage overtakes national loyalty.

My unyielding optimism for the country however stems from the spirit of the ordinary Iraqi people— those who stood up to defend their country in the summer of last year, those who went out to vote despite car bombs and terrorist attacks, those Iraqis who do not care whether someone is Shi’ite, Sunni, Christian, Yezidi, Kurd, Arab, or any other community member. It is the overwhelming majority of ordinary Iraqis who have no foreign country to flee to, no foreign passport to rely on. These are the women and men who will build the new Iraq. And what we, in the international community, can and must do is to help them succeed.

We must support them in building democracy, without which the majority of Iraqis will not feel secure, nor will their human rights be protected.

We must work with them to achieve balance among their diverse communities inside the country, because without balance, violence and extremism will persist.

We must assist them in ensuring justice— not reprisal, for the crimes of the past and the violations of today.

And finally— we must grant the people of Iraq the respect and dignity that they deserve.

This is the noble mission of the United Nations in Iraq.

Honourable members of the Security Council,
Allow me to thank your governments and the Secretary-General for the unity that you have shown in supporting Iraq, for the unyielding support for UNAMI, and for the trust you have placed in me to lead this difficult mission.
I want to express my gratitude to my colleagues in the Mission, in the Secretariat and in the UN country team for their commitment, bravery and hard work throughout the years.

I would like to thank the Government and the people of Iraq for the hospitality that they have extended to me, for their friendship and for their daily courage to never give up in the face of terror.

Mr. President,
It has been an honour serving as the Secretary-General’s Representative for Iraq.

Thank you.

Categories: Iraq, Middle East, реч, speech, UN Tags: , ,

Европа днес е изправена пред най-важния избор в исторята си

09/05/2012 Leave a comment

снимка: БГНЕСПо повод Деня на Европа бях поканен да говоря на събитие на Пан-европейското движение в София. Ето речта ми:

Благодаря за поканата да говоря пред тази престижна аудитория в деня, в който отбелязваме три важни събития за България:

– края на Втората световна война в Европа, довела до най-голямата разруха в историята на нашия континент;
– раждането на европейския проект; и
– петата годишнина от членството на България в Европейския съюз.

Преди да говорим по третата тема, преди да свържем бъдещето на България в ЕС с въпроса накъде отива нашият съюз, е коректно да почетем паметта на милиони хора, които загубиха живота си в битките на Втората световна война. Нека никога не забравяме, че всички те – жертвите на конфликтите през първата половина на 20 век, трябва да бъдат почитани, защото без тях успешният проект на Европа би бил невъзможен.

Да ги почетем с едноминутно мълчание.

Благодаря ви.

***

 „Трябва да кажа, че рядко е имало в историята пример, една велика идея, да завладее в толкова кратко време (по-малко от три години) милиони сърца и да увлече не само мечтатели и утописти, каквито винаги е имало от векове насам в стремежа за един траен мир между народите, но и най-трезвени общественици и политици.” С тези думи проф. Иван Шишманов, в далечната 1927 г. описва учредителния пан-европейски конгрес, на който той участва от името на България. Няколко години по-късно Европа отново потъва в дебрите на братоубийствена война. След нейния край се ражда и това, което днес някои толкова обичат да мразят – Европейският съюз. По-късно Европа е разделена от Желязната завеса, а синът на проф. Шишманов – писателят Димитър Шишманов, заедно с много други български интелектуалци, е осъден и екзекутиран от т.нар. „Народен съд”.

80 години след учредяването на пан-европейското движение България, родината на проф. Иван Шишманов, е част от обединена Европа. Да, България се присъединява към ЕС близо 50 години след началото на европейската интеграция – не защото българският народ това е избрал, а заради разделението и комунистическата диктатура, която му се налага след края на войната.

Започвам по този начин, за да припомня една фундаментална истина, която, залисани в ежедневието, често забравяме. За България, за нашето общество, присъединяването към ЕС беше завръщане у дома. Българският народ не носи вина за това, че страната ни закъснява с включването си в европейския проект. Напротив – не само проф. Шишманов, но и много други свидетелстват за „евро-оптимизма” (както сега бихме казали) на българите през годините. И ако през 1945 г. страната ни беше имала избор, тя надали би избрала пътя, който й беше отреден за последвалите 50 години.

Днес обаче е време да оставим миналото и да погледнем напред. Цивилизационният избор на българското общество е окончателен. Той не подлежи на съмнение.

Днес пътят, по който нашето общество ще се развива, е въпрос на дебат. Ще изберем ли да се затворим в себе си и да критикуваме Европа, или ще изберем да се възползваме от правилата и свободата в ЕС и да даваме идеи за бъдещето? Ще изберем ли да гледаме само как да привлечем т.нар „европейски фондове” или ще мислим как да генерираме растеж, който да ни даде повече конкурентост и по-добър социален модел на развитие? И може би най-болезненият въпрос, който най-рядко си задаваме – ще изберем да развиваме България като съвкупност от успели индивиди и богати личности или ще градим България като успяло и богато общество?

Не знам какъв избор ще направи обществото ни, но знам че той зависи от избора на всеки един от нас.

Ако изберем да се затваряме и критикуваме, ще заприличаме на онези европейци, които, макар най-печеливши от европейската интеграция, хвърлиха върху Европа вината за собствените си неуспехи. Всички видяхме резултата – крайните леви, националистически и популистки партии излизат напред.

Ако изберем да се възползваме от правилата и свободата в ЕС, ще си дадем сметка, че модернизацията на съдебната ни система не е нужна, за да се задоволи амбиция на някой чиновник в Брюксел, а е очакване на всеки български гражданин. Затова и усилията, които в първите пет години на членството полагаме в тази посока, са толкова важни и вече дават резултат.

Ако изберем да гледаме напред, ще си дадем сметка, че не можем да искаме да бъдем по-богати или по-успешни, ако нашите съседи на Балканите не са част от общия ни европейски дом, не се подчиняват на същите правила като нас. Защото ние повече от другите трябва отдавна да сме научили, че докато успехът на едни на Балканите идва за сметка на други – всички губим.

Ако изберем да разчитаме на Европа само за финансиране, ще постигнем много, но не достатъчно. В период на финансова криза парите ще стават все по-оскъдни, а когато парите са по-малко, е два пъти по-важно за какво ги харчим. Затова трябва да положим максимални усилия да инвестираме нашите европейски средства в инфраструктура и проекти, които генерират работни места и имат максимална икономическа възвращаемост за обществото.

Ако изберем да мислим как да генерираме икономически растеж, обаче, ще сме свършили още повече работа. За съжаление през последните месеци Европа затъва в грешен дебат, който може да има катастрофални последици за всички нас. Дебат, който напомня на безсмисления спор от преди години дали ЕС трябва да се разширява или задълбочава.  Днес, от перспективата на времето всички виждаме, че не разширяването е причината за сегашната криза. Новите страни членки не са в основата на дълговите проблеми на Европа.

Днес сме изправени пред още по-опасен дебат. Все по-често се задава въпросът дали трябва да изберем да заложим на финансовата дисциплина и ограничаването на разходите, или трябва да отпуснем финансовата дисциплина и да харчим повече, за да излезем от кризата. Отговорът, който Европа ще даде на този въпрос, може да бъде нейният край или началото на нейното възраждане.

Време е както в България, така и в Европа, да избягаме от този грешен дебат и да кажем на нашите колеги в ЕС:

Не, скъпи приятели, изборът днес не е между финансовата дисциплина и повече харчене. Нито е между повече или по-малко Европа. Днес цяла Европа трябва да има смелостта да направи – а не да отлага – структурните реформи, ако иска да оцелее. България може да е най-бедната страна в ЕС, но исторически погледнато е страната в ЕС, която най-бързо преструктурира своята икономика в периода на прехода. Да, цената беше висока – падаха правителства, сменяха се политически елити, имаше социално напрежение, но днес нашата страна е фискално най-дисциплинираната в ЕС, с най-добрите начални позиции да излезе от кризата. Нашата икономика е част от общия пазар и е в наш национален интерес единната валута да успее. Голяма част от нашия износ е насочен към страните от еврозоната и несигурността създава проблем за всички нас. Фискалният пакт не подлежи на предоговаряне, но пазарите трябва бъдат убедени, че Еврозоната има достатъчно добра защита, че европейските банки са адекватно рекапитализирани и че проблемите в страни като Гърция са успешно решени. Да, България няма социалната система, която старите държави-членки имат. Всички бихме искали да я имаме, защото няма българин, който да не се срамува от ниските пенсии, който да не страда от бедността. Но България си дава сметка, че за да изгради такава система, ние трябва да генерираме реален икономически растеж, а не да взимаме пари назаем и да обречем бъдещите поколения на дълговата криза, от която еврозоната сега се бори да излезе.

Затова, уважаеми колеги, не поставяйте на карта бъдещето на Европа, задавайки грешни въпроси. Съсредоточете усилията си върху структурните реформи, които трябва да направите, за да може ЕС да продължи да бъде най-привлекателният модел за подражание пред целия свят. Без структурни промени, вглъбени в себе си, няма да успеем да се противопоставим на глобалните ни конкуренти. Постепенно нашето влияние ще ерозира, постепенно доверието в нашите институции ще се разпадне.

Начинът, по който можем да се противопоставим на кризата днес, е като хванем бика за рогата.

  1. Трябва да разширим единния пазар, да насърчим свободната търговия, да намалим на бюрокрацията и да използваме бюджета на ЕС за стимулиране на иновации и конкурентоспособност. Общият пазар е в сърцето на Европа, но все още съществуват пречки. Ние трябва да дерегулираме професии, да либерализираме сектора на услуги, смело да погледнем към нови хоризонти. Ето три конкретни идеи:
    1. Европа спешно се нуждае от общ енергиен пазар: не само от либерализация на пазара на газ и електричество, но и от изграждане на междусистемни връзки.
    2. Единен пазар на дигиталните услуги е следващата посока, по която трябва да тръгнем, за да бъдем конкурентноспособни. Твърде много бариери все още блокират свободния поток на онлайн услуги отвъд националните граници. Единният пазар днес не е готов за дигиталната ера. Затова трябва да създадем единно пространство за онлайн разплащания, както и допълнителна защита на потребителите в киберпространството на ЕС.
    3. Няма как да избягаме и от нуждата от интегриран отбранителен пазар. В момента харчим прекалено много пари за отбрана, а получаваме прекалено малко като резултат. Интегрирането на европейския отбранителен пазар ще помогне на нашите индустрии, ще създаде повече работни места и ще позволи на правителствата да получават повече в замяна на средствата, които инвестират в отбрана.
  2. Трябва да насърчим свободната търговия. 2012 може да бъде годината на европейските търговски споразумения: като завършим преговорите с Индия, Канада и Сингапур и започнем преговори до лятото с Япония, с което да вкараме импулс в икономическото сближаване между ЕС и стратегическите ни партньори. Само тези споразумения могат да донесат на ЕС 90 милиарда евро брутен вътрешен продукт. Затова не трябва да се поддаваме на изкушението на протекционизма.
  3. Трябва да намалим тежестта за бизнеса, тук в България, но и в ЕС.  Колко пъти всички сме чували, че европейските регулации имат отрицателен ефект? Затова трябва да възприемем правилото, че всеки закон, директива или регламент, който приемаме, трябва да бъде оценен първо по това дали създава допълнителна тежест върху малкия бизнес или не. Затова периодично трябва да преглеждаме законодателството и да видим дали някъде нещо не се е превърнало в пречка. Затова българското правителство е обещало да намали тежестта върху бизнеса с 20% до края 2012 г., но тази тенденция трябва да бъде в цяла Европа.
  4. Европа има нужда да се фокусира повече върху иновации и инфраструктура за модерна икономика. Свързването на европейските енергийни мрежи е една от основните цели тук; усилията на България да построи интерконекторни връзки с Турция, Гърция и Румъния са важни стъпки както за страната, така и за целия регион. Освен това ние трябва да направим европейските фондове за изследвания и инвестиции по-гъвкави и лесни за използване. Както президентът Плевнелиев каза във встъпителното си слово, иновацията е сърцето на растежа. Европа трябва да създаде възможно най-добрата среда за предприемачи и изобретатели, за да могат те да превърнат своите идеи в печеливши проекти и така да създадат работни места.
  5. И накрая, да се върнем в нашия регион. ЕС не трябва да се страхува от разширяването си, напротив – трябва да го приветства. То е ключът към развитието, сигурността и просперитета на Балканите. Затова няма да се уморя да повтарям, че българският национален интерес е разширяването на съюза ни именно тук, на Балканския полуостров.

И така, кое в тези пет приоритета, зад които застава България, виждате противоречие между тезата за ограничаването на разходите и тезата за стимулирането на икономическия растеж? Аз не виждам. Това, което виждам, са практически и политически послания към Европа, към нас самите за това какво можем да направим оттук нататък, за да докажем, че Европа е силна и продължава да е привлекателен модел за подражание. Тогава и европейската външна политика няма да бъде сбор от най-малкото общо кратно, а ще бъде подплатена с мощта на 28 държави и силата на тяхното обединение.

Казвайки всичко това, все пак е хубаво да си отговорим на въпроса „Защо се стигна до тук, защо стана така?”

 Може би защото на своята територия ЕС стана напълно безалтернативен проект. И с това го направихме официозен и беззащитен, удобна мишена на крайно леви и крайно десни политици, които се упражняваха върху идеята, за да стигнат до свои избиратели. Защото ние, европейците натоварихме европейската идея с нереалистични очаквания, които често заменяха устрема ни за промяна. Защото много политици в Европа решиха, че е честно да говориш навън за правила, а вкъщи да не ги спазваш. Но може би най-вече защото издигнахме европейската идея до статута на непозната свръх сила, която е извън нас, но е способна да оправи всички грешки, които правим – и то без наше участие.

Нека не забравяме, че днес ние не сме просто получатели на експертна помощ или европейски фондове, дори не само “настигащи” стара Европа. България и другите нови държави-членки допринасят за различни важни дебати, като променят традиционни баланси. Например:

  • Без нас дебатът за ролята на държавата, за това колко може да харчи правителството за сметка на следващите поколения не би се провел по същия начин;
  • Без политиката да не приемаме демокрацията за даденост, да виждаме и осъждаме тоталитарното минало, да помагаме активно на страните от Арабското пробуждане би изглеждала по друг начин;
  • Без всички нас дебат за обща европейска енергийна политика, основана на диверсификация, свързаност и ефективност, нямаше да се случи.
  • И накрая, без България и страните от петото разширяване,  трансатлантическата връзка и стратегическото партньорство между Европа и САЩ нямаше да има плътността, която има днес.

Едва ли през 2007 г. сме си представяли, че 5 години по-късно ще говорим за криза и загуба на доверие. Погледнато от друга страна България има шанс да е един от моделите, които показват, че Европа е жива и реална. У нас поривът към реформи не е замрял. Може би заради ниското ни самочувствие като европейци, което сега трябва да превърнем в източник на гордост. Или заради това, че влязохме сред последните, пазим европейската солидарност. Вероятно и заради тоталитарното ни минало и това, че последни извървяхме прехода си, сме по-чувствителни към несвободи, но и по-адекватни на промените, които стават около нас, особено в съседните ни страни и в Близкия изток и Сверена Африка.

Но има една причина, поради която ние в България нямаме право да губим ентусиазма си за бъдещето на Европа, и това е защото знаем трудността на присъединяването, но и добре познаваме притегателната сила на ЕС. Затова не се отказваме и няма да се откажем. Както е казал великият български поет Никола Вапцаров “А по-добре е да подгониш вятъра, отколкото да седнеш и да плачеш.”

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