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Commentary

60 years of the Rome Treaties

/ 01:06 AM March 25, 2017

Today the European Union marks 60 years since the signing of the Rome Treaties, the first step toward a united Europe. The contrast between six decades of peace, prosperity and security and the first half of the 20th century could not be greater. Two wars between 1914 and 1945 left millions dead and a continent devastated, divided and prostrate. For countries that had long been at war, European integration has been the most successful peace project in history.

But we are living in unpredictable times. The anniversary of the Rome Treaties is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the values and objectives on which the European project is founded, and to take ambitious steps forward.

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The world is going through a time of uncertainty: The balance of power is shifting and the rules-based international order is too often questioned. The European Union will be an increasingly vital power to preserve and strengthen the global order. It is the second global economy, the largest market, and the leading foreign investor in most parts of the globe. It has achieved a strong position by acting with one voice on the global stage, by playing a key role in removing barriers to trade, and by concluding bilateral trade deals around the world.

We stand for sustainable development, inclusive societies, the fight against all inequalities—in education, in democracy, and in human rights. For us, this is not charity: It is also a smart investment in our own security and prosperity. We are increasingly active as a security provider. We stand for multilateralism, for human rights, for cooperation.

The EU is the world’s largest provider of development and humanitarian aid. Our aid goes to around 150 countries and increasingly focuses on the poorest places in the world.

We stand for better rules that protect people against abuse, and expand rights and raise standards. It is thanks to our engagement that the global community has set up innovative agreements like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In a world of reemerging power politics, we will have an even more significant role to play.

A more fragile environment calls for greater engagement. This is why the European Union will continue to support the United Nations: Our cooperation with it covers peace missions, diplomatic efforts, human rights, tackling hunger, and fighting criminality. We are also an active partner of many regional organizations.

The European Union stands ready to help those affected by natural and manmade disasters. In 2013, Typhoon “Yolanda” hit the Philippines. In response, the EU adopted a special measure to help finance the Yolanda Reconstruction Program to the amount of 10 million euros, and, in addition, provided humanitarian assistance worth 30 million euros.

One thing is certain: The EU will continue to put promoting international peace and security, development cooperation, human rights and responding to humanitarian crises at the heart of its foreign and security policies.

The EU has been sharing its values, knowledge, resources, experiences and culture with the Philippines. Trade is one obvious area in our growing and deepening relations. The EU is the largest foreign investor in this country, providing an estimated 500,000 jobs. And the Philippines is taking advantage of the GSP+ status, with duty-free exports worth around 1.6 billion euros in 2016. These benefits will help the country economically, and also strengthen the implementation of international conventions on labor rights, environment protection, governance and human rights. Negotiations for a free trade agreement would lead to opportunities for Filipino business and people far beyond what recent deals have shown.

Development cooperation has grown substantially through the years, promoting inclusive growth and the strengthening of the rule of law. The EU will continue its role in the peace process in Mindanao. We are confident that the cornerstones of lasting peace will soon be firmly laid down. After all, peace is in the DNA of the European Union.

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Franz Jessen is the ambassador of the European Union.

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TAGS: European Union, Franz Jessen, Inquirer Commentary, Inquirer Opinion, Rome Treaties
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