Ladies & Gentlemen,

When these historic changes swept through the Arab world, they
stirred a mixture of deep emotions from those watching, both within
the region and beyond. There was fear: of bloodshed and regional
instability, of a rise of extremism, and uncertainty about what was
yet to come. But overwhelmingly the world looked on with solidarity,
understanding and hope.

We in Europe, geographically so close, and with our societies so
deeply involved with those in the countries experiencing these
upheavals, we were also acutely aware that the changes – and the
risks and opportunities that lay ahead – would directly affect us, as

Of course expectations ran high. It was tempting to read the events
in Tunis or Cairo as the opening pages of a fairytale… But this is
the book of history. It contains dark pages too – some of them
tragically being written at this very moment. And we are bound by a
simple truth: achieving lasting change takes time. New democratic
institutions don’t run smoothly by magic. Turning economies around
or creating jobs for millions of young men and women doesn’t
happen at the wave of a wand. Deep tensions don’t suddenly
dissolve once a dictator has gone.

The long path of transition lies ahead. There will undoubtedly be
disappointments along the way; there will be wrong turns, hurdles
and setbacks. But I firmly believe that despite the difficulties, this
journey is heading in the right direction.

And there is no going back. Whatever the future brings, the Arab
Spring will remain a turning point. The movement is irreversible.
Once the voices of the people have been set free – an
unforgettable experience for all those who were never heard before
– these voices cannot be silenced.

It is each country’s responsibility to chart its own course and to do
justice to the aspirations of its people. The European Union is
committed to staying by their side every step along the way. We are
in it for the long run. I want to reaffirm: we still believe in the
message of the Arab Spring.

Europeans are well-placed to recognise that political change is not
painless and does not happen overnight. We know about long
transitions. When European integration first started, within my
lifetime, a majority of the countries that are now its members were
not yet democracies. For us, a transition of such magnitude should
not be judged by its speed but by its direction, and by progress
achieved through countless steps forward.

The starting point is free and fair elections, and we therefore salute
the achievements of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and of other countries in
successfully organising democratic elections, in which many
citizens voted freely for the first time in their lives – elections for
which we were happy to lend expertise to national and local

In order to ultimately bring jobs, social justice and freedom of
expression to all, this gigantic democratic process will have to
overcome, every single day, the obstacles of corruption, of red tape,
of economic privileges, and maintain the political determination to
ensure inclusiveness. An important effort, to which many contribute.

For our part, across the region, we offer advice to entrepreneurs
and officials, we help train judges and policemen, we support
journalists and civil society groups.

In our experience societies are stronger when women are fully able
to take part in the political and economic lives of their countries,
when their voices are heard, their choices respected.

There may be temptations, once power is gained, to refuse to grant
to some the rights that until recently were withheld from all. But a
democracy can only flourish when it gives all its people — whatever
their gender, religion, language or ethnic identity — an equal say
and equal rights, guaranteed in law and in practice.
Finally, neighbours can achieve more when they work together —
and that is why we share experience from our own European Union
on issues like connecting energy networks or removing regional
obstacles to trade.

Mr President,

Bringing together and reconciling former enemies in a common
desire for peace, democracy and prosperity has been one of the
European Union’s great achievements.

Respect, tolerance and non-violence are the core values without
which living together harmoniously is not possible.

These are fragile values: sustaining them requires constant
attention, especially in a global, digital world, in which messages of
all kind can spread faster than ever and can easily be exploited.
Tolerance is the ability to withstand criticism, to offer dialogue, to
refrain from violence; as such it shows self-confidence. At the same
time respect for the faith and beliefs of others is a key value for
living together. Tolerance and respect acquire their full meaning in
an open society that protects freedom of expression. Each and
every one of us in this room has a responsibility in defending and
promoting tolerance, in and between our countries as well as
respect. Violence, killings as that of U.S. Ambassador Christopher
Stevens, can never be justified, regardless of their motivations.

Mr President,

Today I join the voice of Europe to those who have spoken to
deplore the civil war raging in Syria. Confronted with the massacre
of tens of thousands of people, the world has united in horror and
condemnation, but — we must be frank — so far we have not been
able to stop the brutal violence.

Of course, Europe and others provide humanitarian support to
refugees, of course we support the individuals who risk their lives
collecting evidence of the massacres, of course our diplomats in
Damascus do their utmost to support the UN’s efforts for a peaceful
solution, but we will remain powerless unless the international
community unites in a common determination to end this senseless
violence, which threatens to wreak havoc in the whole region.

Mr. Secretary General,

I should like to commend your excellent work and strong
commitment as well as that of Special Envoy Mr. Brahimi to find a
solution to overcome this tragedy. I also welcome the initiatives
aimed at bringing together the main regional players, in a coherent
international approach. Earlier this year, European leaders called
upon all Members of the Security Council to work together in an
effort to stop the violence. Today this call is even more urgent.
The country needs to advance quickly towards a Syrian-led political
transition, meeting the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people,
while fully respecting the civil and human rights of minorities. It is
the only way out. Those responsible for the repression have no
place in the future of Syria and must step aside.

The longer this conflict continues, the more radicalised people will
become, the more blood will needlessly be shed, and the longer it
will take for the wounds to heal.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

The security situation remains complex and fragile in many parts of
the world.

The events of the Arab Spring should not distract us from the urgent
task of achieving peace in the Middle East — quite the contrary.

And other issues are pressing, including:
• Addressing instability and the humanitarian situation in the
Sahel region.
• Bringing peace and stability to the region of the Great Lakes;
• Convincing the DPRK to abandon its nuclear weapons and
missile programmes.
• Finding a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, a
matter to which the European Union is directly committed.

We must address all these concerns, knowing that lasting solutions
requires political will from the countries involved. In the same spirit it
is important that tensions in East and South-East Asian maritime
areas subside and that disputes are settled peacefully in a spirit of
cooperation and in respect of international law.

There are many global challenges that we have to tackle together.
But from fighting climate change to reducing poverty around the
world, without multilateral cooperation we will not succeed.

This is why the European Union fully supports a stronger more
effective and more efficient United Nations

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Citizens in all our countries want jobs. Here also, global cooperation
is indispensable and is the best way to ensure the world’s economic

Our economies have become completely interdependent: no
country can solve its own issues alone; no country can afford to
ignore the problems of others.

Do we know this? Yes. Do we act upon this knowledge? Not

In 2008, at the start of the global financial crisis, there was a brief
moment of global awareness, a sense of urgency which led to new
forums, joint pledges and coordinated action.

Today, although the crisis is still with us, this post-Lehman resolve
seems to have waned, and we must revive it.

All major economies need to do their part in putting the world
economy back on the path of growth. Global growth depends on
structural reforms in each of our countries and on reducing the
macro-economic imbalances between them.

Within Europe, we are doing our part of this work. No effort is
spared to overcome the current difficulties in the Eurozone.
We have been setting up stronger firewalls to guarantee the stability
of our common currency; we are reforming our economies to
become more competitive and create jobs for the future. We have
started building a banking union to better manage and contain
financial sector risk; and in the coming months we will be defining
the perspective for where we are headed, where we want our
economic and monetary Union to be in ten years time.

We have come a long way already, and today we are seeing the
first results of this collective endeavour. Although there is still some
way to go, I am confident that these efforts will be met with success
and that Europe will come out of this experience stronger,
economically and politically.