Stubbing out hypocrisy Nov 11th 2010, 11:59 by E.L. FINLAND is not technically part of "eastern Europe" but this blog has long argued that the term is meaningless anyway. And as Alexander Stubb is in London, I am bending the rules a little and featuring his speech today at the LSE. The only thing I don't like about it is the title. "Dignified foreign policy" has echoes of stiff-upper-lip decline management of the kind that British diplomats have practised over the past 60 years. But the speech itself is well worth reading in full. His main argument is that the "west" (ie EU and America) has largely failed in promoting democracy and human rights because we are so blind to our own imperfections. Mr Stubb quotes the former Finnish president Paasikivi, who said (roughly) that "acknowledging the truth is the beginning of wisdom".One of his catchphrases is "strategic partnerships". Again, it's an overused term, but what he says has meat in it.First, we must know what we want and define our goals: the EU wants security, rule of law, market access, environmental protection and respect of human rights. Breaking these into components that are relevant and potentially acceptable to the partners is a different challenge altogether. We should conduct a thorough assessment of our interests with every strategic partner and also bring up the difficult issues, such as human rights. While doing this, we should aim at results and not go around “lecturing and hectoring”, as Prime Minister Cameron put it in Beijing on Tuesday.Second, we must truly understand our partners: If we want to create a real partnership, we must develop a deep understanding of the partner’s values, attitudes, domestic situation and foreign policy goals. Values are becoming more relevant in foreign policy again, as many of the new players have worldviews that differ from ours. We must also look in the mirror and try to understand how our partners perceive us. High Representative Ashton’s trip to China before the EU-China –summit was a good game opener in this sense.Third, we must make sure all parties benefit from the co-operation. Successful summits provide deliverables for everyone; Take president Obama’s recent visit to India for example. This is an area where the EU has, understandably, not excelled, since reaching agreement over concessions can be difficult between 27 member states. Let’s be honest here: when was the last time we changed EU legislation, or even practices, in response to Chinese or Indian wishes – if not ordered to do so by the WTO? It seems a bit unfair to expect the others to do something we aren’t prepared to do ourselves.He finishes with three "commandments" to the EU. I like the idea of Finland commanding other countries. Perhaps he is taking a leaf out of Carl Bildt's book. (He is meeting William Hague today in an unusual trilateral-bilateral, along with his abrasive but brainy Swedish counterpart).First commandment: Put our own house in order. If we want to influence others, we have to inspire them and lead by example. From a foreign policy point of view, restoring European competitiveness, creating the conditions for robust economic growth and consolidating public finances are necessary to improve our credibility. We will never reach the growth pace of China or India, but their catching-up effect won’t last forever, either.We have to live up to our own standards, be it on trade policy or human rights. If we want market access in the emerging economies, we must make sure our own markets remain open. And if we want the Chinese to treat their ethnic minorities better, the Middle East countries to protect their religious minorities or several African countries to accept their sexual minorities, we must strive for perfection ourselves. We have a lot to do with our Roma minorities, for example.Second commandment: Speak with one voice. The Lisbon Treaty offers us a chance to take on a world role compatible with our economic weight. It has to happen now or it will not happen for a long, long time: the decisions of the coming years will shape the global order for decades to come. If we want to play a global role in the future, we must support the EU’s common representatives whole-heartedly and give Cathy Ashton some breathing space and oxygen. We must also turn the strategic partnerships into practical tools and, finally, we must make our national resources and networks – like the Commonwealth or la Francophonie – serve common European interests as well. I am not talking about abolishing national foreign policies – after all, I am a foreign minister myself – but about being a bit more flexible.Third commandment: Speak softly and carry a big carrot. We have to adapt to a situation where European norms and values face genuine opposition and cannot be universally dictated to others. Rule of law and promotion of democracy and human rights form the essence of the European Union. I am not saying we should abandon this. But I am saying we must change our approach.That's blunt stuff by foreign-minister standards. Stubbing out hypocrisy is a good cause.
We have to live up to our own standards, be it on trade policy or human rights. If we want market access in the emerging economies, we must make sure our own markets remain open. And if we want the Chinese to treat their ethnic minorities better, the Middle East countries to protect their religious minorities or several African countries to accept their sexual minorities, we must strive for perfection ourselves. We have a lot to do with our Roma minorities, for example.
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