60th anniversary of Rome TreatiesOn March 25, the European Union celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Rome Treaties, an important step toward a united Europe. The citizens of the European Union have enjoyed six decades of unprecedented peace, prosperity and security. The contrast to the first half of the 20th century is striking. Two catastrophic world wars that originated in Europe between 1914 and 1945 left millions dead and the continent devastated and divided. European integration — based on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, is the most successful peace project in history. The European Union is ready to share its experiences in reconciliation and integration as Korea looks to build regional cooperation and a future unified Korean peninsula.
During the last 60 years the EU has transformed itself from a small community of six countries into a smart power of close to 30 nations operating on a global scale. The EU sees its relationship with the Korea, one of its 10 Strategic Partners and the only one with which it has political, security and trade agreements as of paramount importance in tackling the key challenges of the 21st century. The EU-Korea Framework Agreement (2010) amounts to a political declaration to work together on the key challenges of the 21st century, including fighting climate change, securing peace and human rights, countering terrorism, and ensuring energy security amongst many other issues.
The EU is the second largest global economy and the biggest global market. It is Korea’s third largest trade partner and its biggest source of foreign investment. A driving force within the WTO, the EU stands by its bilateral trade treaties, thus contributing to stability and predictability. The EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (2011) was the first of a new generation of free trade agreements. Its success is rooted in its comprehensive nature, not only eliminating tariffs for industrial and agricultural goods but also tackling non-tariff barriers to improve market access and investment opportunities for Korean and EU businesses. The FTA with Korea has become a benchmark in negotiating with other partners.
Strategic partners have a broader view extending beyond bilateral cooperation and taking on global responsibilities. The participation of Korea’s Navy in the EU’s crisis management operation off the coast of Somalia to fight piracy and secure vital shipping lanes is a concrete example of joint cooperation. This is the first joint operation under the new EU-Korea agreement on crisis management missions (2016).
We are also ready to join hands to promote sustainable development, as well as inclusive and equal societies. As a former aid recipient turned aid donor, Korea has a specific experience to share. The EU and its member states invest more in development cooperation and humanitarian aid than the rest of the world combined. As the world’s largest financial donor of development aid, the EU was instrumental in planning the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The European Union also played a leading role in setting up other innovative agreements such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development.
A more fragile international environment calls for greater engagement, not for retrenchment. This is why the EU remains committed to effective multilateralism. EU cooperation with the UN covers peace missions, human rights, tackling hunger and fighting organized crime. The EU works with the UN to implement its policies including sanctions against the DPRK, to which it has added its own autonomous sanctions. Having been instrumental in negotiating the agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme, the EU is ready to contribute to promoting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.
On the global scene, the European Union also stands ready to help those affected by natural and man-made disasters. Humanitarian crises continue to take a heavy toll internationally, and in 2016 the EU allocated relief assistance of more than €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion) for food, shelter, protection and health care to 120 million people in more than 80 countries.
The EU has been, since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the largest single donor of humanitarian aid to care for the millions of men, women and children displaced by the conflict. Any country in the world can call on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism for help, be it Haiti, Japan, the Ukraine or Korea after the oil spill off the coast of Taean. Although a regional power the EU is active worldwide, particularly in Asia.
Twenty out of the 28 EU Member States, as well as the EU, have diplomatic missions in Seoul. Just as our Heads of State and senior officials interact on a daily basis in Europe, so ambassadors and diplomatic staff meet regularly in Seoul to work together as a Union. For the last 60 years, Europeans have seen that we are stronger together. In this spirit, we are convinced that the EU and Korea will also be stronger together in facing the challenges and embracing the opportunities of tomorrow. In turbulent times the EU remains a reliable partner on the global scene.
Join us in celebrating our 60th anniversary as we look forward to a future together.
*The column was signed by 21 ambassadors from EU member states and the EU.
H.E. Michael REITERER - EU Ambassador-designate
H.E. Elisabeth BERTAGNOLI - Ambassador of Austria
H.E. Adrien THEATRE - Ambassador of Belgium
H.E. Petar ANDONOV - Ambassador of Bulgaria
H.E. Tomáš HUSÁK - Ambassador of the Czech Republic
H.E. Thomas LEHMANN - Ambassador of Denmark
H.E. Eero SUOMINEN - Ambassador of Finland
H.E. Fabien PENONE - Ambassador of France
H.E. Stephan AUER - Ambassador of Germany
H.E. Dionisios SOURVANOS - Ambassador of Greece
H.E. Gábor CSABA - Ambassador of Hungary
H.E. Aingeal O’DONOGHUE - Ambassador of Ireland
H.E. Marco DELLA SETA - Ambassador of Italy
H.E. Pēteris VAIVARS - Ambassador of Latvia
H.E. Lody EMBRECHTS - Ambassador of the Netherlands
H.E. Krzysztof MAJKA - Ambassador of Poland
H.E. António QUINTEIRO NOBRE - Ambassador of Portugal
H.E. Mihai CIOMPEC - Ambassador of Romania
H.E. Milan LAJČIAK - Ambassador of Slovakia
H.E. Gonzalo ORTIZ - Ambassador of Spain
H.E. Anne HÖGLUND - Ambassador of Sweden