Plenary speech on the Common Foreign and Security Policy

Marietje Schaake (ALDE) - Mr President, Madam High Representative, this is the last time we will debate the annual CFSP in the current configuration of Parliament and with yourself as our High Representative. As we take stock, we need no reminders of the urgent need for strong, strategic, European foreign and security policy. With a confident Russia bullying not only its own citizens but also Member States of the EU and vital neighbours through politicising trade, we must stand firmly and take care not to be played apart. The US is choosing to no longer be the world superpower as it seeks to take a step back, and perhaps this is understandable – but who takes the place of leadership in defending and promoting free societies, free markets and, most of all, free people? Especially with regard to human rights and fundamental freedoms, the US has lost credibility, and this should be Europe’s moment. We can use the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to strengthen our alliance, but not without cementing our values. The Middle East is more fragile than ever. With an average age of 26, the young generation needs opportunities for self-determination yet are lured by hopelessness and also extremism. Syria, of course, represents the most horrific of examples. The horror and the suffering should not be forgotten, and while there are no easy solutions, certainly the US-Russia initiative to deal with the chemical weapons is not a solution to all problems, nor was the breaking of the European weapons embargo, under the leadership of France and the UK. I am happy with European leadership when it comes to humanitarian aid – we take our responsibility. But we must do more, because I am afraid we have not seen the worst yet. A divided Europe is a weak Europe that is played apart, and with our basis not in order, opportunities are difficult to reap. I believe we must test the words of opening from Iran, and the EU needs its own strategy. We should not merely be a facilitator for talks between the US and Iran, as the US Congress is pushing for more sanctions. This is the moment for Europe to act independently and forcefully. We must take our responsibility militarily. Soft power and hard power go hand in hand, and I am afraid we should push harder to put the silver thread of human rights back on top of the agenda.