One of Europe’s most prominent and vocal foreign ministers has dismissed talk of gloom and doom in Europe, raised questions about some aspects of the so-called Asian century, and resolved to try and make Europe more like Australia.
Radek Sikorsky, foreign minister of Poland, in his only major speech on an official visit to Australia and New Zealand this week, told a packed audience at the Australian Institute of International Affairs in Sydney that the idea that Europe was doomed was a “furphy”.
“Let’s move away from media headlines to real life”, he said. “ EU countries generate roughly a quarter of the world GDP. That’s more than the United States. It’s more than the combined GDP of China, Japan and the ten ASEAN countries.
“The EU is the largest aid donor in the world – more than half the money spent on helping poor countries comes from the the EU and its member countries. And the EU is the world’s biggest exporter, and the second biggest importer…..Europe is big and strong, and will be bigger and stronger when we set upour transatlantic trade and investment area with the United States”.
Mr Sikorski noted that the EU was Australia’s leading investor – with $637 billion at the end of 2011 – 31 per cent of total foreign investment.
Poland’s foreign minister, who has a reputation for frankness and recently and very publicly advised Britons to stay in the EU – said he believed the eurozone would come through its present crisis, and pledged that Poland, now the world’s 20th largest economy, would join when the time was right, probably by the end of this decade.
But he conceded that Europe’s share of global wealth will steadily decline. “So will Australia’s”, he said.”That is unavoidable. Demographic forces work their way down the generations.”, while pointing out Asia’s two leading economies, China and Japan both had an ageing problem similar to that in Europe.
Turning to the Far East, Mr Sikorski said it was hard to spot any one ‘Asian model’.”
“It’s obvious what ‘Asia’ doesn’t want. No hangover colonial instincts. Europeans and Americans thinking that nothing has changed, carrying on as if they and they alone set global rules.
“But just as Europe has to shoulder the responsibility for putting its house in order, Asia has to accept its fair share of responsibility. Helping manage problems that pose systemic risks to global order. Climate change. Piracy. Sensible taxes for multinationals. Corruption. Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
“These are all tough shared problems. They require shared action. Europeans looks to the capitals of Asia, Beijing in particular, to articulate what Asia wants. “