Yesterday was Europe Day, the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the EU’s achievements in promoting democracy, human rights, peace and prosperity on the European continent. For these efforts, the EU was awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. We see this great honour as a call to not only commemorate our past achievements but also look forward to how we can take this work further in the future.
Even in today’s Europe, democracy is a constant work in progress; it needs to be valued and protected. We share a responsibility to safeguard democracy, not just on our own continent, but around the world.
Since 2009 the High Representative Catherine Ashton has led the European External Action Service (EEAS) to this purpose. Its work contributes to the EU promotion of its values and interests around the world.
Human rights are the silver thread that runs through EU foreign policy, assisting democratic transitions around the globe and helping oppressed minorities, social groups and NGOs to voice their concerns.
Within the current difficult economic situation, extremism of all kinds and populism are on the rise. In this context it is even more important to defend the European project based on freedom, solidarity, tolerance and diversity.
Those democratic values are also enshrined into the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and this year an important event will happen with the general election on the 28th July. The period leading to that day should give the opportunity to every Cambodian to listen to all the different candidates and to assess their political platforms through the media – which itself should be equally accessible to the various political parties.
The government at the highest level has stated to the EU its commitment to an open and peaceful election campaign. Indeed, only such an environment will allow voters to freely express their choice in free, fair and legitimate elections.
By adopting a comprehensive approach to global challenges, the EU is able to bring under one umbrella all elements of our external action – diplomatic, political, development, humanitarian aid and trade, as well as military training in some cases.
This allows us, like no other country or international organisation, to address all dimensions of a crisis and sow the seeds of deep democracy and prosperity. We are also tacking new challenges, such as the freedom and security of cyberspace, education, energy and water security and climate change.
Our experience in forging compromise among 27 countries with distinct cultures and histories has been an important asset in working with key partners such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, African Union, the League of Arab States and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation. It also constitutes our strength in mediation such as the high-level work on Iran and the Balkans.
Sixty-three years ago Robert Schuman called on the nations of Europe to make war on the continent impossible and spread peace and prosperity globally. This is the work we must continue today.
Let us to work together so that people around the world have the hope of one day achieving what we have in Europe – democracy, human rights and prosperity.
His Excellency Mr Jean-Francois Cautain is the Ambassador of the European Union to the Kingdom of Cambodia