I am very pleased to join you today, though I had hoped it would be in person. I am confident however that I will be able to pay you a visit at another time and very much look forward to this. .
The transatlantic partnership is a unique one. It builds on a shared history, shared values and shared interests. On a promise of collective peace and progress.
And it continues to be an anchor of global stability and the driver of our common prosperity.
But in recent years, the world has undergone profound changes; the U.S. has changed; and Europe has changed too. Some of these changes have put the special bond between our two continents under strain.
This is something that can happen in a relationship of this intensity and depth.
But these challenges have only served to make us aware once more of the importance for our partnership to have both a strong Europe and a strong America, but also for Europe to have solid, reliable partners on whom to rely to advance together a vision of multilateralism anchored in shared values.
Today more than ever, in a world where universal principles once ubiquitously carried are being vigorously challenged, we need young people who are aware of the importance of this transatlantic bond and who are ready to contribute to its revival.
We need them on both sides of the Atlantic.
This is precisely the spirit that led, a few years ago, your school and my alma mater, the College of Europe, to create a joint programme to gather young people ready and eager to commit in transatlantic affairs.
And I am happy to be with you today to discuss the topics which I believe can greatly benefit from renewed efforts under the transatlantic partnership umbrella.
We cannot think of effectively addressing current security threats without incorporating a transatlantic dimension. For we often face common security threats on both sides of the Atlantic.
Cybersecurity is a prime example.
In recent months, both the EU and the US have suffered the severe consequences of ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure. The attack on the Colonial Pipeline a few months ago, demonstrated how relatively simply cyber threats can cripple critical supply chains, disrupt the economy and put energy security into question.
The EU was not immune either. In Ireland, a major ransomware attack forced all the IT systems of the Irish health system to shut down. And similar attacks affected several municipalities, even in my hometown, Thessaloniki, in Greece.
And, within the EU and in our neighbourhood, we have been witnessing different types of malicious influencing attempts. They include disinformation, attempts at electoral interference, cyber-attacks, and suspicious foreign investments. We have also witnessed migration being used as a tool of political pressure.
These hybrid threats are becoming the biggest challenges of our systems, and for our democracies. They strike at the heart of our values, and of what we see as our European way of life, seeking to weaken the fabric of our societies and the proper functioning of our States.
In other words, the world around us is changing – fast. And the notion of what security entails is rapidly expanding.
Transatlantic cooperation is a powerful tool to address these common challenges.
At EU level, we are working on building a new security ecosystem, which we have dubbed the ‘EU Security Union’. The aim is to change the prism from which we look at security policies and overcome the false dichotomy between online and offline, between digital and physical and between internal and external security threats. And under the umbrella of the Security Union we have adopted a whole series of concrete measures to bring this ethos to life.
In the EU, a new regulation on terrorist content online has entered into force in June 2021. It will ensure that online platforms play a more active role in detecting terrorist content online and that such content is removed within a maximum of one hour. This is part of our approach to counter-terrorism which narrows in on the role of the internet and social media in radicalisation. We must fight such threats at their source, and the joint work between the EU and the US is key here.
To understand how critical this step is, one needs only to reflect on the likely implications of the Taliban takeover for global jihadism. It has the potential to ignite the spirit of initiative of both organised sleeper cells beyond the country’s borders as well as that of “lone wolves”. We have to be prepared for a spike in online content inciting violent extremism.
And while we address these traditional threats, we should also tackle evolving and emerging ones.
Cybersecurity is one of these. In the EU, we want to protect our networks and information systems better, but also build collective capabilities to respond to cyberattacks and project our approach around the world. This is why, in June 2021, we launched a process towards establishing a Joint Cyber Unit ensuring a coordinated response to incidents and cyber-enabled crises across the Union.
We are following with interest similar developments in the US, in particular the Executive order improving US’ security through more threat information sharing, more secure software supply chains, increased focus on cybersecurity of public procurement and vulnerability management.
These are all goals shared by the EU. But we need to do more together. We need to improve EU-US cybersecurity incident and cyber threat information sharing, enhancing situational awareness, and improve incident response. And I welcome the recently launched U.S. initiative on Countering Ransomware, of which the EU is a signatory member.
But talking about security requires also talking about defence.
We expect that the revamped EU-US security cooperation also takes place within the NATO framework. There is a political momentum on both sides of the Atlantic to reinvigorate the EU-NATO strategic partnership: the two organisations are close collaborators and enhanced cooperation between them can act as a catalyst for worldwide security.
This is why, as announced by President von der Leyen in her State of the European Union address in September, we are now working on a new EU-NATO Joint Declaration to be presented before the end of the year.
On migration, here too, we have welcomed the strong interest of the US partners to re-engage with the EU, shown also by the results of the EU-US Summit in June 2021.
In the EU, we are working to pass new legislation in the form of a new Pact on Migration and Asylum. This Pact provides a holistic, cohesive and comprehensive framework to migration and asylum, addressing all strands: from managing migratory pressure to asylum, to legal pathways and integration to border management. It also aims at establishing solid partnerships with countries of origin and transit.
Given the global nature of migration and displacement – including in light of the situation in Afghanistan – it is key for the EU and US to unite and coordinate their efforts on these issues.
It is also important that we continue learning from each other on our respective migration policies.
Allow me here a final remark: in a constantly shifting and volatile geopolitical landscape, dialogue between friends and allies is not an option. Trust is the key.
This is why we need to look beyond our borders and work hand in hand with our partners.
The current geopolitical challenges coming from Europe’s East and South requires stepped-up political and operational cooperation with partners in our neighbourhood to avoid spill-over effects for our security.
We also need to work together with like-minded partners to strengthen and adjust the multilateral frameworks to today’s realities – whether it is the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, or others.
And here, the U.S. and the EU are best placed to drive forward these efforts.
We have now a once-in-a-generation opportunity to step up transatlantic cooperation based on our common values and interests.
Transatlantic relations are the bedrock of the rules-based international order. It is rooted on values such as peace and security, freedom, prosperity, human rights, gender equality, multilateralism, rule of law and democracy, not just for those living on our shores but also for the rest of the world.
At a time of increased polarisation and radicalisation and of increasingly confrontational geopolitical dynamics, we have a responsibility to act together and promote these common values to build bridges and seek cohesion rather than fragmentation and competition.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved once again just how interdependent our world is. And the more we can join forces, the greater our collective impact will be.
Your generation is and will be the key to this promise.
I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts and views on these promising challenges.