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Why the EU Now? -- For a symposium held by the Support Project for Strategic University Collaborations on “The Collaboration of Universities Spearheading the Establishment of a World-Class Joint Higher Education and Research Graduate School on EU Studies”

Presently, due to the subprime loan issue that arose from the United States, the world has been thrown into a financial and economic crisis. Stock prices in markets all over the world have fallen rapidly and sharply, while the Yen has risen and remains high in the foreign currency exchange. Even Europe, which had maintained its stability over the years, is not immune and was greatly influenced by the crisis, as demonstrated by the drop in worth of the Euro against the Yen.

We are gathered here today for this symposium, titled “Europe as a Standard,” to discuss to what extent the EU standard is becoming a global standard, and the role the EU plays in international society.

All policy decisions made by the EU have external consequences. As its influence in external relations increases, so does the number of challenges that the EU must face.

The Increasing Influence of the European Standard in the Field of Competition Policy

Let me introduce an example that may demonstrate the increasing power of the European standard, found in the field of Competition Policy. With regards to its relations with foreign businesses, including Japanese businesses, the EU applies Competition Policy. Until the mid-1980s, Competition Policy was used mainly in the regulation of anti-dumping laws. More recently, the regulation of anti-trust laws have become more prominent. Already, as the result of violations, extensive fines have been imposed on many Japanese companies in various industries, most notably YKK, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Mitsubishi Electric. Not only Japanese companies, but also European as well as American companies, including Microsoft which has been issued to pay a fine for the abuse of its dominant position, have been issued punishments. Though these cases are currently pending in court, there is no doubt that EU policy and the EU standard will have significant consequences throughout the world.

EU Environmental Policy – Leading the World

Next, I would like to take a look at EU environmental policy. The EU has played a significant role in the creation and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as taking the lead in creating a framework for post-Kyoto. In July 2006, the EU passed the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive, linked with the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive, which restricts the use of such substances as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Furthermore, in June 2007, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), an EU regulation, entered into force. This regulation also applies to Japanese companies which must follow EU standards and processes in order to export their products to Europe or produce them there. EU standards have spread beyond the EU region, which has undergone 5 enlargements and include 27 Member States, and are fast becoming global standards.

Focus on EU Security Policy and its Challenges

In December 2003, the European Council in Brussels adopted a security strategy document titled “A Secure Europe in a Better World, European Security Strategy.” This document published under Javier Solana, who was appointed High Representative of the CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy), states, “The European Union is inevitably a global player…it should be ready to share in the responsibility for global security and building a better world.” It is said that for the EU the year 2003 saw the beginnings of the ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) as part of the CFSP, and as its first mission, the EU deployed a European police force to Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as European troops “EUFOR Concordia” to the Republic of Macedonia in March. Since then, about 20 missions have taken place, most recently in Georgia after the conflict with Russia, where cease-fire observers were sent.

 

However, even the EU has suffered from internal challenges during these last four years, and faces conditions of stagnation. Though the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE) was signed in October 2004, it was suspended due to the rejection in its ratification. Finally, in June 2007, at the European Council in Brussels the Constitutional Treaty was revived, and the decision was made to adopt the Reform Treaty. On July 23rd, the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) met to discuss revisions to the treaty, and on December 13th, the Lisbon Treaty was signed. The Lisbon Treaty has now been approved by 25 of the 27 Member States, and ratified by most. However, on June 12, 2008, Ireland, which alone among the 27 nations held a referendum, rejected ratification. Though efforts to hold a second referendum and gain approval, it is unknown whether these efforts will succeed by November of this year, when a new European Commission will be formed.

Now: Time to Learn about the EU and Time to Develop EU Specialists

To make matters worse, there is the present financial and economic crisis. However, the EU has succeeded in coming together to address measures in order to deal with the crisis which originated in the US. Due to swift and efficient reaction, the Euro and the European Central Bank (ECB) has played a significant role as a “shock absorber” during this crisis. Of course, the crisis is not yet over, as global economic circumstances will most likely continue to weaken, and difficult times are still ahead. Under such conditions, it is impossible for a single nation to come up with a solution. It is now a question of whether the present EU will be able to take the lead in promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the world.

I personally believe that our nation under appreciates the EU. Therefore, there is a need to provide information about the EU, and to develop human resources who will act as bridges to the EU. Today’s international symposium is a step in that direction, and we would like to deepen our cooperation between the two universities in order to realize the founding of a joint graduate school. We deeply appreciate all of your support in our endeavors.

The Lisbon Treaty was finally ratified by all Member States and has come into effect as of 1st of December, 2009.

 
 

Exploring the EU

The Multi-disciplinary Nature of EU Studies

What to Learn from Higher Education Reform in the EU

The Challenges of studying the EU in Southeast Asia

Why We Celebrate the Birth of the EU on May 9th

Sending EU Experts Out into Society

EU Standards

Why the EU Now?