Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the contours of world order remain in the making. But two "mega-trends" seem clear: the broadest and deepest wave of globalisation the world has ever seen, and the rise of new world players from Asia and elsewhere. We also hear ever-louder calls for more effective global coordination in meeting the great challenges of our times. As the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, the European Union is, I believe, uniquely suited to take on its leadership responsibilities.

Asia and Europe have been well served by economic globalisation. Asia's dynamic economies supply the world, and its remarkable economic growth has lifted millions out of poverty and created major new opportunities for investment and prosperity. This has helped great nations such as China and India to assert themselves self-confidently as global powers. Europe has capitalised on globalisation to consolidate its position as the world's major economy and trader.

But globalisation also increases competition and exposes weaknesses. Workers globally fear for their jobs and feel by-passed by economic change. The economic crisis has exacerbated the perceived downside of globalisation. As a result, our economic interdependence requires careful coordination, not just in the coming weeks, but, crucially, in the longer term.

We need to revisit the structures of global governance, to ensure that they work better for people everywhere, and in the interests of both current and future generations. The EU has led the discussion within its own structures and taken it to wider international fora. We welcome the emerging economies' call for reform of global institutions.

Trade is a case in point. It is in the enlightened self-interest of us all not to give in to the temptations of protectionism. The economic crisis has made progress in the negotiations of the Doha Development Agenda in the World Trade Organisation even more important.

The WTO framework, to which the EU has always given priority, is increasingly recognised as being fundamental to our prosperity. It helps to anchor the global economy in an open, rules-based system based on international law. It is good to see the more proactive attitude of our Asian partners toward taking this process forward, but more needs to be done.

Security is another challenge, with the world facing traditional and non-traditional threats. Many of our countries are targets of terrorism, which, eight years on from the attacks of September 11, 2001, we must recognise is down, but by no means out.

Non-traditional challenges

There are fragile states to contend with, as well as the dangers of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, authoritarian regimes, and the threat of extremism. Globalisation has also thrown up non-traditional security challenges that do not respect national frontiers. Global pandemics can spread faster; a lack of secure and sustainable energy could push us into a worldwide recession; and climate change, beyond its environmental consequences, could have serious geopolitical and social repercussions.

Multilateral engagement is essential for dealing with these threats. The EU has multilateralism in its DNA. Others, too, can benefit from its experience. Europeans are long-standing champions of the United Nations and international cooperation, and continually seek to ensure that stability, freedom, democracy, and justice prevail as cornerstones of international relations.

The EU is also doing its share of the heavy lifting. It has nearly 100,000 peacekeepers, police, and combat troops on the ground in the world's hot spots, helping to consolidate peace. At the political level, too, the EU is increasingly shouldering its share of the burden. An example was the EU mission to Moscow and Tbilisi by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and me. This allowed us to make concrete progress on implementation of the EU's six-point ceasefire plan between Russia and Georgia.

Reaching agreement on climate change is an immediate priority for all of us. We can only tackle this if we work together. We all stand to suffer significantly from the effects of climate change, including increased droughts, floods, and other extreme weather conditions. The EU is facing up to its responsibilities as a major source of past emissions. It has set itself ambitious targets for the future and is taking the lead in seeking a comprehensive global agreement, including a very significant effort on funding.

Climate change also represents a case study of how we can make a virtue out of a necessity, and an opportunity out of a threat. The development and use of green technologies can be new sources of growth. Building a sustainable European economy will help to ensure our peoples' prosperity.

It also shows how Europe can meet its objectives at home only with a proactive and global approach. It is this approach that underpins our external policy. We cannot meet the challenges faced by the EU effectively and successfully without a strong Europe in the world. Prosperity and growth, security and stability, and the long-term sustainability of our societies require the promotion of our interests and values abroad, and engagement with external threats and global challenges.

It is often said that the EU's comparative advantage lies in its normative power, or the power of its values. I think this is right. In a post-crisis world, when people are looking for new ways to ensure their well-being, peace, and prosperity, the European experience has a great deal to offer.

— Project Syndicate, 2009


- José Manuel Barroso is President of the European Commission.