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Why EU-Korea Partnership Matters?
On Occasion of Germany's EU Presidency in 2007
Special Contribution
By Dr. Nobert Baas
German Ambassador to Seoul
From left to right: German Ambassador Norbert Baas; Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Shim, Yoon-joe; Bulgarian Ambassador Alexander Savov; Romanian Ambassador Valeriu Arteni and the Head of the Delegation of the European Commission Ambassador Brian McDonald.

When European ministers and diplomats meet in Brussels for their regular monthly meetings, they would routinely greet themselves as friends and enjoy to meet as political partners. Discussions may be tough on thorny issues, but at the end agreement has always being reached. They know: no longer can European nation states win by themselves or afford to be split on fundamental issues in today's globalized world. Only by combining forces and efforts can they master future challenges. When European leaders will meet 25 March this year in Berlin during the German EU-Presidency to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Communities they will be deeply mindful of this political wisdom.

The EU has become a fascinating combination of states, peoples and institutions. It may not be easy to get a full grasp of its inbuilt mechanics quickly. And to reassure the Korean reader: also Europeans themselves sometimes find it difficult. But they know that the EU has changed our lives profoundly towards the better. It represents an unprecedented zone of prosperity, growth, state-of-the-art technology and innovation. European universities are among the oldest and finest in the world and our civilisations and cultures are a never-ending discovery and source of inspiration.

Dr. Nobert Baas,
German Ambassador to Seoul

The EU is neither a federal state nor a confederation but it offers much more cohesion and common policies than, for instance, the United Nations or a multilateral structure like APEC or a defence alliance like NATO. Its success results from a unique process of integration at various levels and in different fields. Integration implies voluntary, at least partial transfers of sovereignty from member states to common institutions like the European Commission, the European Parliament or the European Central Bank. In a nutshell: The EU shares sovereignty between nation states and European institutions at various levels. Every six months one member state, in the fist half of 2007 Germany, takes over the rotating presidency in the Council, the supreme organ, in which all member states and the European Commisison are jointly taking decisions. With Bulgaria and Romania as new fully-fledged members since 1 January 2007, the EU now comprises 27 states with a total population of almost 500 million inhabitants. Its gross national product counts among the largest in the world.

Relations between the EU and Korea are in good shape. In substance they are even better than they seem to be at a first glance. Why is the European Union important for Korea and why do Europeans need Korea?

First and above all, the EU embodies the core values of free civilisations and human rights as does Korea after committing itself to a true and viable democracy. We share essentially the same values.

Secondly, we have common experiences. Many of today's EU members fought under the United Nations command in the Korean war. Both Korea and Europe had to live with a long period of division and unequal development opportunities. Europeans overcame the division of their continent when the Cold War ended, the democratic movements in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland gained the upper hand, Germany became re-united after the Berlin wall fell in 1989 and our allies and friends were supportive. The lessons to be drawn from this historic change are being studied in Korea with great interest and care.

Thirdly, the EU is now the second largest trading partner for Korea. Our total trade volume approached 72 billion US-dollars last year. Koreans and Europeans are more and more involved in significant partnerships and joint projects. Our contacts are numerous ans warm-hearted. The EU has become the biggest foreign investor in Korea, whose central location in the dynamic triangle with China and Japan offers excellent opportunities to extend cooperation between our knowledge-based societies. Hopefully soon, we will enter into negotiations on a EU-Korean free trade agreement. The benefits for both sides could be considerable.

The European investment in the policy of multilateral cooperation helped decisively to end the Cold War era and halted the confrontation on the European continent. Since then, the EU has made great steps ahead in developing a common foreign and security policy. The most striking proof today is the engagment of the EU in 13 peace missions worldwide. Who would have predicted this global engagement for peace, freedom and human rights only ten years ago? The EU's central tenet is effective multilateralism. With regard to the Korean peninsula, we will continue to support the six-party-talks on finding a settlement to the North Korean nuclear issue. The risks of an uncontrolled nuclear race and proliferation are of a truly global nature and the EU is keen to contain them energetically by diplomatic means.

I believe, in the framework of international organisations such as the United Nations, OECD and in the Asian European Meetings – ASEM - the EU and Korea can cooperate even more closely. We are confronted with the same challenges worldwide and we share vital interests. The Republic of Korea, now the 11th largest economy in the world, can contribute substantially to stabilizing peace, securing environmental protection and fighting poverty. Many consider it a model for a successful growth strategy. Koreans, in turn, studied the European economic success story. In other words, we are close and our bonds are strong and lively. We should make more of it in the future.

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