It is a great honour for me to be here.
I come as a visitor. But first and foremost, I come as a friend of China and the Chinese people; to speak, but also to listen and to share views. Between leaders of two of the world’s most important economic powers, it is crucial to have a dialogue in friendship and trust.
My visit to China is the first official bilateral visit of the permanent President of the European Council outside Europe. You may take it as a sign of the importance we attach to your country.
Upon arriving, I visited the West in Chengdu; yesterday and today the North, in Beijing; and later today, I will head more South, to Shanghai: seeing the different angles of contemporary China.
I will not lecture you neither on Europe nor on China. They say that one life would not be enough to write a book on China; I think it is the same for Europe !
It is important to better understand the other's choices and constraints, its hopes and fears, its past experiences and its view of the world. My ultimate goal is for the EU and China to work more closely together. That is the wish I expressed yesterday in my long meeting with President Hu Jintao. That is not only in our interest, but also in that of the world-at-large.
So let me start by telling you more about Europe’s experiences, about the challenges the European Union faces today, and our hopes regarding our role in the one world we all share together.
After 5000 years of Chinese civilization, your country can look with pride once more to its unique place in world history, and with confidence to the future. Yesterday I visited an old and still functioning irrigation system in Shengdu, from the 2nd century BC: it is truly amazing ! Tomorrow I hope to see the brand new skyline of Shanghai.
As your visitor, I come from Europe, a continent with a civilization going back almost as far aChina’s, as well as the birthplace of democracy and of modern science and technology. Our more than 500 million citizens live mostly in prosperity. We, too, look with confidence to the future. In a world ridden by threats and conflicts, Europe has become a haven of stability and peace.
Unlike China, Europe does not dispose of one single “ship of state”. I prefer to say that the European Union, which today comprises 27 different countries, is like a “convoy” of ships: a convoy of 27 democratic states, of different sizes and with different histories, yet all going in the same direction. And when they are not, it is my job to help steer a common course!
In the European Council, the 27 Heads of State and Government of our Member States together set the Union’s strategic direction; both in economic policy and in foreign affairs. With 27 elected Presidents, Prime Ministers and Chancellors around the table, it is a real challenge to find agreements! Yet we succeed. Even if there is sometimes noise and drama – it
is our style of politics! –, there are strong bonds which hold us together:
* The peoples of Europe share political values, partly enshrined in a binding Treaty and in common institutions.
* The European economies are more closely linked than those of any region in the world thanks to a single market; it is particularly true for those 17 countries who share a currency, the euro.
* And finally: after a past full of wars and destructions, we have come to appreciate the spirit of compromise and solidarity…
See the speech : 122013