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Keynote address by Ambassador David O’Sullivan on the 70th Anniversary of George C. Marshall’s Speech at Harvard University

Keynote Address

70th Anniversary of George C. Marshall’s Speech at Harvard University

Remarks by Ambassador David O’Sullivan

Ambassador of the European Union to the United Sates

5 June 2017 – George C. Marshall International Centre, Leesburg, VA

It is my honour to be here on behalf of the European Union which was not heard of in 1947, to say some words of appreciation for the great work of General Marshall and his contribution to global peace and unity in Europe.

I would like to thank you President Daly and Lt. General Lawrence for your moving words and the remarkable work you are doing here.  I must also thank Vice-Chairman Les Janka for his considerable effort in organising this symposium that has attracted so many honoured and distinguished guests to speak and partake in advocating the life and legacy of the great man, Secretary Marshall.

And I certainly cannot let today pass without thanking the people of Leesburg for taking such great care of this truly historic venue and the very active George C. Marshall International Centre.

I would first like to say a few words to remember the tragic events that took place in London yesterday which we have also seen across Europe and in the United States.  We are very grateful for the outpouring of solidarity and sympathy from this side of the Atlantic.

The people of the U.K. have faced many brutal acts of terrorism – they are remarkably resilient.  While the events of yesterday were terrible, I was heartened to see the return of Ariana Grande in a wonderful concert from Manchester, U.K. last night.  She was joined by Coldplay to sing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ by the great Manchester band Oasis.  To see all those young people stand up and sing out loud the lyrics, every person waving signs saying ‘No Fear’, I was so proud.  This is how we must deal with terrorism – we will improve security, we will find other ways.  But we will not let terrorists destroy our way of life.  We will not let them create the climate of fear and hostility that they so desperately wish to fabricate to perpetuate the problems we are dealing with.

As the European Union Ambassador, I am truly humbled to be here at the home of General George Marshall on the 70th anniversary of the speech he gave that literally changed the course of history.  It inspired a lasting legacy.  An unequivocal point in Europe’s modern history.  Without the Marshall Plan there would be no European Union today.  It created the conditions – something Robert Schuman and Jean Monet was well aware of – for the fact that we needed to steady our economies and encourage cooperation between our countries.  A new business model for Europe.  It gave us ideals, impetus and, let us be frank, it gave us resources.

We are deeply grateful to the United States for the enormous sacrifice it made to support the ending of conflict in Europe on two occasions.  For this year is the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War One.  The first, but not, unfortunately, the last time in the 20th Century when young American service men and service women, gave their everything  in the defence of liberty and the freedom of democracy in Europe.  Tomorrow marks the 73rd anniversary of D-Day and the beginning of the liberation of continental Europe.  So the sacrifice to win the war was hugely important, but it took the genius of enlightened statesmen like General Marshall to win the peace.  Because that is what we conspicuously failed to do after World War One.

So, it is not just the ending of conflict that we owe so much to the U.S as allies and partners, but also to Marshall’s vision of what this peace could look like that brought the United States and Europe closer together.

He recognised that there could be no lasting peace and prosperity for America without peace and prosperity in Europe.  There could be no security for America, without security in Europe.  And he was willing to ask the American people to put their money where his mouth was.  The sums of money that were put into the Marshall Plan were considerable.  Some 14% of the then Federal budget.  Some 3-4% of GDP at the time, which had a dramatic impact on the economic recovery in Europe which was literally devastated after the war.

The Marshall plan not only changed Europe for the better, but also changed the outlook of the United States.  Marshall envisioned a platform of international engagement and cooperation.  Rather than leave Europe destitute to recover alone, the U.S. reached out and extended arms of support to us all, irrespective of alliances during conflict.

And above all, encouraged us to work together to decide how best to make use of those precious resources the American tax payer made available.  Today, there are those who would rather see the U.S. turn its back on the very multilateralism to which Marshall was so committed and which, as Europeans, we have espoused as one of the fundamental tenets of our approach toward global problems.

In his speech at Harvard, Marshall said “Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.  Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.”

If that was so very true in 1947 in relation to the United States and Europe, or the United States and Japan, it is very true today in relation to the Western World and the least developed parts of our planet.  Countries struggling in Africa, in Latin America.  Poor countries in Asia that are desperately in need of the same magnanimity and enlightenment of approach.  He knew that strong transatlantic cooperation was the most effective way to protect U.S. and European interests.  And together we have shaped transatlantic and international relations based on common democratic values.  We built the Bretton Woods system, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.  We built the World Trade Organisation, the United Nations and NATO.  These were all the pillars that gave so much of the stability and relative prosperity to much of the world in the aftermath of the Second World War and the second half of the 20th Century.

In Europe, it is often forgotten that we have had 70 years of peace.  You would have to go back to the 16th Century to find a similar period of continuous peace on the European continent.  And this is a remarkable achievement to which General Marshall’s work contributed hugely.

If you enter the European Union’s building in Washington, D.C., you will see that we acknowledge the decisive role Secretary Marshall played to bolster transnational cooperation.  A large timeline depicts the evolution of the European Union, starting with the Marshall Plan.

And of course, it is an idea that people have sort to replicate.  I am not sure we can ever replicate the genius of that moment and that action in time.  But it is absolutely true that we do need continued efforts by the international community modelled on the inspiration and ideas of Marshall to address the roots of global migration and global conflicts.  To encourage developing countries in the clean energy revolution and addressing the challenge of climate change that we know to be one of the largest threats to us all.  And to tackle domestic problems – youth employment and offer opportunities to those who have been left behind or not able to benefit from the advantages of globalisation.

In Europe, we have adopted the philosophy of Marshall to create our own ‘Marshall Plans’.  Over the past 70 years, we have invested heavily in conflict prevention, development and state reform to strengthen the foundations of democratic regimes worldwide.

The European Union is the largest donor of humanitarian and development aid in the world.  We fund major programmes to support stability in Europe’s neighbourhood – in Africa, the Middle East and further afield.  We, too, are very much aware that development is only one element to counter the risks of instability, so we also invest in security reform, provide military support and humanitarian assistance.  Right now, we are leading 15 security and defence missions around the world.

And within our borders, we continue General Marshall’s legacy today, supporting the cohesion efforts of all of our Member states.  We have introduced and funded huge programmes to support the integration of Southern Europe, and subsequently the transition of countries from Central and Eastern Europe once subject to oppression and authoritarianism, into the thriving liberal democracies we see today.  I have often said the European Union cannot claim credit for the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  But I do believe we can claim full credit for the emergence of these countries from totalitarianism in a democratic and prevented the risk of chaos and conflict that could have been very real.

Over the past 70 years, the European Union and the United States have worked together to promote our values and the multilateral system.  We complement each other providing support and assistance to those in need – including to each other.

Europe stood with the United States in the aftermath of 9/11.  European Union Member States deployed alongside American service men and women in Afghanistan.  The EU itself led a 10-year police mission in Kabul, and supported reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.  And today, we are actively involved in the coalition against ISIS to defeat terrorist efforts in Iraq and Syria.  The European Union, as such, is an active player of the anti-ISIS coalition utilising its soft power providing billions of Euros to help rebuild those areas that are liberated by military action – again, so that once we have won the conflict, we can win the peace and not let those areas fall back into the hands of terrorists.

We are ‘friends of first resort’.  A strong transatlantic relationship, as European Commission President Juncker said, is a ‘necessity for the future’ – our alliance places a duty on us to preserve the legacy of peace and stability that benefits us all, best achieved by working together.

It really is a huge honour to represent the European Union here today, to celebrate the life and work of George Marshall.  He must have reflected much here in his home on how to shape the post-World War era and prevent us from repeating the mistakes of the 20th Century, and the grave loss of so many lives.  We should all feel responsible for protecting his legacy by addressing current challenges with the same level of vision and ambition.  Whether that is to combat climate change, pandemics, gender inequality, poverty or the challenge of migration.

If Secretary Marshall were here today, I would like to think that he would smile down on us as we say how honoured we all are to be guests at his home, to celebrate his achievements and the impact it has had on millions of people.  His legacy now lives in perpetuity.  A legacy that the United States can and should be proud of for many more generations to come.

I hope you will agree that we in Europe did not squander the sacrifice of your service men and women and the tax payer in the opportunity you gave us to build a better Europe – a Europe free and more democratic.  Above all else, a Europe of peace and committed to the values of democracy and human rights.  This could not have been done without such great sacrifice and the vision of General Marshall.

We are deeply grateful and it really is a fantastic honour for me to acknowledge that here today on this very important occasion.  Thank you very much.

For more information:

70th Anniversary of George C. Marshall's Speech at Harvard University