The right questions, but the wrong answers

<strong>Peter Hain </strong>and<strong> Dick Benschop </strong>on the anti-globalisation movement

Globalisation is not a policy. It's a fact of life. There is no point in being afraid of it. Or angry. It is like getting angry about electricity. And, like electricity, the point about globalisation is to harness it to do good, to make sure it generates a safer, fairer, more equal world.

Globalisation means that every country, every organisation, every person has become part of numerous worldwide networks. Trade has exploded. We used to trade only with the next village, with people we knew. Now we trade freely with almost every country in the world, with people we don't know - simply by going online, if we choose.

Technology has taken off. We can talk to friends, family, colleagues or customers at any time and in any place. We dial up information and send it at a rate that even ten years ago was pushing the bounds of science fiction.

Travel has soared. If you have the money and the equipment, no place on earth is now more than 24 hours from London or Amsterdam.

And money knows no frontiers. You can transfer a billion dollars from Stockholm to Santiago with the click of a mouse. Dealers in Paris can buy coffee in Ecuador for delivery in Spain from middlemen in Chicago, in the time it takes to read this sentence.

But like electricity, globalisation poses challenges as well as opportunities. Get it right, and everyone will reap the benefits. Get it wrong, and the rich will become richer at the expense of the poor. Smart globalisation will deliver economic progress and enhance the environment. Mismanaged globalisation will rip the heart out of the rainforests and the plains. World-spanning technology can make us all richer and safer. Misused, it will do just the opposite - as the world saw on 11 September.

But the risks of globalisation must not blind us to the benefits. Dictators and tyrants cannot hide from the global news machine. They cannot for ever deny their oppressed peoples democracy, human rights and justice. Those who commit crimes against humanity cannot forever be safe from justice. Slobodan Milosevic is facing it now. Those who attacked the US will face it soon.

The protesters against globalisation often ask the right questions: about the unchecked power of global capital movements; about the deteriorating environment and climate change; about preserving cultural diversity; about the gap between rich and poor. But they come up with the wrong answer. We need not less globalisation, but better and more political globalisation. We need to strengthen global governance. We need to develop global checks and balances. We need to foster the growth of global political networks. We must boost trade because it spreads prosperity, education and choice.

Together, we must tackle the threats to our environment. Britain, the Netherlands and our EU partners are committed to Kyoto; we hope that the new international solidarity with the US will expand from anti-terrorist co-operation to global agendas such as Kyoto. Together we must tackle the sources of conflict; our two countries are strong supporters of the UN and of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. We want a European security and defence capability, operationally agreed with Nato, by the end of this year, able to undertake peacekeeping and humanitarian missions

As with globalisation, so with the EU. The issue is not whether the EU should exist, but how we can achieve the kind of EU we want. For this generation, Europe is no longer about making peace in Europe. It is about Europe making peace across the world.

We want an EU and a global order that is efficient, democratically accountable, that is open, outward-looking, market-oriented and freely trading.

Albeit imperfect at present, the EU is developing the political weight that is commensurate with Europe's economic power as the largest single market in the world. And just as 11 September has opened up the potential for the EU to emerge as a new global political force on security issues, so it should on the globalisation agenda. Our kind of Europe must be the master not the servant of globalisation, making sure it helps to conquer world poverty, and building a safe environment, peace and justice.

Peter Hain is Britain's minister for Europe; Dick Benschop is the Netherlands state secretary for European affairs

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