The progressive Europe that we want to build with you is free, fair and sustainable.
In Europe, we settle our disagreements around the negotiating table. It’s an often difficult (and sometimes boring!) process that usually occurs out of sight. Sometimes we see a few images on TV, orread a few lines about it in the newspaper. Possibly we give up watching half way through, a little bored. But we can’t ignore that this is in fact a small miracle, if you look back on European history.
Because, until seventy years ago, most differences between European countries were settled on the battlefield, with lives sacrificed in the trenches, towns and cities bombed to oblivion, people displaced, and lives ruined. Whoever managed to win the war, would be the boss. Until the next war. And ordinary people paid the price with their property, their prosperity, their health, or even their life.
The European Union is an instrument to avoid this fate, entrusted to our care by our parents and grandparents, allowing us to use a unique form of cooperation to bridge internal divides and provide collective answers to challenges we cannot face alone. Europe's history has never provided a better instrument or a longer period of peace.
This doesn't mean the EU is perfect. We need to improve it, adapt it to the challenges we face today and will encounter in the future, and bring it closer to the people it serves. We need to build a fair, free and sustainable Europe.
The European Union is an instrument to defend our values. In current times, that is not an easy task. The world is changing at a speed never seen before. Technology is on the verge of radically altering the way we work, produce, consume and engage with each other. Other world powers are seeking to impose their will upon us through commercial measures, or want to weaken us politically so that our moral voice no longer carries weight on the world stage. Terrorism is still a threat to our way of life, as is organised crime. Women's rights are under attack again.
We believe in a Europe that takes care of each other, shares fairly, leaves people the space to choose freely how they want to live, who they want to love, what they want or don't want to believe in. The rules apply to us all, regardless of our size and strength, age, nationality, gender, faith or origin.
We need to build a more sustainable Europe, based on the circular economy. Mother Earth is rapidly reaching her limits and is screaming out for respite from the strains we are putting on her. Our oceans are at risk of suffocating in plastic, and air pollution forms an increasing threat to our health. Climate change is no fairytale, it is the bitter and inconvenient truth. But there is still a chance to change. We need to change the way we live, the way we account for others in our commercial dealings, and the way we use the world's resources.
There are other issues which it takes courage and unity to tackle. Migration is a global phenomenon that demands a global approach, for those seeking a better life abroad as well as for those who live in places of arrival. Will Europe help to shape this changing world, together with our friends and allies? Or will we turn inwards, turn on each other, or simply hide behind our walls and seas and leave the world of tomorrow to be shaped by others, who don’t have our best interests at heart? Will we seek solutions through cooperation or confrontation?
I believe in shaping Europe and shaping the world around us through cooperation. Because this is the only way that enables us to respond with answers that match our values. We must cooperate to defend our European interests in a changing world. Only in this way can we ensure that honest work leads to fair pay, that companies pay taxes where they make their profits, that countries are not played off against each other by big corporations, that employees across borders will not be pitted against each other in a downward spiral of wage competition, and that we don’t engage in a perilous race to consume the Earth’s precious resources.
People like Putin and Trump believe in ‘rule by power’. Europe learned the hard way to place our faith in the ‘power of rules’. It is no secret that Putin and Trump want to see the EU and its individual nations weakened. It is also no coincidence that they declare their admiration for the nationalists in different European states. Not only because they share their views about society, but also because they know that nationalists will seek enemies at home as well as abroad. Europeans who start seeing each other as enemies will not cooperate, and will not be able to make a collective stance.
The future is full of uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean we should be afraid of the future. We need a change of mindset, a new way of thinking, an attitude that sees change as an opportunity, not a threat. We need hope... about our jobs, about the future of our children, about the things we share in a diverse society, about how we can limit climate change, manage migration, increase security. We should not allow fear to guide us. Fear paralyzes, derails quickly into hatred, and looks for scapegoats instead of solutions. Let us not turn our worries into fear, but into action.
European unity gives us the power to formulate answers that the world has to listen to. To achieve this, the European Union is still our best instrument. We should not break it down, like some nationalists would like to happen, but build it up and make it a better tool. More decisive, more democratic, fairer. Focused on the big questions that require European answers. Less involved in topics that could be better dealt with closer to citizens by our Member States.
Let's build this new Europe together.