In her speech “Is Europe made for the next generation?”, she encouraged European citizens and leaders to believe, to be confident and to use this difficult moment as an opportunity for change. The full speech can be found below.
Dear Distinguished Guests,
Dear Professor Dehousse,
Thanks to EUI for welcoming me here today, in this beautiful place. The EUI represents a real public good by contributing and sharing our European heritage and our values among academics and by being the link between academia and policy makers.
La prima cosa che vorrei fare est raccogliere l’eredità che ci ha lasciato David Sassoli. Diceva him che era innamorato di Firenze.
David will be a combatant per il Parlamento Europeo, per noi, per l’Europa.
Credeva nel potere dell’Europa di forgiare un nuovo percorso in questo mondo.
This is the essence of the issue before us today.
But before looking at what ‘Europe’ should be, I believe we need to better understand what ‘Europe’ is and, more importantly, what people want Europe to be.
In my first speech as President of the European Parliament, I described myself as part of the generation that sees neither the old nor the new Europe. We are the first of the Erasmus generation, the last of the Wałęsa, Kohl and Havel generation.
What I wanted to say is that I am part of the Europe generation. 18 years ago, on May Day, I stood in Valletta with what seemed like the whole country at midnight looking out to sea in our Grand Harbor as we counted the minutes and seconds until Malta , along with nine other countries, join the European Union as member states.
I still remember the feeling of unbridled possibility, hope and faith in the future. A kind of feeling of coming back to basics, of victory in the potential of our people, of relief, of joy – feelings shared by millions of people across Europe.
With the war in Europe today, it is this spirit, this sense, this enthusiasm, this clear direction, that I want our European project to rediscover.
In Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, and still in the Western Balkans, people are now turning to Europe, with the same sense of belonging and hope.
And I want people to believe like us. And to do that, we have to understand that we are not just an economic bloc, that we are not just talking about free movement or the elimination of roaming charges. For my generation, Europe is – as cliché as it sounds – a shared dream. About shared values. About a shared future, to come together.
For us, Europe is the future. It has always been the future.
However, we cannot deny that in recent years polarization in our societies has increased. There are still too many people who feel lost, abandoned and left behind. At the same time, many will now look to Europe and to our institutions for leadership. And we have to be able to react, we have to be able to lead. We need to counter the anti-EU narrative that takes hold so easily and quickly: misinformation and misinformation, reinforced by bots and manufactured in Russian troll factories.
Europe is the defense of multilateralism. The understanding that we can only face the future together.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Leadership requires an ability to also be self-critical. And we have to recognize that there is a gap between what we believe, what people expect and what Europe is capable of producing at the moment.
The events of the past few months, with Russia’s brutal, illegal and medieval invasion of Ukraine, have accelerated the need for Europe to create the tools and processes it needs to lead in this new and uncertain world. .
There is a reality before February 24 and a reality after February 24. The world has changed. We must understand that the weight of the world democratic order rests more than ever on the shoulders of Europe. And we have to be able to carry it.
This is our time no matter what. A moment that only happens once in a generation.
A moment when you have to understand that Europe is also in the streets of Bucha, in the tunnels of Mariupol, in the cellars of Irpin, on the shores of Snake Island.
Brutalized people look to us for support, hope – even to survive. They understand that there is no alternative to Europe.
Anyone who has lived under the autocracy that has plagued so many nations in Europe over the past century understands all too well that there is no other way.
Europe may not be perfect – we are far from perfect – but we are a bastion of liberal democracy, individual freedoms, freedom of thought, safety and security. Where you can be whoever you want to be. A way of life and living that we have perhaps taken, too long, for granted.
In Europe, we celebrate differences. It is what allows us to develop and what will allow us to become stronger. What makes us unique. What makes us Europeans.
Putin’s big mistake was to assume that our differences were a weakness; our defense of fundamental rights, a sign of weakness. He was wrong. In democracies like ours, these are our strengths. They are the foundation for the next steps. They are our legitimacy and they are our compass.
This is why we have accelerated our steps towards the construction of a new Security and Defense Union.
Why we must and will untangle our Kremlin dependencies.
Why we will end oil imports and why we must continue our policy of zero gas from Russia.
Why we will continue with sanctions and aid to Ukraine.
Why we want and need to rebuild Ukraine.
Why we will care and welcome everyone who flees Putin’s bombs, missiles and atrocities.
And that’s why Ukraine will win. This is why Europe will be ready for the next generation.
As far as our people are concerned, it has become increasingly clear that Europe’s leaders cannot fail to deal with rising prices and rising costs of living which are hitting hard. And for European companies in a globalized economy shaken by the consequences of war, the European Union must continue to encourage and support them in their diversification away from Russia.
But again, we have to be honest – we can mitigate the consequences as much as possible – but our way, our European way, is worth a cost. It is worth defending and it is worth the price we have to pay.
Europe has shown the world unprecedented determination, solidarity and unity against war. Of that I am proud. He must remain our model for the future. We will continue to strongly oppose autocracy and firmly defend Ukraine and our common values of democracy, dignity, justice, equality and the rule of law. We need to become closer, but at the same time more open.
After World War II, cynics scoffed at Robert Schuman’s declaration of Europe Day in 1950, seeing it as a utopian aspiration for peace and prosperity. Yet believing then in what seemed impossible for Europe is why we are here together today in this Palazzio Vecchio – emblem of European civilization – to discuss our achievements and the next steps in our future. common European.
Our legacy – what we leave to those who come after us – will not just be ornate palaces, but solid foundations for a new European path.
I trust the next generation. I am sure they will play their part for climate action, reap the benefits of a digital economy, consume differently than today. However, we cannot expect them to resolve the unresolved crises, which we have to deal with.
They need us to take our responsibilities seriously today. Europe needs leadership today. Not tomorrow.
A leadership that has seen us welcome more than 5 million people fleeing Ukraine. A leadership that is also displayed here at EUI with people who have worked hard to integrate and facilitate Ukrainian professors, scholars and students in this institution.
Next Monday, on Europe Day, we will receive the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe: the results of a pan-European citizens’ consultation. It will be up to us, European leaders, to listen and take into account the recommendations: in terms of action on citizens’ demands for political change, defence, health, climate, security, etc. This is a real opportunity for Europe – because if not now, then when?
Coming out of a devastating pandemic and since Russia’s illegal and brutal aggression against Ukraine, we are now at a historic crossroads.
European leaders must together defend the politics of hope. We must face easy cynicism and stand firm in the face of aggression. And as long as we keep our priorities right, I’m confident we’re ready for the next generation.
Let me end on this note of optimism: the truth is that the European Union has never been stronger. The European Union has never had such a strong sense of direction as it does today. We have never had such a sense of duty to collectively address the war on our continent, the climate emergency, our digital transition and energy concerns.
We have never felt such a need to stand together against threats to peace and prosperity. We have never been more determined to defend the European fundamental rights of democracy, freedom, solidarity and equality.
We know the threats we face and we know we must confront them.
Let’s have confidence in ourselves. Let’s believe.