Tomorrow it is 75 years since extermination camp Auschwitz - Birkenau was liberated. I visited the site before the E ...
6. February 2018
Future of Europe 2 - Europe's Identity & Christian Heritage - Prime Minister of Croatia Andrej Plenković
SPEECH OF MANFRED WEBER,
CHAIRMAN OF THE EPP GROUP IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Second Debate on the Future of Europe
6 February 2018
with Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia
- English language original version -
We are grateful to welcome Prime Minister Plenković back to this Chamber.
Mr Prime Minister,
Thank you for your commitment today and for your vision of a democratic Europe. Your clear idea, that Parliament is the place where we decide, especially on the Commission President, is absolutely crucial. I hope you can convince a lot of your friends and colleagues in the European Council in a few weeks’ time.
Croatia is our newest Member State, but it is already a key driver for European integration. Croatia’s achievements prove to others in the region that, through hard work, persistence, political courage, and determination, EU membership is not only within reach, but also of great benefit to all of us. Croatia is a success story and a model for many Balkan states, so congratulations for your achievements, Prime Minister!
In this debate on the future of Europe with Andrej Plenković, I want to talk more generally about the future of our continent and about our identity. I want to talk about nations. It is clear for the EPP Group, that nation states are the fundament of Europe. Europe is not possible without national pride, the history of our countries and the cultural heritage of our nations. But identity is more than that: the people of Scotland, South Tyrol, Sicily, and the Basque Country feel like they are British, Italian or Spanish citizens, but they are also rooted in their regions. We share a double identity on this continent, so why should there be only national pride? Why should it not be possible to combine national pride with regional and European pride?
In this House and all over Europe, many politicians from the extreme right are telling people that their nation is the only important thing, and to hell with Europe and Brussels. This is one of the key political questions that we have to answer in the debate on the future of Europe. And I have a clear and personal answer: Bavaria is my home and until 150 years ago, we were an independent kingdom as Bavarians. Germany is my nation, with all the beauty and richness of the German culture, but also the unthinkable barbarism of the Nazi time. And I am also a European. With my heart and my mind, I love and live the European way of life and I will not allow any extremist or nationalist to hold these identities in contradiction, because they belong together!
The Croatian history is a case in point: over the last centuries, Croatia has proven that neither big trading powers, such as the Venetian Duchies, not big empires, such as the Austro-Hungarian dynasty, nor deals between powerful states behind closed doors, such as the Vienna Congress, nor fascists, nor communists have guaranteed Croatia’s independence and Croatia’s interests. Only a democratic Europe, acting together, has been able to protect self-determination, security, peace, and prosperity for the Croatian people. Croatia is the best example of why the future of Europe and our national identities belong together.
There is another important point. Imagine for a moment, the nationalists had won – Europe without a European Union, without Brussels or Strasbourg. Does anybody think that the medium-sized and the small Member States would then have any influence today? Prime Minister Plenković has a say today in the European Council because the decisions are taken in a common spirit. Without this shared identity and without the European Union, I am sure that a purely intergovernmental Europe would be organised and led only by Germany, France and few other nations. This is not the idea of Europe. We are equal, we are all Europe. That is our idea for the future.
The nationalists are stupid and naive. They have not learned from history and they weaken the power of their own people. Everybody who believes in strong nations must be in favour of a united and democratic Europe.
I spoke about identity and I want to add a last aspect. When you fly from Lisbon to Tallinn, or when you fly from Helsinki to Sicily, you see a lot of diversity: food, music, languages, and traditions. Our continent is so rich and colourful, but we have one thing in common: in the middle of every village, town and city, with only a few exceptions, there is a Christian church. Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost are holidays we all share. We have to stick to our Christian heritage. Our democracies, welfare states, and Social Market Economies came into being only because of our Christian values of responsibility, solidarity and freedom. We have to protect our European way of life by preserving our Christian values.
It is clear that faith is a private matter, but for our societies and for Europe, there will only be a Europe that sticks to its Christian heritage or no Europe at all.
Here is the link to the video: