The Munich Security Conference has hardly ever been more necessary than in these turbulent times. Key actors of secu ...
17. January 2018
Future of Europe 1 - Fairness, Common Defense & European Culture - Taoiseach of Ireland Leo Varadkar
SPEECH OF MANFRED WEBER,
CHAIRMAN OF THE EPP GROUP IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
First Debate on the Future of Europe
17 January 2018
with Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach of Ireland
- English language original version -
It was a good decision to ask Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, to start our debate in the European Parliament on the future of Europe. The Taoiseach held a great speech that made a big contribution to our debate.
We can first conclude from this speech, that it is good to follow the Irish example. Irish politicians like Enda Kenny and Leo Varadkar did not blame others when it was time to take on responsibility for cleaning up the budget and making the necessary reforms. They simply did their job.
The Irish Government also showed in the Brexit negotiations, during the past few days, how big and how strong you can be, if you are part of the European Union. Europe’s unity by the side of Ireland when it comes to Brexit demonstrates that the Irish way is a good way.
The tradition of referendums in Ireland helps a lot in explaining to the people what Europe is all about. For the Irish, Europe does not mean blaming and shaming Brussels, but explaining what is going on in Brussels and in Strasbourg. This is the right way to do things. And this is also the reason why Ireland plays an important role in the future of Europe.
Today, the future of our continent is being challenged: Europe stands at a crossroads between hate and hope because demagogues play with people’s fears and spread hate to reach their selfish goals. Our task is to give hope to the people. Europeans do not want to live in anger. They are proud of their European culture, of their achievements, and they want to protect the European way of life. They want to combine prosperity with fairness, freedom with security, and cultural identity with tolerance. This is what Europe is all about.
And to take up this particular aspect of Leo Varadkar’s speech: we have to talk about the protection of jobs, social fairness, and quality of life in a globalised world. We have to renew the promise of fairness in Europe and fill it with life again. It is either a fair Europe or no Europe at all.
Furthermore, in times of Putin and the “Islamic State”, people are looking for protection and security. This is why your statement on the future of European defence is a great statement. A few months ago, I was in Estonia and visited a NATO air base. A young Belgian pilot told me about the air policing he was performing along the Russian border. And this pilot also told me that he would not mind wearing a European flag on his uniform instead of a Belgian flag. Because it was always clear to him that he defended our common European values with his aircraft and not only the values of Belgium alone. The example of this young pilot shows: it is either a Europe that sticks together in defence, or no Europe at all.
Furthermore, let us be more aware of our European culture: the whole world is listening to European music and reading our literature. Europe is a leading cultural continent in the world, and Europe provides cultural diversity, instead of the commercial mishmash. Our task is now to protect this European culture and to carry it safely into a globalised and a digital world. This is why I support the idea of President Emmanuel Macron to create a European Netflix that would bring our entire cultural heritage in one digital form and that would be accessible to every European. It is either a Europe proud of its cultural richness, or no Europe at all.
While working on these issues we should keep our fundamental ideas for the European Union in mind. Our founding fathers De Gasperi, Adenauer but also Delors, Mitterrand or Kohl were always aware that the European integration was ambitious. Concrete projects are important and we have to look for such projects in the days, weeks, and years to come.
Let us get things done. Either it is an ambitious Europe, or it is no Europe at all.
Here is the link to the video: