SPEECH OF MANFRED WEBER,
CHAIRMAN OF THE EPP GROUP IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Fourth Debate on the Future of Europe
17 April 2018
with Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic
- English language original version -
Let us regain Europe’s energy, strength and power!
This House, the European Parliament has waited a long time for a pro-European French President like you. My Group is glad to have you here. France is a proud country, but you know: France can only be strong if Europe is strong.
You are right, Europe is a Union of values.
You are also right on this: to convince people, Europe must deliver. Protect our borders, stabilize our Euro, fight against terrorism, set a common defence, and fair taxation: the list is long and you can rely on the EPP Group as a strong partner.
Concrete projects and values – both are important for the future of Europe.
But this approach has already existed for decades. Then why is Europe under pressure and even in crisis?
My answer is: People do not feel involved. The reality is that they see Europe as an external power, not as their own project. The key question for the future of Europe is: Who has the power? The people or some elite groups?
To answer this question, we don't have to invent anything new. We simply have to practice what is the essence of Europe. What has been fought for over generations with blood, sweat, and tears: we must dare to practice parliamentary democracy.
What makes parliamentary democracy such a strong force? It gives people a say and it brings them together. When my voice matters: I care, I engage, I belong – And I am willing to work for a greater, common good. But what if my voice doesn’t count? Then it starts to feel like this is not MY Europe. This is visible everywhere today: in newspaper headlines, on Facebook comments, and in voting turnout. When you lose people, you lose Europe.
It is good to knock on the doors of Europeans and ask for their opinion on Europe. Many Members of the European Parliament do this on a daily basis: speaking, discussing, and convincing people. But just listening, you know this Mr President, is not enough. It makes a difference whether one stands on people's doorsteps and asks for their opinion, or whether one stands there and asks for their vote. Then people have the power!
And now to be more precise:
True democracy does not work just during the meetings of the Heads of State and Government. Too often they postpone their decisions. Too often they just think about winning or losing and about tomorrow’s headlines at home.
True democracy does not mean that decisions are taken behind closed doors.
True democracy means more than just a meeting between Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, as President Juncker mentioned. The Franco-German axis is important, but Europe is more, much more.
True democracy does not mean denying responsibility. Leaders and national ministers cannot keep blaming and shaming Brussels for their own decisions.
And, true democracy does not mean dividing us into good and bad Europeans. I respect the will of the voters in every Member State, whether it pleases me or not.
So what is true democracy?
Mr. President, just take a look around you: here, right here in this House, in the European Parliament.
Every citizen is given a voice here: you can find Communists, Conservatives, Liberals, Greens, Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, and even right-wing extremists. Some people call this the old Europe. I say this is the democratic Europe where people recognize themselves with their concerns and needs, with their different views, and with their representatives. The European Parliament is the political landscape of our continent. The European Parliament is the place where to discuss and decide the future of Europe.
There is no vote for a President of Europe, there is no Europe-wide referendum. There is simply one event, where all Europeans together are asked their opinion on Europe: European political issues must be in the hand of the voters during the European elections, just as national issues are in the hand of voters during the national elections.
And for the same reasons, the European parliament is the only place to elect and to control the executive body, the European Commission, I call it “the government of Europe”. This is why the people must be given the right to decide who will become the President of the European Commission. Candidates must stand for election, defend a programme, explain to the people what they stand for, and gain the support of a majority of freely elected Members of Parliament. This is how it is in the German Bundestag, the Spanish Cortes, and the Polish Sejm. It is simply parliamentary democracy in practice, which gives the power to the people.
And let’s call a cat a cat:
Not a College but a Government,
Not a Commissioner but a Minister,
Not a Regulation but a Law,
That would make things understandable for the citizens.
And those who want to become commissioners next year should run for the European Parliament election. Let the people decide who the governments send to the Commission.
Other elements are equally important. A true democracy can only survive if it has common basic convictions. There is no French, German, or Croatian way of life — there is only a European way of life, and we can be proud of this fundament, it is unique in the world.
True democracy in Europe also means believing in a vision. Politicians like Kohl, Delors, Mitterrand have made the impossible possible because they followed their European dream.
But the key question for true democracy is:
· When this Parliament decides to freeze the negotiation process with Turkey, then the process has to be really frozen by the Commission and the Council.
· When this Parliament decides to protect our external border, then Frontex officers have to be immediately sent to the border.
· When this Parliament decides to introduce the free Interrail passes, then the project has to see the light.
The people of Europe must decide about the European project. If you ignore the people, the people will ignore you.
So let us rebuild Europe as the most successful form of government ever invented by man: Parliamentary Democracy.
And I know: this idea is not welcomed by everybody. But we have to overcome our trauma: since 2005, it was too much about red lines and not enough about ambitions.
The French say no more treaty change,
The German say no more money,
The Central Europeans say no more Brussels,
I tell you, my main fear is not another Brexit, my main fear is a frightened Europe. Then we will not be able to cope with the next crisis that hits us, which will happen sooner or later. So let´s start now. With your forward-looking approach for Europe, we can achieve a lot. The EPP Group is ready to work for a democratic Europe with ambitious projects, where the people are the owners of the European dream and future.
As a young student, I was very much marked by the history of the Weiße Rose. Young people – students – in Munich – the youngest was Sophie Scholl, 22 years old – were arrested by the Gestapo in February 1943. They had used flyers to call for resistance against the Nazis. I quote one of their flyers: "The imperialist idea of power must be disarmed, whatever side it comes from, for all time. (...) Only with generous cooperation between the peoples of Europe will it be possible to create the ground on which a new construction is possible. Freedom of speech, freedom of confession, protection of the individual citizen from the arbitrariness of violent criminal states – these are the foundations of the new Europe".
Munich, 1943 – Four young people were executed for these ideas. This has always motivated me to carry on their dream. And they would be proud of what has been achieved. A Europe of peace and freedom.
The task of my generation is now to build a democratic Europe, where the future is in the hands of the people of this continent, a true parliamentary democracy in Europe.
Let us begin!
Here is the link to the video: