The future of Europe is not yet written

Roberta Mezzola, President of the European Parliament, welcomed the proposals of EU citizens on how to make Europe better, stronger, and fairer.

This happened at the final part of the Conference on the Future of Europe – a months-long debate to hear what ordinary people expect. In her speech, she said that after the Russian attack, the future of Europe is linked to the future of Ukraine.

I am so proud to be here today when we come to this cornerstone in this unique for active civic participation. In the building of Europe. Proving our fundamental principles.

Among the many statements we hear today, I think there is one message we can remember today: the future of Europe has not yet been written, and what will happen depends on you, on all of us.

This debate took on a new reality on February 24, when President Putin ordered his army to invade Ukraine. An act of medieval aggression that changed the world.

The world after February 24 is very different. More dangerous. Europe’s role has changed with it. We can’t afford to waste any more time.

How we responded to the invasion and how we must continue to respond is the litmus test for our values. The unity and determination of our response confused critics and made us proud to be Europeans. This should be the plan for the future.

But as we speak here, Ukraine is still under attack. Bombs are still killing indiscriminately. Women are still being raped. Millions have fled and will continue to flee. People are still trapped in the tunnels below Mariupol.

Ukrainians seek support from Europe. Because they know what millions of Europeans who have been forced to spend half a century under the yoke beyond the Iron Curtain will tell you: There is no alternative to Europe.

Europe’s future is linked to Ukraine’s future. The threat we face is real. And the cost of failure is huge.

And I ask: how will history judge our actions? Will future generations read about the triumph of multilateralism over isolationism? Strengthening interdependent relations between countries and people who are proud of their differences, but who understand that in this new world we can have a future only if we are together?

Everything depends on us. This is our responsibility. And let me tell you here today that the European Parliament will fight for a stronger Europe and all that Europe means. This means freedom, democracy, the rule of law, justice, solidarity, and equality of opportunity.

This means that we need to listen more than we talk.

Europe has a proud history. We have created the common market, ensured the expansion of several waves, adopted universal suffrage, abolished internal borders, created a common currency, and enshrined fundamental rights in our treaties. Our European project is a success story. It may not be ideal, but we are a bastion of liberal democracy, personal freedoms, freedom of thought, security, and safety. This inspires millions of people in Europe and around the world.

However, this conference also proves that there is a difference between what people expect and what Europe can provide at the moment. That is why we need solutions, and the European Parliament will insist on that. Some problems just can’t wait.

This is true for defense. We need a new security and defense policy because we know we need each other, and that we are vulnerable. And here we do not need to invent the wheel. We can complement, not compete with, existing alliances.

It’s true about energy. We are still too dependent on autocrats. Where energy islands still exist. Where we need to support each other as we separate from the Kremlin and invest in alternative energy sources. Where we understand that renewable energy is as much about security as it is about the environment. But we can only do it together.

It also applies to climate change. The challenge of a generation to which Europe proudly led the global attack.

This is true for health, where we need to take into account the lessons of the pandemic and make our health systems interconnected, share information, and pool resources. When the next virus strikes us, we can’t let it stop our lives. Our first instinct cannot be to recreate the boundaries of the past.

This is true of our economic model, where we need to provide enough flexibility without tying our hands for generations to come. Where we can create the jobs we need to thrive.
This is true of migration, where we still need a system that is fair to those in need of protection, that is firm with those who do not, and is strong against those who abuse the most vulnerable people on the planet.

This is true of equality and solidarity. Our Europe must remain a place where you can be what you want to be, where your potential is not influenced by your place of birth, gender, or sexual orientation. A Europe that upholds our rights – for women, for minorities, for all of us. A Europe that leaves no one behind.

In all these areas, as well as in more, I want Europe to lead. Because if not us, it will just lead someone else.

Dear Europeans,

Hundreds of thousands of people from all over Europe took part in this Conference on the Future of Europe. It was an intense experience of the power of participatory democracy after months of discussions and powerful debate. I want to thank you for believing in Europe’s promise.

Thank you all for believing in this endeavor, for fighting for Europe, and for standing up to the cynics.

It is easier to be cynical, to be populist, but we must expose populism, cynicism, and nationalism as they are: false hope sold by those who have no answers. Those who are afraid to walk the difficult and long path of progress.

Europe has never been afraid. Now is the time to act and not back down.

Once again, we are at a key juncture in European integration, and no proposal for change must be rejected. Whatever process is needed to get there should be welcomed.

As a student, I got involved in politics because I believed that the place of my generation was Europe. I still believe in that. We do not see old and new Europe. We do not see big and small countries. We understand that ideas are bigger than geography.

This feeling 18 years ago, when 10 countries, including mine, joined the EU, is a moment that will stay with me forever. We counted the seconds until midnight on May 1, and we could feel the joy, the hope, the passion with which people believed. People today in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and still in the Western Balkans look at us with the same sense of purpose. Of course, each country must follow its path, but we must not be afraid to unleash the power of Europe to change people’s lives for the better, as it has done for my country.

Finally, we have gathered here on Europe Day, the year dedicated to youth, at the European Parliament’s headquarters in Strasbourg. There is no more symbolic place to take the next step together for the power of democracy, for the power of Europe.

This is the time to respond to Europe’s call. This is our time.

Thank you!

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