EP President Speech on Celebrations Marking the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Signing of the Treaties of Rome
Today we are celebrating a great story of freedom.
The desire for freedom was what gave us the strength to rise up from the ashes of war.
Freedom was won at a great cost, a freedom we also owe to allies who crossed oceans to sacrifice their lives for us.
Through hard work, and with the help of the Marshall Plan, this new-found freedom to work allowed us to rebuild our homes and our future.
Freedom is the foundation of the great economic area for which the Treaties we are celebrating today provided the blueprint.
In this room, on 25 March 1957, our great adventure began. Together, seated at this very table, we worked hard to escape the pitfalls of nationalism.
All those who were in this room that day had witnessed the horror and the destruction caused - for the second time in almost as many decades - when nations use violence to settle their differences. The dream of a united Europe offered a way of putting the nightmare of war behind us forever.
When the Schuman Declaration was signed on 9 May 1950, Monnet, De Gasperi, Adenauer, Spinelli, Spaak, Martino and the others knew that the road ahead would not be easy.
In 1954, the hope of creating a political union on the basis of common European defence came to nothing.
There were many other setbacks. Every time, however, disappointment and discouragement gave way to the determination to try again.
On the basis of trust and solidarity, by putting ourselves in each other’s shoes, we overcame difficulties, misgivings, misunderstandings. We did away with obstacles, barriers, borders, red tape.
Together, we worked to create a more open and prosperous world, in which people enjoy more rights. We helped many countries on our continent escape from the darkness of dictatorship.
Anyone who experienced the restrictions on freedoms suffered by many people on our continent knows that our Union is a precious achievement which we should never take for granted.
We should be proud of the legacy passed onto to our children: the freedom to travel, to study, to work, to set up a business, to innovate.
Our commitment to openness, to exchanges of all kinds, has deep roots.
Our history began on islands, by the sea, on the banks of rivers. What followed were centuries of exchanges, the blending of philosophies, ideas, art forms and scientific endeavours feeding off one another. Merchants from Crete, craftsmen from Etruria, philosophers and playwrights from Athens, lawyers and engineers from Rome, all met and shared their ways of thinking.
The abbeys and monasteries passed on our knowledge. The great European universities, the city-states, gave birth to a new European humanism.
The dynamism unleashed by the Renaissance made us receptive to new forms of trade and to new discoveries, to finance, to manufacturing, and paved the way for the emergence of great patrons of the arts.
Our artists, writers, philosophers and scientists inspired one another: there is an lengthy thread linking Caravaggio to Rembrandt, Vivaldi to Bach, Shakespeare to Molière.
Through our Union, we have ushered in a new European renaissance. We have created a vast area in which people can meet and exchange ideas, in which the dignity and freedom of the individual are at the heart of everything we do.
There are opportunities for everyone. Since 1960, per capita GDP in Europe has increased 33% more than it has in the USA.
Guaranteeing freedom in the largest economic area in the world has helped us to create millions of jobs. Through our cohesion policy we have worked to ensure that no-one is left behind.
We need to complete this massive undertaking and exploit the potential which has not yet been tapped, through the digital market, the capital market, the energy market. And we must never forget what the cost would be, not only economically, without Europe.
We still believe in Europe. But we want it to work better. So many mistakes have been made.
Our Union is still unfinished and it often seems remote from people’s problems, divided, inefficient, overly bureaucratic.
As the President of the European Parliament, the only institution directly elected by ordinary Europeans, I am concerned at the growing disillusionment with Europe which many of them now profess.
A new start must mean bringing Europe closer to its citizens once again. This is the priority I have set for my term in office.
Window-dressing is not enough. We need far-reaching change. We need effective policies which enable us to overcome the fears of those who cannot find work, of young people who cannot see a future for themselves. Of those who feel threatened by terrorism, by illegal immigration. Of those who are calling for us to reaffirm, loud and clear, within and beyond our borders, the values on which our Union is founded.
A more practical Europe, a Europe which produces results.
For that reason, today is not a day for self-adulation or an occasion for fine speeches. The declaration we are about to sign sets out a clear political commitment to our citizens, given by all 27 Member States and the leaders of the EU institutions.
The European Parliament’s duty will be to ensure that the pledges made in the declaration are honoured.
We need to boost growth, attract investment, create jobs, make Europe fairer and more business-friendly.
Our common currency must be matched by real convergence, backed by common reforms; by genuine economic governance.
In addition to the Stability and Growth Pact, we need a Generational Pact. We cannot pass on unmanageable debts to young people and an inefficient economy which hampers job creation. We must ensure that they too can enjoy the benefits of a social market economy.
We need simpler rules and procedures. We must not get bogged down in the details of policy.
Instead, we must concentrate on the major challenges facing us: foreign policy, defence, trade, climate change.
In a world in which innovation and digital technologys are tearing down borders and barriers, individual States have no choice but to pool their resources. It is only by drawing on the combined power of 500 million European consumers that we can defend our interests in the world. That we can enforce rights of ownership, and assert our safety, social, environmental and technological standards.
No European State acting alone is strong enough to negotiate with the USA, China, Russia or India. Only by acting together can we exercise our sovereignty properly.
We must continue to promote more open markets and put an end to unfair competition. Like our own internal market, the world market must guarantee freedom from the yoke of unnecessary regulation.
Today, in this room, we must also get another major project, common European defence, back on track. That is the best way to pay tribute to the work of our founding fathers.
On Wednesday, in London, a terrorist attack was perpetrated just outside the British Parliament. The same day, we remembered the victims of the attacks carried out in the heart of Europe. In Brussels, Paris, Berlin and Nice.
If we are to protect our fellow citizens, we need greater mutual trust. Our intelligence services, our courts and our police forces must work together and exchange information.
In the same way, if we are to monitor our borders effectively, we need a strong European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
Together, standing shoulder to shoulder, we must make the right of asylum more effective by overhauling the Dublin Regulation. We must be just as rigorous in taking in people who qualify for asylum as we are in countering illegal immigration.
If we are to address these challenges properly, today more than ever we need European unity. We cannot afford to leave Europe half-finished. We need to change Europe, not destroy it.
Today is a day of celebration, of European pride. We are a beacon of commitment to human rights; the only continent on which the death penalty has been abolished.
We are much more than just a market or a currency. These ideals of freedom, prosperity and peace have shaped our Union and our identity.
But we must also reflect on our mistakes, and change the image of a remote, ineffectual Europe. Only in this way can we give our young people the feeling that they are part of a great project once again. Let us allow them to dream once again about a better Europe and a better world.