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 Full text 
Verbatim report of proceedings
XML 5k
Wednesday, 13 September 2023 - Strasbourg Provisional edition

State of the Union (debate)

  Manfred Weber, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Madam President of the European Parliament, Madam President of the European Commission, Spanish Presidency, dear colleagues.

Madam President, thank you for your speech today. You are right: the state of the Union is strong, also thanks to your leadership and the good cooperation with this European Parliament. Together – you said it – we made the right decisions in the last years. The decision on the European vaccines – not to have first- and second class Europeans – right. The decision on setting up a recovery fund – right. The decision to make Europe the front-runner against climate change – right. The decision to stop EU funds if the rule of law is not respected – right. The decision on the Brexit agreement, on sanctions against Russia and the decision to support Ukraine and its accession to the European Union – right. Together we are stronger: that is the message we can deliver to European citizens.

Dear Iratxe, dear Stéphane, I also want to thank you for our successful cooperation during these crucial moments. The political engine of Europe works. The von der Leyen majority made it possible. For us, Europe is people’s home. We have to deliver for everyone and leave nobody behind. We must listen to the people’s concerns and not lecture them. And we have to build our bridges and not deepen the divisions in our society, and set people’s priorities for Europe.

I want to speak today about three EPP priorities.

First, this week, the European Commission lowered the economic outlook. Inflation is hitting all Europeans hard, the poorest even harder. That’s the biggest social question today. We need growth. We need jobs. We need decent incomes. We need prosperity. We need a strong industry. That is why your proposals today to reduce the bureaucratic burden with a competitiveness check, with a special envoy, with a moratorium, and to conclude new trade deals and to invest more in innovation is the right way. Competitiveness must be a priority for us. And that’s why I also thank you for the consideration to invite Mario Draghi to bring up further ideas.

And we welcome the new phase of the Green Deal. To be clear, we as the EPP supported 32 out of 34 Green Deal files. We believe in the basic idea of the Green Deal. It is our generation’s obligation to deliver. But we also listen to workers, to farmers, to SMEs, to youth. Producing, for example, more food, not less, is our answer to cut inflation on food prices. The EPP is the farmers’ party and we are the party of the rural areas. Innovating more, not selling our technologies to China is our answer to lead a world free of CO2. We want a European Green Deal, not a Chinese one. We do not want to see, as you said, Chinese electric vehicles benefiting from our ambitious climate approach. We have to think more in business, not in prohibition models for our industry. We need green jobs for Europeans.

And we have to be stronger and tougher when it comes to trade. Tougher because we need to activate now our trade defence instruments and to avoid a second solar panel attack from China, as you said today. And yes, also stronger on trade to build up a union of democracies founded on trade with Mercosur, Australia, India, Africa, and others. For us, trade and values go hand in hand. We have to strengthen our innovation union. Let us pull now the best minds together to be really on the front of innovation when it is about artificial intelligence and cancer research.

A second priority for EPP is migration. Europe today welcomes so many refugees as never before in our history. Look what we do currently for the Ukrainians. We help, we welcome, we protect – that’s the European DNA. But on our external borders, we must decide who can enter and who not. The state decides – and not the smugglers – who can enter into Europe. That’s why we welcome the moratorium of understanding between the European Union and Tunisia. We must work with our neighbours to solve the challenges like we did it also in the past with Turkey, and we must finalise the migration pact. It is a unique, even historic opportunity to give a proper answer. Now it is in our hands. Let’s do it. I count again on the von der Leyen majority to achieve this.

The third point I want to mention: what’s next for our European project. Twenty-five years ago, the euro was born. Despite many who criticised him, Helmut Kohl had a vision for Europe. What is the Europe of today? What is our project? First, Ukraine must win the war. And yes, Ursula, the merit-based approach of enlargement process is key to our approach towards Western Balkans, Moldova and Ukraine. We have to keep our promises.

But we need to go further. De Gasperi already knew what is needed for a good future. That is why he burst into tears when they told him in 1954 that the European defence community was rejected. I think we have to come back to De Gasperi’s idea. We need a European defence union, with a defence commissioner, joint European forces on land, sea and air by 2030, and all this embedded into a strengthened NATO as a strong European pillar. That is the leading project of our generation. We need to lead – that’s the best medicine against extremists. Not fear, anger or even hate shall define the debate. Optimism, vision, values and the readiness for the next step to become a real European Union is the answer. Let’s start today.

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