Speech by the President of the European Parliament at the opening of the "Femmes" exhibition
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I want to thank all those who have contributed to the inauguration of this exhibition, first of all to our friends from Samusocial, the General Secretariat of the Parliament and the management of the Parlamentarium that hosts us.
We are not only opening a photo exhibition here. We, here and now, affirm a principle: public institutions must be close to citizens, especially to the weakest and most vulnerable. In this spirit, we opened the Kohl building to homeless women in collaboration with Samusocial and built a strong network of support in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg.
We are particularly proud of what happened in Brussels: hosting women in difficult situations, interrupting the ordeal they face having to leave their accommodation each day, and ensuring they are treated and cared for as women. This is an important result for the future. For this, I can only thank the care, sensitivity and attention of the Samusocial volunteers.
Covid has revealed many truths: it revealed our fragility, our importance to each other, the importance of public health, the importance of working together for the common good. But after years of silence, a reality that many have denied has come to light: the extent of poverty and marginalisation.
For decades, part of the world has tried to hide poverty. A certain ideology wanted us to believe that our planet was destined for infinite growth, that the world had infinite resources, arguing even that poverty was somehow a personal fault!
They spoke of openness to the world, but in reality, they only opened the way to the great economic powers for investments without constraints or complications. As Pope Francis said "Some parts of our human family, it appears, can be readily sacrificed for the sake of others considered worthy of a carefree existence. Ultimately, “persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when they are poor and disabled... We have grown indifferent to all kinds of wastefulness, starting with the waste of food, which is deplorable in the extreme.”
The truth is that in recent years "growth" has been only for the few. Only the markets have grown, where people play the role of consumers or spectators. This is why poverty was hidden. We instead want to talk about it. For a very simple reason: poverty must not be hidden. For me, poverty must be fought and defeated. This must be our way of dealing with reconstruction after the socio-economic devastation caused by the pandemic.
This is our obsession in the negotiation underway with the European Council for the multi-annual budget of the EU. To use the lever of the enormous economic resources that the European Union will make available to all, to change our way of life, not to go back to the past as it was. Finally, to have an ecologically sustainable economy, which enhances the planet's resources and does not impoverish them, which has the good of all at its centre and not just the profit of a few.
I am sure that the Samusocial volunteers will accompany us on this road. Alongside them, all those non-governmental organizations that in silence, with little money available, have worked in the social sector, have given shelter to the homeless, a hot meal to those who have nothing to eat, real answers to those who live in pain and suffering.
You, in the darkness of these years, have been a lit candle. Before the restrictions due to the pandemic, and where possible more recently, I have travelled to many European countries. Everywhere I went I met a wide range of people who dedicated to others. And every time when I spoke, people told me “We believe in Europe and its values.” We cannot betray these expectations. How do we do this? It is Pope Francis who comes to our aid when he tell us: “To care for the world in which we live means to care for ourselves. Yet we need to think of ourselves more and more as a single family dwelling in a common home. Such care does not interest those economic powers that demand quick profits.”
With this exhibition, with all your work, you are helping us to be “we”, which is needed if Europe is to live up to its values.
We will have to fight. Together. Even more than before. Beginning by denouncing as an outrage the fact that you are often denied even small amounts of money for your initiatives, while others circulate billions of euros for financial investments that enrich only a privileged few. We need you - as only together can we change Europe, bring it closer to people, make it is more just, and make it capable of overcoming poverty and inequality.”