Extracts from the speech of European Parliament President David Sassoli on the 70th anniversary of the Schuman declaration
Speaking at an event to mark Europe Day in the European Parliament, alongside NGOs working to save lives and protect vulnerable people in Europe, Sassoli stressed the relevance of Schuman’s message today:
“The words with which Robert Schuman began his declaration on 9 May, 70 years ago have never sounded as topical as they do today. Solidarity, equality, equal opportunities for everyone, these were the words which ran like a thread through an address which laid the foundations for the construction of the future European Union.
“The only thing that can save us from the current crisis and enable us to restore our economies and protect our citizens is acceptance of the need for a common response.
“We will need to be able to mobilise huge volumes of resources so that an economy which has come to a halt can be kick-started. And we will need to do so quickly, because citizens and businesses cannot wait.”
The President spoke of the need to rebuild around EU’s social model:
“The economic and financial crisis has led to rising unemployment and widening inequality both between and within nations. The recovery must embrace young people and women, who are likely to bear the full brunt of the crisis and who need comprehensive, practical support. We do not want the gains for women in our societies to be compromised or turned backwards.
“A major effort will have to be made to strengthen the welfare state. We are not starting from scratch. Think of the millions of unemployed people in the United States who have been made redundant overnight and have no health insurance. Here in Europe, public health is essential to the well-being of society, a precious asset that we must defend and build on. This is the only way to ensure we don’t leave anyone behind.
He called on current political leaders to find the courage of the founders of Europe:
“It is in times of hardship that we must find the courage and the resources to make a new start. Now it is our generation that is being asked to summon up the same courage as the Founding Fathers, to focus on the common future of that project, which so many the world over view as an example of peace, solidarity and prosperity.
“It is founded on EU law, respect for democracy and our values, and measures to safeguard the freedoms of EU citizens.
“Respect for EU law means respect for judicial bodies, and first and foremost the Court of Justice, whose decisions are binding on everyone and which everyone must pledge to uphold.
Sassoli went on to praise the work of civil society and individuals in face of the crisis:
“If there is one thing that this health crisis has shown our citizens it is that Europe already has a great resource. That great resource is its civil society, I am talking about the women, men, boys and girls who have rolled up their sleeves and offered to help those in need.
"70 years ago we said "never again" to war; 70 years later we must say "never again” to dying of hunger or “never again” about dying in the Mediterranean.
"People and civil society are the driving force behind the European project. Only by adopting a bottom-up approach can we reform the Union in a way that puts the interests of its citizens centre-stage. Our task is to revive the principle of participatory democracy laid down in the Treaty. Our conference on the future of the EU, must thrive on intense grassroots discussion and not become mired in academic, or purely institutional, debate.
"The aim must be to reform democracy. We must do this by deploying the tools needed for rapid decision making. The right of veto in the European decision-making process is an anachronism, as this crisis and the need to take urgent and timely measures has made only too clear."