Speech on prospects for the European idea by President Gauck
In Berlin, Federal President Joachim Gauck gave a trailblazing speech on the future prospects of the idea of Europe. He argued that for Germany “more Europe” meant not a German Europe but rather a European Germany. Gauck also spoke in favour of a stronger sense of European identity and common purpose.
Here are some excerpts of the speech by Federal President Joachim Gauck on prospects for the European idea on 22 Februay 2013 at Schloss Bellevue:
"There has never been this much Europe! I say that as someone who is profoundly grateful to be able to look across this room and welcome guests from Germany and from all over Europe.
There has never been this much Europe. A lot of people at the moment have very different feelings about that when they, for example, open the German newspapers. There we find Europe reduced to four letters – euro – and read about crisis. Time and again, the stories centre around summit diplomacy and rescue packages. We read about difficult negotiations, and partial successes – but the main theme is a sense of unease, even unmistakeable anger, which cannot be ignored. In some member states, people are afraid they are the ones footing the bill in this crisis. In others, there is growing fear of facing ever harsher austerity and falling into poverty. For many ordinary people in Europe, the balance between giving and receiving, between debt and liability, responsibility and a place at the table no longer seems fair.
Add to that the litany of criticism we have been reading and hearing about for a long time: annoyance with Brussels technocrats and their mania for regulation; complaints that decisions are not transparent enough; distrust of an impenetrably complex network of institutions; and, not least, resistance to the growing significance of the European Council and the dominant role of the Franco-German tandem.
Attractive though Europe is, the European Union leaves too many people feeling powerless and without a voice. I hear this and read it on almost a daily basis and can tell you: there are issues in Europe that need clearing up. When I see all the signs of people’s impatience, exhaustion and frustration, when I hear about polls showing a populace unsure about pursuing “more” Europe, it seems to me that we are pausing on a new threshold – unsure whether we should really stride out on the onward journey. There is more to this crisis than its economic dimension. It is also a crisis of confidence in Europe as a political project. This is not just a struggle for our currency; we are struggling with an internal quandary too.
Writing in the late 1950s, the Swiss philosopher Denis de Rougemont put it like this: “It is only necessary to go away from Europe, in any direction, to feel the reality of our cultural unity. In the United States already, in the Soviet Union without hesitation, and in Asia beyond all possible doubt, Frenchmen and Greeks, Englishmen and Swiss, Swedes and Castilians are seen as Europeans. […] Seen from out-side the existence of ‘Europe’ is obvious.”
But what identifies us today? What unifying bond marks out the people of Europe? Where does Europe get its unmistakable meaning, its political legitimacy, the recognition of its people?
When the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last November, the speeches referred to it as a project for peace. We’ll never forget Winston Churchill calling for the recreation of the European family in his famous speech to young people in Zurich in 1946. We’ll never forget that the most strongly held conviction for politicians and ordinary people after the war could be expressed in two words: “never again!” And we’ll never forget how 700 politicians and intellectuals gathered for the Hague Congress in 1948, bringing together such a variety of figures as British philosopher Bertrand Russell, Italian author Ignazio Silone and Germans like Konrad Adenauer, Walter Hallstein and Eugen Kogon.
I would now like to turn to Britain. I listened with interest to the Prime Minister’s dual message: the “yes” to British traditions and to British interests which is not intended to be a “no” to Europe. Of course, it is up to the British to decide on their own future, but perhaps they are prepared to listen to an appeal from Schloss Bellevue:
Dear people of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, dear new British citizens! We would like you to stay with us! We need your experience as the oldest parliamentary democracy, we need your traditions, your pragmatism and your courage! During the Second World War, your efforts helped to save our Europe – and it is also your Europe. Let us continue to engage in discussion on how to move towards the European res publica, for we will only be able to master future challenges if we work together. More Europe cannot mean a Europe without you!
I firmly believe that if everyone in Europe remains committed to this principle then solidarity within Europe can even grow and, in the long term, reduce the great inequalities on our continent, thus helping to create conditions which offer people new prospects in their own countries."
Read the complete speech here: