Austrian President praised by MEPs for robust defence of the EU
Alexander Van der Bellen says EU is 'worth all the effort'.
Alexander Van der Bellen | Photo credit: Press Association
In a passionate speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, new Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said of Europe’s democratic success since 1945, "It takes only a few minutes to chop down a tree, but for it to grow again, it takes decades."
He said the challenges facing Europe could only be tackled together.
His message was, "We, the older people, must not allow Europe to be stolen from the younger ones."
- The US is no longer interested in the EU’s integrationist 'ever closer union', writes Ted Malloch
- EU ‘weakened’ by years of talking it down, says former US ambassador
- US President’s “arbitrary ban” plays into the hands of Daesh and other extremists, says Senior British MEP
- European Council President Donald Tusk's comments on Donald Trump have been echoed by MEPs
- MEP 'horrified' by rumoured next US ambassador to EU
- Verhofstadt: Donald Trump poses profound threat to EU
- US ambassador to EU: World 'has lost sense of outrage'
Van der Bellen was addressing MEPs as part of his first official foreign trip since taking office in late January. During the speech he said, "The European idea is great. It is unique. It is worth all the effort."
He warned of the consequences of growing nationalism and populism, telling MEPs, "No single problem will be solved by violating people’s dignity, rejecting everything that is different, restricting fundamental rights, constructing new walls and nationalism. We will only create new problems."
The Austrian also stressed the value of the European project, saying, "European peace is an accomplishment of our civilisation, which we should be proud of and should not be underestimated. On the basis of this peace we can accomplish a prosperity and growth that countries acting on their own are not capable of."
Van der Bellen stressed the need to work together in order to create a better Europe. To loud applause, he said, "I believe in a Europe that with its law-based value system can continue to be an example for the whole world."
He also pointed out that he wanted to encourage pro-European forces, "It is possible to win elections while being clearly in favour of the EU."
Parliament’s new President Antonio Tajani welcomed the Austrian’s speech, saying, "Twenty years after its EU accession, Austria is at the heart of Europe, with a successful economy at the centre of the single market."
His speech was also welcomed by European Green Party co-chairs Reinhard Bütikofer and Monica Frassoni, who said he had sent a "strong pro-European signal."
In a statement, they said that by holding his first public speech abroad in the European Parliament, Van der Bellen had "clearly declared his support of the European unification as well as rejecting false contradictions: one can love their home country - and the European idea."
The pair added, "Van der Bellen's speech demonstrated the calm self-awareness and the strong self-confidence that so many other European politicians are lacking. The authoritarian populists are no match against such a plea for Europe."
MEPs have been left unimpressed by the outcome of a meeting in Brussels on Monday between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Cécile Kashetu Kyenge Interview, Gender Equality, Health and Safety, Future of Food, Spirit Drinks Regulation, Brexit, Energy Labelling, Plastics Strategy, 5 questions with Antanas Guoga and more...
Following latest round of Brexit talks, EU and UK sides say they are ready for possibility of no deal.
The Peregrine falcon's down-listing is an opportune time to reflect on the CITES convention, writes Adrian Lombard.
There are different reasons why people believe in extremist ideologies or join extremist groups, explains Alexander Ritzmann.
We shouldn’t forget the importance of empowering educators in the fight against radicalisation, argue Alexandra Korn and Alexander Ritzmann.