Antonio Tajani | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual
In a speech on Friday, Tajani also said Parliament was uniquely placed to bolster the EU after the UK exits the bloc next year.
Speaking in Florence, he said, “The United Kingdom’s departure from the Union shows that we have not always done things as well as we could. It is also irrefutable proof that leaving the Union causes irreparable damage."
He added, “Parliament is the drawbridge across which ordinary European citizens can enter the EU ‘castle’; it is the key to the castle keep. Strengthening its role means listening to and giving voice to the 500 million people who are not against Europe, but who often criticise it as being inefficient.”
Tajani delivered the keynote speech on the State of the Union at the European University Institute in Florence.
In his address, the Italian MEP said, “We Europeans can look back with great pride on what we have achieved in the last 70 years.”
He noted, “Unfortunately, the last 10 years of financial and economic crisis have put a brake on these improvements and weakened the impetus behind the European integration process.
“Fear leads people to shut themselves off and reject the open-society model advocated by the Union. Walls, borders and nationalisms spring up, sold as antidotes for a globalisation run wild.”
He added, “Anyone who advocates a retreat behind national borders is spinning a lie. Anyone who blames European integration for our problems is aiming at the wrong target.
“In fact, the European Union is part of the solution. It is only by working together, by speaking with one voice, that the countries of Europe can protect their own citizens.”
Tajani told the audience, “Today, the European Union stands at a crossroads. We can listen to the siren voices urging us to take refuge behind our own borders and blindly pretend this will shield us from the ills of the world, or we can choose to continue on our path.
“Europe’s leaders must learn to look further than the next election. They must show they have a holistic and forward-looking view. That is the only truly effective response to the concerns our citizens have about security, immigration and unemployment.”
He cautioned, “If we are to prevent new processes of disintegration, we need to rekindle public enthusiasm for our great European adventure. We owe it to those who have given us 70 years of peace and prosperity.
“We also owe it to future generations, who deserve to enjoy a similar legacy.”