I salute President Jean-Claude Juncker for today's State of the Union in the European Parliament. At the start of a difficult period, culminating with Brexit and the European elections of 23-26 May, the European Commission President has shown that it is essential for pro-Europeans to speak out, loudly and strongly, shouting that Europe is worth fighting for. His speech was not a farewell, despite being his last State of the Union address, but a comprehensive programme for the year ahead. There is no time to waste.
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Today’s early-morning agreement of the European Council on migration is a step forward to build a stronger future of Europe. We have avoided the worse, now it’s time to walk the walk. Despite a very tense debate on migration, EU leaders put on the same level not only the effective control of EU’s external borders, but also an "increased external action and the internal aspects, in line with our principles and values.”
Social justice is an aspiration common to people of all faiths and value-based philosophies. Helping the poor and needy is a moral – if not also economic and social- imperative that we all share. If there is no solidarity, there is no social cohesion and thus no competitiveness. The European Economic and Social Committee has been calling for an improved social dimension for a long time, and welcomed the Proclamation of a European Pillar of Social Rights as a first step.
We are here today in Krakow, to try to talk freely about our history, our cultures and our expectations for the future of the European Union. I hope these exchanges, along with other points on our rich agenda in Poland, will inspire us for the discussions on the EESC role in the Future of Europe debate which we will have in the afternoon. We have planned our stay in Krakow in a way to be able to gain a different perspective on the European debate, to enrich it with a Central European flavour.
Congratulations to Vice-President Jyrki Katainen for the new Commission's proposal on the InvestEU Programme adopted today. This much-needed instrument builds on the Juncker Plan, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and efficiently addresses the issue of social investments.
The EU and China share common views in many areas. The ever-increasing interdependence in this globally connected world that will put demands on us in terms of closer cooperation to face common challenges. Especially in the area of trade and investment, firstly, we must ensure that growth is sustainable, inclusive, and benefits all. We must take measures to make sure we operate sounds and stable financial systems, and commonly and strongly continue to defend the multilateral, open and rules-based trading system we have so carefully built over the last 50 or more years. In this context, the EU’s and China’s active and constructive engagement is paramount to ensuring that the WTO remains the core of the open trading system.
The responses to the multiple crises that the European Union has been confronted with have increasingly led European citizens to become disenchanted not only with the European Union itself but also with democratic institutions in general – both at the European and national level. There is a serious risk of EU citizens no longer seeing the added value of the EU for their living and working conditions as well as for their future perspectives and those of their children and for losing a common sense of belonging.
Anniversaries are a time for celebration. For togetherness and joy. A moment to pause, to look back and take stock of achievements which will drive our future. We are here to dare the future of Europe.
The subject of Culture is close to my heart– it is one of the four priorities of my presidency alongside peace, sustainable development and youth. These are the pillars of the new European Renaissance we must urgently strive for. Culture is not only a driver of economic growth and social cohesion, it has been one of the drivers of European identity for many centuries.