Addressing MEPs, Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová called for a defence of democracy and European values, and EU solidarity in the face of multiple crises.
Referring to the recent homophobic murders in Bratislava, President Čaputová said hate crimes are not just assaults on a particular community, but an attack “on equality, tolerance and respect for human rights.”
It is essential to bring Europe back into balance between “rights and commitments” and “between security and prosperity”, she continued, arguing that this balance is now shaken by multiple crises – first, the pandemic and now the Russian war on Ukraine. President Čaputová pointed to the need for common solutions in the face of these challenges, such as the Recovery and Resilience Fund, sanctions imposed on Russia, and military assistance to Ukraine. She stressed that the aim of the EU’s assistance to Ukraine is peace and she expressed her hope that Ukraine would one day become a full member of the EU.
President Čaputová noted that the EU faces strong internal pressures. It must therefore once again deliver solutions with solidarity at their core to help households and businesses dealing with “soaring energy prices.” She called on MEPs to support “a common cap on gas prices” and the decoupling of electricity and gas prices.
Zuzana Čaputová said that Europe can no longer delay its commitment to climate neutrality by 2050 and that it needs to innovate its economic model “to make more use of renewable energy and do less damage to our planet”. The EU must never again become dependent on fossil fuels.
President Čaputová emphasized the need to respect common EU values like the rule of law, judicial independence, media freedom, and the protection of minorities: “Each and every country that has joined the European Union and each and every country that strives to do so must be and remain a liberal democracy”.
She stressed that democracy should not die because of “the naivety of democrats”, and that rights and freedoms can be exploited and abused. “If we do not protect democracy, we could be the last generation to experience it,” she said. Protection of democracy is particularly necessary on social networks whose business models profit from “hatred, aggression and disinformation.”
President Čaputová stressed that today’s economic, security and energy crises represent “a breeding ground for extremism” and warned that in many member states political forces not wanting “to build Europe but to destroy it” are in the ascendancy. She called on MEPs to represent “decency, ethics and democratic values” in their work. Only if elected leaders perceive democracy as a moral system, they will be able to fulfil their mission as “guardians and watch-dogs of democracy, European values and balance”.