INTRODUCTION: A PERPETUAL RESPONSIBILITY
Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
At times, history moves forward only haltingly but it is always quick to pass us by.
Such is the fate of a Commission with just a five year mandate to make a real difference.
This Commission is merely a chapter, a brief moment in the long history of the European Union.
But the time has not yet come to pass judgement on the Commission I have the honour of presiding over.
This is why I will not today present you with an overview of the last four years’ achievements.
Instead, I say to you that our efforts will continue unabated. We will keep working to render this imperfect Union that little bit more perfect with each passing day.
There is much still to be done. And this is what I want to talk to you about this morning.
No self-congratulating, no boasting. Modesty and hard work: this is the attitude the Commission will continue to adopt. This is what is on our agenda for the months to come.
History can also show up, unannounced, in the life of nations and be slow to leave.
Such was the fate of Europe’s nations during the Great War starting in 1914. A war which took the sunny, optimistic and peaceful continent of the time by surprise.
In 1913, Europeans expected to live a lasting peace. And yet, just a year later, a brutal war broke out amongst brothers, engulfing the continent.
I speak of these times not because I believe we are on the brink of another catastrophe.
But because Europe is the guardian of peace.
We should be thankful we live on a peaceful continent, made possible by the European Union.
So let us show the European Union a bit more respect. Let us stop dragging its name through the mud and start defending our communal way of life more.
We should embrace the kind of patriotism that is used for good, and never against others. We should reject the kind of exaggerated nationalism that projects hate and destroys all in its path. The kind of nationalism that points the finger at others instead of searching for ways to better live together.
Living up to Europe’s rallying cry – never again war – is our eternal duty, our perpetual responsibility. We must all remain vigilant.