The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

EPP congress: In spite of Brexit, people want more Europe, not less - Simon Busuttil

Gabriel Schembri Thursday, 30 March 2017, 10:38 Last update: about 6 years ago

PN leader Simon Busuttil, in his speech concluding the European People's Party congress today, said that it is a real pity that because of Brexit, Article 50 became the most commonly known article from the treaty of the European Union. He said that, on the other hand, it should be Article 2 which should take most prominence, as it is the article which speaks about the values of the EU. He also mentioned Article 3, which speaks of peace, prosperity and promotion of values.

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He said now that the UK decided to leave, the EU should ask itself: will it ignore this? Do we leave? Do we unite?

“Let us ask ourselves if we still need the EU. Of course, you all know my answer. And the reason is because the EU represents the principles in which I believe. But one major reason is that Malta is doing very well also thanks to the EU. This is why I am committed to the EU and proud to be Maltese and European”

“I am proud to lead the party which made the full membership possible,” he added.

The EU is not perfect, he said, and that is why Brexit is the result of populism. “Populism is the biggest challenge we need to face now. A populist is willing to contradict himself just to say what the public wants to hear. They speak about problems, but never about solutions.”

Dr Busuttil said that the public feels distant from the EU and that is why the public turns to populists. “The truth is when we do speak with people, they listen and they reply. The public wants the EU to fight against terrorism.”

He said the people want more Europe, not less. “They want us to fight corruption. Look at the protests in Romania, they were waving the EU flag as they consider the EU as an ideal.”

“60 years ago, EPP leaders had the vision to sign the Rome Treaty, we need to have the courage and vision to lead the people towards a better future.”

"On my part, I will do my best to deliver an EPP government for Malta," he concluded.

The EPP, the largest political group in Europe, held its two-day congress in Malta for the first time in history.

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after thanking the Maltese delegation for the organisation, said that EPP is the strongest force in Europe.

“Europe has provided answers to complex questions. The value of freedom and solidarity are key. We have to tackle the challenges with courage and it’s important to hold the principle of subsidiarity in high regard.”

“In Rome we spoke about problems which need to be solved, but these solutions have to be guided by our values.”

On Schengen, she said that while this provides Europeans to move freely, it has sometimes ignored the European borders. “We don’t want to isolate ourselves while looking at possible answers for territorial integrity, a principle we have guarded since the Second World War.”

“Let’s hold our benchmarks high. Syria is not part of Europe, but this does not mean that we don’t have to act. We also know that if we want to protect our borders, we need a joint police force.”

She said its vital for Europe not to disassociate itself from its neighbours. “We arrived in Malta, a country so close to Africa. How is it possible to ignore Africa with it being so close to our border?”

European Council President Donald Tusk said that only a united Europe can be a sovereign Europe. And it’s this sovereignty which secures the future of Europe. “Freedom of speech and the rule of law are the true foundation of the EU.  Brexit has made us more determined and more united than before.”

“The key to the future is unity, and there is no alternative to this. We must challenge the populists. Populism is the opposite of modern unity. Words like dignity and pride must return to our political dictionary.”

He said that opposite to what is thought, unity will translate into sovereignty.

Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said that never has Europe seen the need for so much unity. He said that the continent which was tortured, managed to get a 60-year period of peace through this union. “Now we have Brexit, a couple of days after the commemoration of the 60th anniversary. This is a new beginning ofsomething stronger and better. It is not the end, although people on other continents would want that, like Trump. If he goes on like that, I am going to promote the independence of Ohio from the USA.”

“We need to convince Europeans to get off the couch and face populists.”

Newly elected president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, said that his victory is the victory of the EPP. He said that his victory is one of the three victories for EPP, including Juncker’s and Tusk’s.

“The responsibility of the EPP is the most important responsibility”, he said while referring to migration. He said that EPP should provide answers for the ‘bla bla bla’ of the socialists. Tajani said that for European stability, the EU needs to cooperate with the Balkans. He said that to face all the challenges coming ahead, EU needs stability.

Addressing Silvio Berlusconi, Mr Tajani said that to fight populism, Italy, as one of the founding countries, should fight populism at national level. On economy, he said that individual countries cannot compete with China or the US. The EU can only compete if it is united. 

Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish Prime Minister said that the EU has healed the wounds of the Second World War. He said the various challenges have caused populism to rise but warned that populists bring simple solutions for complex problems. “We need to tackle our problems in a union. The crisis has not finished Europe off. But now we must look to the future. Solving one problem after another.”

Mr Rajoy said that the EPP is synonymous with European values, democracy and the rule of law and European citizens trust us for a reason. “Let’s explain and promote the European project. No one should doubt that working for the EPP, is working for a better Europe.”

Manfred Weber, EPP Chairman said that the congress is being held in Malta to look at the future of the European Union but also to support PN leader Simon Busuttil for the upcoming election. “We are standing at a historic cross road. How will we convince the people to walk with us?” He said that all the crisis talk should be stopped. “I know we are facing a lot of challenges, but we cannot say our challenges are bigger than those faced by the founding fathers.”

He said that keeping in mind the fact that the EU has kept the promised peace, is a proof that the EU is a success story. “We are politicians, not diplomats. We must be honest with our people.” He said that the honest truth is that Turkey can never become a full member of the European Union. Mr Weber said they can become close partners, but the EU cannot be stretched in such a way. He insisted that Christianity is at the centre of every EU country. 

Nationalist MEP David Casa, leader of the PN delegation in the European Parliament, this morning opened the European People’s Party congress, saying that Malta remained one of the most committed countries to the European ideal, and this was largely thanks to the Nationalist Party.

Mr Casa said that this was not always the case, as the public had to be convinced through a good campaign by the PN. The MEP said that there needs to be a link between the policies at Eu level and its citizens. It is through this link that the EU can move forward.

“Politicians who speak against the EU, claim that they are patriots, but now we know that EU is essential for Malta. I will keep on fighting for my country, because I love my country.”

Photos Michael Camilleri

 

EPP President Joseph Daul, who presented the EPP resolution on counter terrorism, said that this event has brought together all the institutions of the EU. “We are a social group, but let’s not confuse it with socialism,” he added.

He presented the resolution explaining that the mixing of different cultures has been beneficial. The EU is based on fundamental values, including freedom of religion. However, this freedom reaches a limit when it clashes with the value of the countries. He said that Europe must fight extremism and radicalisation. Radicalisation in prisons, on the internet and in our societies, he explained.

The extreme right has the same aim of extremism, to divide the people, he warned. “That is why we need a sensible solution.”

Margus Tsahkna, the Estonian Minister of Defence, said that EU citizens still rank security as one of their major concerns. He said that member states should find the courage to set motivating targets. “The EU is not about collective defence, this pillar belongs to NATO. We have the diplomatic means to debate issues with Eastern Europe.” Mr Tsahkna said that wars at the border of the EU can only be left out through unity.  

Angelino Alfano, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the event of the anniversary in Rome has rekindled the affection of this union. “I was born in 1970, and I have only known peace and prosperity. My father was born in 1936, and he lived through the war. And he told me of how happy he was seeing the Americans coming to Italy. Now, 60 years later, we can say that it was through the idea of peace that we are still together.”

Mr Alfano said that if we want to build a better future, we need to remember the past. Brexit, the economic crisis and the refugee crisis were all challenges which the EU had to face. “The founding fathers were tasked with building Europe, now we have to save it.”

He said there is a split between those who want to leave and us, who want to unite more. “We are not the Socialists, the populists who believe that alone they are secure and better off economically.”

Former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi (right) and former EU Commissioner Joe Borg

Petteri Orpo, Minister of Foreign Affairs from Finland in his first speech at an EPP congress, said that the EU needs to act to make this union last for 60 years more. “United we stand, divided we fall,” he added.

Austria’s vice-chancellor Reinhold Mittelehner said that we must not take 60 years of peace for granted. He said that especially after yesterday’s event related to Brexit, the EU must now unite even further. 

Czech Republic Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Belobradek said that the EU was a successful project, however, we need to see if we need to move on from the original purposes, especially with regards to integration.

(Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi)

Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, Kris Peeters said that his country just commemorated the attacks in his country a year ago. He said that terrorist attacks such as the one in London last week, are becoming more frequent. That is why, he said, countries need to harmonise intelligence to fight crime and terrorism. “Today the EU is just as necessary, if not more than when the founding fathers signed the treaty of Rome. We should welcome refugees but also protect our borders.”

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that as relatively new member, Croatia is now feeling the benefits of being part of this union. He said that other countries who want to join, should be brought closer and they must be included in the European mainstream. On migration, he said that the EU should commit to what was concluded in the Valletta Summit and keep to the promises. “Never allow an intra-party question to become a European or international question,” he said commenting on Brexit.  

Victor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister said the EU is facing a foreign policy crises and economic crises. “The future of Europe is casting a shadow on the present of Europe. Migration has turned out to be the course for terrorism, an NGO business and a faulty solution to work force problems.”

“The language of political correctness fails to identify the real problems, including the dominant Muslim Europe in the near future. I understand the left is exerting pressure. But borders must be protected. We are living proof that defence is possible.”

Former Malta Ambassador Richard Cachia Caruana

Mr Orban said that the EU must not make the mistake to believe that any non-EU country is not safe.  

EPP Secretary General Antonio Isturiz said there are no words to describe how proud he is to see a united party before him. He told Simon Busuttil, “you have made Malta the centre of attraction for over 3,000 delegates from all over Europe.” He thanked Dr Gonzi and Eddie Fenech Adami for being the ones who brought Malta to Europe.

“We are united to face whatever tweets Trump might address to us, or to any letter we receive from the EU. Europe was not made to protect itself, but to protect its citizens.”

Mr Isturiz said socialist are digging their own political grave. “Pro-Europeans win elections. It happened in Spain and Germany with Merkel.”

 

 

 

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