The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

‘Europe’s future is yet to be written and our story depends on you, on all of us,’ Metsola says

Shona Berger Monday, 9 May 2022, 12:59 Last update: about 6 days ago

The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola has said that the Future of Europe conference has proven that there was “a gap between what people expect, and what Europe is able to deliver at the moment.” 

“This is why we need a convention as the next step, and this is what the EU Parliament will insist on as there are issues that simply cannot wait,” Metsola said. 

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Addressing the Conference on the Future of Europe in Strasbourg on Monday, Metsola highlighted that “Europe has a proud history. We have created the common market, ensured enlargement to successive States, embraced universal suffrage, eliminated internal borders, created a common currency and enshrined fundamental  rights into our  treaties: Our European project has been a success story. It may not be perfect but we represent a bastion of liberal democracy, of personal freedoms, of liberty of thought, of safety and security.” 

“Europe’s future is yet to be written and our story depends on you  - on all of us,” Metsola said. 

Speaking about the war between Russia and Ukraine, Metsola said that the future of Europe is tied to the future of Ukraine. 

“The threat we face is real, whilst the cost of failure is momentous,” she said. 

Metsola noted that this debate took on a new reality on 24 February, when President Putin ordered his army to invade Ukraine. An act of mediaeval aggression that has changed the world. 

“The post 24 February world is a very different one. A more dangerous one. Europe’s role has changed with it. We cannot afford to lose any time,” Metsola said. 

She added that “how we have responded to the invasion and how we must continue to respond is the litmus test of our values. The unity and resolve of our response has confounded critics and made us proud to be European. That must be the blueprint going forward.” 

But as we speak here, Ukraine is still being invaded. Bombs are still killing indiscriminately. Women are still being raped. Millions have fled and will continue to do so. People are still trapped in the tunnels under Mariupol. Ukrainians look to Europe for support because they know what millions of Europeans who were forced to spend half a century behind the yoke of the iron curtain will tell you: There is no alternative to Europe, she said. 

Metsola also highlighted that this conference has “faced down cynics.” 

She highlighted a number of issues such as climate change, health, the economy, migration, equality and solidarity, that the EU Parliament will seek to address. 

Concluding her speech, Metsola said that “it is easier to be cynical, populist and to look inwards, but we should expose populism, cynicism and nationalism for what they are: false hope sold by those with no answers. Those who are afraid to forge the hard and long road of progress. Europe has never been afraid. Now it is time to step up and not step back.” 

She added that “we are once again at a defining moment of European integration and no suggestion for change should be off-limits. Whatever process is required in order for us to get there should be embraced.” 

Meanwhile, von der Leyen said that standing still is falling back but this conference has shown that Europeans are determined not to make this mistake as citizens have said that they want to live a better future. 

“Through the 49 proposals and more than 300 measures, you have waived and created a vision for Europe which matters the most. Your message has been well received from this conference and now it's time to deliver,” von der Leyen said. 

She added that next month the EU will set out what is needed, to bring to life the proposals and respond in the best way possible. 

“We need to go even further. For example, I have always argued that unanimity voting in some key areas no longer makes sense, if we want to move faster,” von der Leyen said. 

“Europe should also play a greater role in health or defence,” she said. 

Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron said that “this work can be undertaken and be effective. Sticking to these environmentally, economic and other goals, means that we will be effective and it will be a way to keep Europe together.”

The Conference on the Future of Europe came to an end on Monday with 49 proposals having been shaped over the past months on the basis of citizens’ contributions. 

These proposals were conveyed to the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron for the Council. 

Since the launch of the platform on 19 April, more than 50,000 participants have contributed and shared their ideas, commented on ideas of other participants, endorsed ideas and organised, and reported on events taking place all over Europe. 

The Conference held in Strasbourg, was addressed by its co-chairs MEP Guy Verhofstadt and European Commission Dubravka Šuica, with interventions from citizens who participated in the CFOE, as well as speeches from Metsola, von der Leyen and Macron. 

The conference plenary adopted its 49 proposals on 30 April 2022. These include more than 300 measures across nine themes. 

The nine themes include climate change and the environment, health, a stronger economy, social justice and jobs, EU in the world, values and rights, rule of law, security, digital transformation, European democracy, migration, education, culture, youth and sport.

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