Today, the European Parliament celebrated 70 years. In her speech during a special ceremony in Strasbourg, the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola described Europe as the answer to the questions people ask. “It symbolises hope, courage and belief.”
Dear Prime Ministers,
Dear Speakers and Presidents of national parliaments,
In 1952, here in Strasbourg, Paul-Henri Spaak presided over the opening of the first ever session of the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community. It was the starting point of this institution’s plenary activity.
In 70 years, the Assembly grew from strength to strength. In 1962, it changed name to become ‘the European Parliament’. In 1973, it opened its first own institutional hemicycle in Luxemburg, where many staff members still sit. Over time, parliamentary committees and political groups activity grew in Brussels, as increased powers came with the responsibility of exercising increased scrutiny over the other European Union institutions.
This institution embodies European reconciliation.
It matters that we are here in Alsace today as a living symbol of how far we have come. Symbolism is important but this House is so much more.
Over the years, consecutive treaties allowed our house of democracy, to develop into a powerful, independent, political forum with co-legislative and budgetary powers that impact millions of European citizens. That protects the best interests of citizens. That reflects and amplifies the voice of 500 million people.
Today, the European Parliament has become the only directly elected, multilingual, multi-party transnational parliament in the world.
Its 705 directly elected members are the expression of European public opinion.
With an ongoing illegal war in Ukraine that destroys, kills and undermines the political will of a people, we are reminded again of the importance of upholding the democratic voice of citizens and the democratic European values that this house stands for.
And that is why, it is important that we mark the European Parliament’s 70th anniversary.
It is important that we pause to reflect on our achievements. The achievement of getting Europeans to seek and find compromise and to come together to adopt a common agenda for the benefit of us all.
The achievement of making our shared space a little bit safer, a little bit fairer, a little bit more equal.
The achievement of creating a union of rights, of values, of solidarity, of equality, of peace – of hope.
From the ashes of war, we have found the wisdom, the courage and the humanity to choose to stand together, to tear down walls and unite people and nations. Together we can continue our mission to tackle generational inequalities, to fight crippling poverty, to keep us safer and ensure our security, to ensure equality of opportunity, to fight discrimination, to stand up for women, to show our LGBTIQ community that this truly is a freedom zone, to create a framework for prosperity and economic growth, to beat climate change, to help create jobs - to ensure dignity to all.
I am not here to say we are perfect. We are not. Our processes sometimes frustrate. Progress is not always fast enough, or deep enough or easy enough.
We must keep reforming, keep pushing for positive change, day in day out.
But I am proud of our achievements, of our way, of Europe being a beacon of the defence of democracy. Of the way that we have never been indifferent. Of how we have never looked away.
Friends, Europe is the answer to so many of the questions our people ask of us. It is a way of life and a way of living.
It was no coincidence that the EU flag was raised over Kherson after so many months of brutal occupation. It is because it symbolises hope, courage and belief.
This is the legacy of our Europe. The legacy of this house. The legacy of the last 70 years.
It is in this capacity that members of this Parliament – over which I am honoured to preside – meet to vote democratically every month in Strasbourg.
It is for the respect of human rights that this parliament leads a fight for neighbouring peoples struggling for democracy.
And it is to honour the current needs of our European citizens hard hit by inflation and the cost of living that we will continue to seek – again and again – solutions to our common challenges.