The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola was welcomed in Copenhagen by the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. Together, they addressed an event at the Royal Library, speaking on Europe's next steps. In her speech, President Metsola explained why Europe is worth it and appealed to those present to go out and vote.
© European Union | The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola and the Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen
replying to questions by citizens at the Danish Royal Library
Dear Prime Minister,
It is great to be here and back in Denmark. I first landed here twenty years ago - to follow a European Council meeting - and I thought it was the probably the coolest place in the world – great people great food, and probably the best beer in the world – then I went to Roskilde festival and the cathedral, and my view was confirmed.
I wanted to start like that because that’s part of the beauty of Europe.
I’ve come back to Denmark today with the message I first learnt two decades ago – that Europe is worth it. It is worth your time, your energy, your belief. It is worth the frustrations it sometimes causes. It is worth the funds it costs. It is worth it because it makes people’s lives better. It is worth it because ours is a project that is unique in the world that has as its underlying concept a very simple one: Hope.
We sometimes forget that truth. We get bogged down in dealing with one crises after another economic, migration, social, health, energy, security. It is true that we tend to come up with strange round-about ways, disguised by un-understandable acronyms that turn people away. And it is true that it sometimes feels that Europe is far away from our everyday realities – I get that – and that is why I am here today. To listen, to explain, to answer and to remind you that the heart of Europe beats as loudly in Jutland or Zealand as it does in Brussels or Strasbourg.
When a teenage girl was taken, we shared those 27 hours with you. Just as we share your determination to ensure that there can be not one town, not one village, not one corner of our Europe where 13 year old girls should not feel safe. Where women are not allowed to live their lives.
We may share the good times with the bad, but Europe is not about making everyone the same. We’re not homogenous. We don’t all share the same traditions, languages, or cultures – but the beauty of this project is that it is precisely those differences that give us strength of purpose. It is those differences that autocrats mistakenly thought was weakness. We proved them wrong in our response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and we will keep proving them wrong.
Building Europe took enormous political courage. It meant peoples who have fought each other for the entirety of history, sat down and said cooperation is better than conflict. They understood that together we could all be prosperous, we could all be safer. It was the belief that realpolitik and hope could come together. And they did. Denmark saw that 50 years ago - in 1973, when so many Member States where still strangled under the weight of the iron curtain, and you have led in this half-century. It took tough decisions to follow through and turn rhetoric into action, to transform lives, to change the course of history. Europe did that. This imperfect project of ours - did that.
The last fifty years have seen the transformation of Europe and of Europeans – everything has changed – everything except the certainty of hope that drives us forward to the next fifty years. We need to find that political courage again. I want us to recapture that sense of belief and belonging.
The Danish influence on the development of Europe is something we do not speak about enough. You have been there through it all and I know you will continue to lead going forward.
So what are the next steps for Europe? They must be about delivering the reform people want to see. Reform in legislation that allows us to showcase the economy and the environment as the same side of the same coin. We cannot neglect one to help boost the other. We can learn from the Danish experience here – and I think we proved it when just last week the European Parliament passed some of the most important legislation of our mandate. Our new climate laws are not only about making our shared space healthier, it makes it safer, stronger and more prosperous. The laws we passed are world-leading and world-reaching, they will set the global standards and prove we can both save our planet and grow our economies at the same time. The green transition is also about new jobs. Europe is worth it.
Reform in how we approach new realities we see everyday. AI and Chat GPT means that the next digital revolution is already upon us. How we approach change is important – do we seize the opportunity or do we allow fear of change to guide our decisions? To me, Europe is about unbridled possibility, but we have to make sure our legislation is ready for the future. That’s where the European Parliament comes in. Our Institution – the MEPs you all elect - pushed forward new laws on Digital services that served to protect our data and unleash our tech potential. The tough decisions and negotiations meant we are now better able to deal with the new AI reality. We are able to better counter-cyber attacks and bots that seek to use our tools against us. We are better able to push back against disinformation unsettling the democracies we have long taken for granted. Europe is worth it.
We also need reform in how Europe moves forward – we have Ukraine, Moldova, Bosnia waiting to start accession negotiations. Of course every country must move at its own pace and on its own path, but the transformational impact of Europe is huge. Young Moldovans standing up against every odd imaginable believe in Europe. Young Ukrainians fighting imperialist aggression in trenches believe. We need to help them. In the defence of democracy, Denmark has led here again. You understand that it is not only about defending the values we share. It is about our own security, our own democracies and our own defence. We did not ask for this moment, but we must rise to meet it. That means implementing sanctions, providing military, humanitarian, political and economic support to Ukraine. It is not charity. It is about an understanding that Europe has a line in the sand and if we allow that to be erased by Russian tanks then everything else we have taken for granted will be called into question.
Reform must also mean re-imagining our political culture that has turned so many people away from politics. We need to reinforce the resurgence of the political centre in Europe, where we can deliver on people’s expectations without forcing them to retreat to the fringes or extremes. Where we are able to counter the false narratives and easy answers to difficult questions peddled by populists.
After the economic crisis some years ago we saw more and more people look away – we cannot allow that to happen again now in a post-pandemic world that has become more unpredictable, and more dangerous.
That is why we have to be careful not to throw away all the painful lessons learnt about European economic and fiscal policies. Some flexibility may well be necessary but we cannot allow a free-for-all that will simply become a pre-cursor to next generation’s financial crises. It is about pushing the concept of “Better Europe” that matches the need for “More Europe”. Funds are finite, debts must be paid back and the only way we are able to do that is if we are able to grow our economies. We have the tools we need to tackle inflation and reduced disposable income but we need to find the political courage to use them, to avoid an overly protectionist race to the bottom.
Next year, we will again turn to you to help choose the direction of Europe. Do we keep moving forward or not? You will need to choose your Members of the European Parliament and that is your privilege and responsibility. You have a lot to be proud of in the Members you have elected.
Europe may not be perfect, it’s not a fairytale, but it is worth it and if you do not choose your representatives someone else will. That Europe may be very different to one that you would like to see. Let’s build that together.
You can read the President's speech in Danish here.