Marking International Children's Day, the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola said that we must give hope in a better tomorrow, in a world where children are allowed simply to be children.
Today marks International Children’s Day. For too many children, the world is a darker place than it should be.
Too many children have been forced to grow up too quickly.
Too many children know what it is like to go to sleep hungry.
Too few children remember what the inside of a classroom looks like.
Too many children have been torn away from their families and their childhoods.
Too many children have become victims who will never grow up at all.
The European Parliament has always stood for humanity, and I want to use this platform today to give them and all those fighting on their behalf - many of whom are in this chamber, and whom I thank - hope in a better tomorrow. In a world where light is shone even in the darkest of places.
A world where children are allowed simply to be children.
That is why we will continue to use every tool available to us to help bring the many thousands of Ukrainian children who have been forcibly removed by Russia, from their homes. That is why we will use every tool we can to advocate their rightful return. Why it is important to them and to their loved ones to know that they are not forgotten.
In conflict, in war, in aggression or acts of terror, it is too often innocent children who are forced to pay the ultimate price.
When, on behalf of the European Parliament, I visited the horror of Kfar Azza in Israel, where children were mutilated, tortured and taken, I met with parents and families of those kidnapped.
44 days later, there are still too many children in the clutches of Hamas hidden in Gaza’s tunnels. We must help to bring them home - all of them - and I am hopeful that we will soon see more progress on this front.
As the mother of one of the children taken said: “In a competition of pain there is no winner.”
Children should be with their families. Children should be able to have a chance at a childhood without fear, without terror.
When I met 11-year-old Fatima and Muhammed, Palestinians who lost countless relatives and family members in Gaza, I told them that even in the fog of war, children and the innocent must be protected. Too many have died. Too many families have been torn apart. The horror of parents writing the names of their children on their limbs in case they are killed is indescribable. Where schools and homes once stood, we now have rubble. Where there was hope, there is now pain.
How will all these children grow up? Will they even have a chance at that? Will we be able to convince them of the value of hope over extremism?
Our hearts must be big enough to care for all these children, all these innocent victims, and our minds must become big enough to give them hope at a real chance at a life. Of peace.
In the immediate term, we need to do more to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. Vital aid must be able to get in. Innocent lives must be saved. Humanity must come first.
And we have a role to play. Europe has a role to play. We must be able to end this. We can do that.