Our differences and our ability to come together is what makes us strong - President Metsola addresses Austrian National Council 


The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola is the third foreign dignitary to address the Austrian National Council. On this historic day, Roberta Metsola spoke on the importance of renewal and ways of how Europe can and should embrace change. "We can change, we can regenerate and we can do so while reinforcing the foundations of our European project."

Vielen Dank.

Thank you President Sobotka,
Distinguished members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured and grateful be have the opportunity to address the National Council. It is wonderful to be here, representing the European Parliament, after the renovation works have turned this beautiful building into a more transparent, more sustainable, more accessible beacon of democracy.

It is that spirit of change, renewal and modernisation symbolised in this building that I want Europe to embrace. We can change, we can regenerate and we can do so while reinforcing the foundations of our European project.

Nostalgia may give us a blanket of comfort, but it cannot drive politics. We must remain future-driven and have the foresight to understand that to meet tomorrow’s challenges properly, we must take tough decisions today. And we must do so in a manner that is sustainable and that does not simply push more problems onto the generation who come after us.
We are in an era of polycrises.

We are facing attack on our continent with the illegal invasion of sovereign Ukraine by Russia. With high energy costs and price hikes. With people struggling to make ends meet. Raw materials becoming scarcer. Inflation remaining a challenge for growth. A climate transition that cannot be ignored. Migration challenges that need a holistic pan-European approach and a post-pandemic economic recovery that remains too fragile.

But it is not the challenges that will define our era, but our collective response. And I am proud of how Europe has stood up and continues to stand up.

These are as much Austria’s challenges as they are for the rest of the Union. It is up to us to show leadership. The key to our response has been our unity, our understanding that we are only able to face these challenges if we act together.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses an existential threat to our Union, to our way of life. Our response must be measured but proportionate. This brutal invasion is our line in the sand. Every generation faces one and this is ours.  We know what is at stake. We know that our freedoms, our values, our security, are worth the short-term decisions we must take.

What happens in Ukraine will shape global relations for years to come.

I am not an absolutist, but for Europe this is what we promised for generations.: That we stand for justice, for freedom, for the rule of law. Even when it is hard to do so. Especially then.  If we do not then everything we have fought for, everything we have promised and everything we have inherited will risk starting to crumble.

We must remain steadfast in our support. It will not be easy, but there is no question that is necessary. It has meant a re-thinking of our security and defence policy. It has pushed the debate on our strategic autonomy to the top of the agenda. It has framed our response to the digital and green transition and will continue to do so.

And our twin transition, can only be achieved if we are able to have the right framework for sustainable, green, economic growth. That is how we pay back our debts, how we address the intergenerational problems of poverty that affect our societies, how we can give young people hope - and how we can do this while reaching our climate ambitions. Because these changes are not only about going green, it is about sustainable growth, about security, about ensuring people are better able to stretch their salaries - it is about future proofing our economies. And how we return this project of ours stronger than we found it.

But we must be better able to cushion the economic and social impact of these decisions. We have to better explain why and how we are doing this and why it matters. We need to listen more and listen harder - to our farmers and the agricultural sector in particular.

As someone put it to me recently, there is an invisible line that people cannot be pushed beyond. People must have confidence in the process and they must be able to afford it. Otherwise it will not succeed.

This is one example of the Europe of renewal I spoke about. I want people to re capture that sense of purpose, of enthusiasm for Europe.  A Europe for all, where all of us feel able to live. I know the excellent work Austria, and this Parliament, has done in leading the fight against Anti-Semitism for example, pushing the issue on a European level and acting as an example to all. Thank you, dear President, for your initiative and leadership on this.

The European Union stands for something. We must be proud of that. The European Parliament belongs to Austrians, as much as to anyone else. No decisions in Europe are taken without you. Many are taken because of you. And none of our policies work if the people are not on board.

That is true for migration - where the European Parliament has negotiated a difficult way forward - one that is holistic, that protects our borders but is fair with those in need of protection, firm with those who are not eligible and must therefore be returned safely and harsh with those trafficking and smuggling networks. We still have a lot of work to do, particularly on returns.

We can address this and we can safeguard and strengthen our Schengen area. A stronger Schengen means a safer Europe. A closer Europe, means a better Europe.

Our Europe is not a faraway entity. Europe does not seek to make everyone the same or homogenous; we understand that we are different, that we have different cultures, national realties. Our differences and our ability to come together is what makes us strong - Austria’s 19 MEPs including two Vice Presidents of the European Parliament, know this well.

That is not to say that our Union is perfect. It is not - I share many of the frustrations with some of our processes - but at the end of the day, it is worth it. We can fix it.

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.

As President of the European Parliament, I have made my mandate, about speaking to people in towns, villages and schools across our Union. About listening and learning from Europeans how we make Europe work for them. About bringing the European Parliament closer to national Parliaments – I know how important it is for this national Parliament particularly.

My point is that we need to do a better job at explaining the value of Europe. And we must not fear change. The next European elections will take place between 6 and 9 of June 2024. And I know that with Austria’s engaged MEPs and MPs, we can keep doing this and we can keep listening, convincing and explaining - particularly for young Austrians who, at 16, will be allowed to vote for the first time next year.

As Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - - once said, and I quote: “We live in this world, in order, always, to learn industriously and to enlighten each other by means of discussion...”

That is what the European Parliament is all about. That is what Europe is all about.

Thank you.