The State of the Union

Yesterday, ALDE Group Leader Guy Verhofstadt delivered his State of the European Union address before the European Parliament in Strasbourg. See the full video here.

Dear colleagues,

A lot has changed in Europe since the state of the union last year:

In August 2016, Mr. Hofer still wanted to take his country out of the Union. Five months later, after his defeat, he changed his mind. Mr. Hofer and the FPO now wants Austria to stay in the euro, to stay in the Union.

In March of this year, in the Netherlands, Mr. Wilders promised a “spring of populism” and he reaped the opposite, a rise of the pro-European parties; a boomerang in his face.

In France, Emmanuel Macron won the presidential elections after a pro-European campaign. Since then, the Front National doesn’t want to leave the euro anymore.

And even in Hungary, Viktor Orbàn is piping down. He accepts now the authority of the European Court of Justice. A few days ago he even excluded that Hungary would ever leave the Union.

So I want to say to Mr. Hofer, to Mrs. Le Pen, to Victor Orban: welcome to the side of reason. Even when we all know that you have changed your mind, not by conviction, but by fear of losing votes.

The only one who still doesn’t get it, is Nigel Farage. Last weekend, he called on the German AfD to campaign on Brexit. I think it’s a fantastic advice, Nigel … Keep up the good work. I hope they take it. But unfortunately, I don’t think that they are that stupid. Since Brexit, it’s clear what our citizens want. Reform Europe, yes! Destroy Europe, no bloody way.

But colleagues, make no mistake. The fight is far from over. This is no time to sit back and to relax. People don’t want “this” Europe, they want to change Europe.

  • 73 per cent want more European action to solve migration.
  • 75 per cent want more European action against climate change.
  • The same number want a European army.
  • And even more want European capabilities to fight terrorism.

It’s true Jean-Claude, the start of this Commission was not easy. The circumstances where not favorable. But after three years of crisis management, Jean-Claude, I think the time has come to build the Europe the people are asking for. That means:

  • A real European asylum system so that we can replace the broken Dublin system;
  • A real European border and coast guard, so that people no longer die on our shores.
  • A European defense union, so that we, ourselves, are in charge of our backyard and not always Russians or Americans.
  • A European FBI so that we are really able to fight the terrorists, terrorists who know no borders.
  • A real government for the eurozone so we can steer the European economy, create European companies that become world champions.

But that’s not the end of the story. We also need to strengthen our European democracy.

That’s why I’m fighting for transnational lists, for a real European constituency. So that we lift our democracy to a continental scale. Europe is more than just the sum of 27 national democracies. Our European executive needs to be matched by a powerful parliament. A Parliament that defends our European principles and values. Outside but also inside. Against conservative governments, like in Poland, or in Hungary. “Alt-right governments”. Who believe Trump is the example, Trump with his white supremacy. Or Putin or Erdogan who jail their democratic opponents. Let’s make Europe the counterweight of all this. A beacon of openness, of freedom, of hope for the 21st century.

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