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Celebrating Europe! - 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of RomeSkip language selection bar (shortcut key=2) 01/02/2008
EUROPA > 50th Anniversary > News and media > Views and visions

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Hans-Gert Pöttering MEP, President of the European Parliament – Birthplace: Bersenbrueck, Germany


Hans-Gert Pöttering MEP, President of the European Parliament - Only through contacts, dialogue and the exchange of ideas – between the EU’s citizens, its institutions and its external partners – will the historic project of European Union be secured.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ Thus Jean Monnet, in September 1939. But the first priority for today’s European Union of 27 member states must be to learn from one another. In this reunified Europe, communication and the greater sharing of ideas will be the key to our success as Europeans by 2050, whether in the form of contacts between young people (through university contacts, travel, spiritual and ecumenical meetings, and arts festivals); between towns and regions; through twinning, shared projects and civil society exchanges. We must get to know one another better in order to accept one another, to be enriched through our differences, and to build the future together. At the same time, we need to agree on our unchanging essence: a concept of mankind as indomitable, born free, with equal rights and duties with respect to Creation – working for the common good, while honouring values that are deeply rooted in our Judaeo-Christian heritage.

Balancing science and humanity

In the decades to come, Europeans will have to take a position on the implications of rapid progress in basic research in biology and life sciences; we will have to confront the ethical dilemma of giving every chance to medicine and the relief of human suffering while, at the same time, setting limits which define what it is to be human. Such choices can only be made democratically, but should be informed by the wisdom of spiritual authorities in whom the peoples of Europe see their views represented. The Charter of Fundamental Rights contained in Part II of the Treaty on European Union needs to be expanded to take account of our ethical positions and the future developments in biotechnology.

Science and technology have driven the development of western societies and their economic and strategic power in the 19th and 20th centuries. The 21st century will spread the benefits of research and innovative technologies to other continents, particularly through the highly populated and dynamic Asian continent. Europe cannot stand aside from this tremendous race for productivity, competitiveness and improved standards of well-being. My vision of Europe in 2050 is therefore based on two imperatives:

First, to influence the world in such a way that natural resources, the environment, and the Earth’s biodiversity are not destroyed by indiscriminate exploitation of these riches. The growing levels of consumption of raw materials and oil are worrying, and may lead first to price wars and later to armed conflict. The natural scarcity of one precious resource – water – may also become increasingly acute as a result of climate change and explosive population growth, in turn leading to new domestic and international conflicts. Our willingness to act as peacemakers will be challenged as never before.

The survival of humanity will be inextricably bound up with our own survival as ancient populations of this little ‘headland of Eurasia’ that is Europe. Unless Europe speaks with a single voice in the existing international fora, it will share the blame should the world drift towards destructive power struggles and anarchy. Europe may need to exert its power to strengthen or encourage the emergence of forms of world government, to ensure that the planet’s resources are managed optimally for future generations. This requirement entails the creation of a European political authority, enjoying powerful legitimacy from the people, acting in their name and based on our common European values. At some point, we will appoint a president of the European Union who will have the EU’s authority and mandate to speak on equal terms with the president of the United States and the president of China.

Second, to increase significantly the human and financial resources that Europe provides in the field of science and research in order to stay globally competitive. In the short term, the European Union needs to build a research and development capability in the field of new technologies at least equivalent to that of the United States. An increased share of the EU’s budget should be devoted to such technologies, accompanied by intensified intellectual exchange and the pooling of research capacities.

The issue of the EU’s external frontiers, its capacity for further enlargement and the workability of a European Union enlarged to more than 30 members form a further nexus of questions which need to be addressed together. The Balkan states will gradually adapt to European structures, with the long-term objective of EU membership. Other (eastern) European countries, such as Ukraine, would have to begin by deciding for themselves whether they want to create the conditions for closer relations with – or, ultimately, membership of – the EU. The Union should seek a stable and structured special relationship with Russia: the stability and security of the European continent in the 21st century will be founded on the two pillars of the European Union and Russia, and on good relations between them.

Avoiding cultural over-stretch

In the next few years, the Union has the opportunity to take an important decision: does it want to be more than an economic union and a union enlarged merely for reasons of security, or a political union with its own constitution?

If the latter (which I strongly endorse), we need to bear this in mind when considering further enlargements. If, for example, Turkey were to join the EU, the character of the Union would change fundamentally; many, like myself, believe that the Union would soon be overburdened – geographically, politically, culturally and financially. Turkish accession would lead to real ‘over-stretch’ of the Union, jeopardising the cohesiveness which gives Europeans their power and their identity.

A strategy for the Mediterranean region

The final two challenges – terrorism and immigration – demand a new approach to our relations with our important neighbours in the Mediterranean area, to whom we are linked by history, trade and migration. The Barcelona Process – a comprehensive project for cooperation on an equal footing between the EU and southern and eastern Mediterranean coastal states – will gain in importance as we seek to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the region. This must involve reducing poverty, creating an area of common prosperity and shared values, deeper economic integration, and stronger political and cultural relations with the regions neighbouring the enlarged Union.

By improving understanding between cultures, the EuroMed political dialogue can help to cut off nourishment for the seed-beds of terrorism. A dialogue with Islam is of crucial importance. The people and culture of the Mediterranean area are imbued with Islam. We must seek, through a policy of mutual understanding, to avoid a clash of civilisations, on both sides of the Sea.

If the European Union successfully addresses these questions, it can re-establish trust between public opinion, individual citizens and stakeholders on the one hand, and the EU’s institutions and political formations on the other. It is only through dialogue and understanding that we will secure the union of our European continent.

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