José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
"50 years of Europe: Honouring the past, inspiring the future"
Rome, 23 March 2007
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin by thanking you for giving me the honour and privilege of addressing you in this historic setting.
And how fitting that we gather here in Rome to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. How fitting that here, in the heart of where European Civilization and the idea of public law emerged, we celebrate the success of the European 'empire of law'.
And what a success! La creazione di una comunità di quasi mezzo miliardo di cittadini europei nell'Unione a 27 ha rappresentato la rivincita del dialogo sulla vendetta, del "buon governo" sulle armi, della ragione sull'emozione.
Nessun dono più grande è stato fatto, e mai cosi' pacificamente, ad un continente che ha pagato un cosi' alto tributo di vite umane nei conflitti armati tra il 1914 e 1945.
But it is also important that we use this occasion to look forward.
We need to inspire Europe's citizens with a vision for the next fifty years. We have to convince them that the European Union is the best answer to 21st century challenges like globalisation, sustainable growth and competitiveness, political solidarity, energy supply, climate change, and security.
This is not to say that the past doesn't matter. Far from it. A culture that forgets its past is a culture that has no future. And in any case, we simply cannot separate the successes of the last five decades from the challenges of the future. They are intertwined.
We are in a strong position to deal with globalization, to boost economic growth, to show solidarity, to ensure sustainable development, precisely because of what founding fathers like Alcide De Gasperi, Gaetano Martino and Altiero Spinelli achieved: peace, democracy and prosperity through greater interdependence.
By deciding together and acting together for 50 years, we have created a common past that gives us the strength to face the challenges of our common future.
And we will only preserve the achievements of that common past if we continue to succeed in the future.
In my view, that will depend on our ability to project Europe's common values and interests beyond its borders.
We have already achieved something quite unique. That is why we are celebrating here today. The European Union has accomplished its historic task of making war between its nations 'not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible' [non solo impensabile, ma materialmente impossibile].
Now it is time for Europe to use its weight and determination on a global stage. To encourage the spread of freedom and the rule of law. To fight against poverty, particularly in Africa. To lead the battle against climate change, and much more.
This is the great European narrative for the twenty first century. We have created a new and better European political order. Now we must use this experience to create a new and better global order: a noble ambition that will inspire great Europeans of the future, and honour great Europeans of the past.