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Margot Wallström

European Commission Vice-President for Inter-Institutional Relations and Communications Strategy

A vision for Europe

European Youth Summit
Rome, 24 March 2007

Dear delegates to the Youth Summit, distinguished guests: good morning!

I am so happy to see all of you, young people here! You are the future; you are the workers, businesswomen, artists, teachers, and decision makers of the future.

They say that life begins at 50; but from my own experience I know that you reach that point far too quickly. So my first wish would be: stay impatient! Engage in a project, which that goes beyond your personal carrier, or self-interest. Widen your perspective, follow your heart.

Let us for a minute to put ourselves in a global picture. For many years the world's leaders promised to eradicate poverty in the world, to provide drinkable water to all inhabitants of our planet; to fight hunger.

But look at the reality: despite all these commitments, poverty is still a humiliating phenomenon; more than a billion people still do not have access to clean water, millions of children go to bed hungry every night or do not have access to education.

Don't forget the rest of the world; that part of the world which is – contrary to what happen among the member states of the European Union is still devastated by the war, ethnic conflicts, abuse of human rights. Don't forget the poor, the humiliated, the left behind.

I wish you would be able to tackle three challenges which are, at the same time a challenge for you, the young people and for the European Union.

The first challenge is about democracy: democracy can not be taken for granted; it has to be fought for over and over again. Don't repeat the historical mistakes of underestimating the dark forces of racism, xenophobia or anti-democratic ideas in Europe.

The second challenge is about integration; Europe is already a home for many immigrants and refugees; but do they get the right welcome? How can we live in harmony together? Fight fanaticism and extremism, with tolerance and mutual respect. We have to prevent the creation of urban ghettos and the consequent problems we have seen on the streets of some European cities in recent years.

The third challenge is identity: we are living in a moment of European history, where the traditional meaning of many words is changing. Europe, European, abroad, national identity, national boundaries: each generation fill these words with different concepts. We have now the generation who we can call the Erasmus generation.

Travelling throughout Europe doesn't really mean for you "going abroad", but only changing language, and they fly from a European capital to another without noticing national boundaries, as your parents did. Perhaps you will be able to become the transforming generation for the European identity; an identity which is build from the bottom up.

So where is Europe now? Is Europe doing enough? Is the European project still able to attract positive attention and to create enthusiasm?

Birthdays are a time for taking a critical look at ourselves and thinking about where

we are today and where we want to be in five, ten or fifty years' time.

This is the first Youth Summit ever organized by the EU institutions. You therefore represent a broad constituency across the 27 member states. And this will not be a one-off event. This is a start of a new dialogue between young people and the EU institutions. There will be a follow-up both on the process and on the content.

We want to listen to you.

Europe today is facing tough new challenges. Globalisation, global warming, the social inclusion, ageing population

Today's challenges are so big that no one country can possibly tackle them on its own. We need to act together, exercising our collective strength as the European Union.

What are you expecting from Europe? What sort of Europe do you want? Speaking for myself, I want to see:

  • A dynamic Europe founded on smart growth
  • A productive Europe where everyone has a job
  • A caring Europe where the sick, the elderly and the handicapped are looked after
  • A just Europe where there is no discrimination and everyone has equal access to jobs and education
  • A clean, green Europe that cares for its environment and helps meet the global challenges
  • A secure and free Europe where the rule of law preserves liberty for all citizens.

Overall, I want Europe to develop a model of truly sustainable development that we can show, with pride, to the rest of the world. A Europe which is able to integrate and show solidarity towards new Members, as it has been able to do so many times in the past.

These are the policies which represents the Europe of tomorrow. But you can not deliver the policies of the future with the tools of the past. This is why we need a new consensus. We need a new Treaty.

Once Jacques Delors said "No-one will ever fall in love with the Single Market" I believe he was right!

I want a Europe you could easily fall in love with.

But what do you think? What is your vision of Europe's future?

I am really looking forward to finding out.

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