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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
“Europas Potenziale Nutzen” (Exploiting Europe’s Potential)
Charlemagne Prize Ceremony - Dinner Speech
Aachen, 30 April 2008

European Commission - SPEECH/08/221   30/04/2008

Other available languages: none

SPEECH/08/221












José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission




“Europas Potenziale Nutzen” (Exploiting Europe’s Potential)






















Charlemagne Prize Ceremony - Dinner Speech
Aachen, 30 April 2008

Königliche Hoheit,

Frau Bundeskanzlerin,

Ministerpräsidenten,

Herr Präsident des Europäischen Parlaments,

Damen und Herren Abgeordnete,

Herr Oberbürgermeister,

Professor Eversheim

Exzellenzen, Verehrte Gäste,

meine Damen und Herren,

es ist mir eine große Freude, heute in Anwesenheit herausragender Karlspreisträger wie seiner Majestät König Juan Carlos von Spanien, Simone Veil, Walter Scheel, Jean-Claude Trichet, Javier Solana, Bronislaw Geremek und Leo Tindemans, das Wort ergreifen zu dürfen. Ich danke dem Karlspreisdirektorium herzlich für diese Einladung, und dem Herrn Oberbürgermeister für die gastfreundliche Aufnahme in Aachen.

Die Verleihung des renommierten Karlspreises ist ein wichtiges Ereignis für Europa. Er ist eine Auszeichnung für die Baumeister Europas und diejenigen, die Europas Ideale verwirklichen.

Auch Karl der Große hätte diesen Preis verdient gehabt! Dieser erste große Architekt Europas hatte die Erweiterung schon vor uns verwirklicht. Sein Reich entsprach in etwa dem Gebiet der heutigen Europäischen Union – vom Baltikum bis zur Adria, und vom Atlantik bis zu den Karpaten. Er schuf wichtige transeuropäische Verkehrsverbindungen. Und er wartete nicht auf den Vertrag von Maastricht, um eine einheitliche Währung einzuführen!

Der Karlspreis ist nicht zuletzt deshalb ein Symbol für Europa, weil er unauflöslich mit der Stadt Aachen verbunden ist. Diese europäische Stadt par excellence verkörpert die Geschichte unseres Kontinents. Lange war Aachen für Europa eine politische, eine diplomatische, eine künstlerische und kulturelle Metropole: ein neues Athen, ein neues Rom, ein neues Byzanz. Drei großen Friedensverträgen hat die Stadt, die selbst im Zweiten Weltkrieg so stark gelitten hat, ihren Namen gegeben. Aachen ist heute eine europäische Stadt des 21. Jahrhunderts - dynamisch, offen, in der wissensbasierten Wirtschaft verankert, reich an Geschichte und Kultur. Sie bietet ein sehr gutes Beispiel für unser Europa, an dessen Aufbau wir mit Stolz mitwirken.

Meine Damen und Herren,

wir haben jetzt alle den Hauptgang hinter uns, und Sie haben jetzt sicher viel Geduld mit mir. Aber ich bin nicht sicher, ob die Küche noch offen ist und uns einen Nachtisch serviert, wenn ich bis zum Ende meiner Rede auf Deutsch fortfahre.

Deshalb bitte ich Sie um Ihr Verständnis, dass ich jetzt auf Englisch weitermache.

I can only congratulate the jury for deciding to award the 2008 Charlemagne Prize to Angela Merkel. It is a recognition which is richly deserved. Dear Angela, this Prize confirms your place in a prestigious line, the line of your compatriots honoured before you - Konrad Adenauer, Walter Hallstein, Walter Scheel, Helmut Kohl and Roman Herzog.

This Prize rewards a woman of conviction. A woman of action. A militant on behalf of Europe. A German political leader within Europe. And of course, in rewarding Angela Merkel the Prize at the same time rewards an indispensable European partner: Germany.

I have known Angela Merkel for quite a few years now. But it was during the German Presidency of the Council that I got to know her even better. We shared a political experience of extraordinary intensity. The sort of experience in which political complicities and personal friendships are sealed.

One of the things that I remember from those politically demanding and yet rewarding six months is the image of a political leader profoundly inspired by a spirit of solidarity, someone who was born of the best traditions of Germany’s European policy.

Since the Union was first founded, Germany has embraced its European destiny. It has never held back from investing substantial political commitment to Europe. It has never faltered in its unshakable support for European political and economic integration. Germany is at the centre of the political dialogue between European partners, talking to all the Member States, large or small, from the North or the South. All levels of German political life have taken ownership of Europe - the Federal Government, the Länder, Parliament and local administrations. Nor have I forgotten that Germany pays the largest contribution into the Union’s budget. From day one, it has been a driving force and a trusted partner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You will all remember the extremely difficult situation which Germany inherited when taking over the Council Presidency in January last year. The European Council meeting in June 2006 had given the forthcoming German Presidency a mandate to work out a roadmap for an institutional settlement. But expectations notably on the Chancellor went beyond a mere roadmap. Everyone knew the German Presidency was offering a unique chance for more. But for Chancellor Merkel and her collaborators it meant nothing less than squaring a circle if she wanted to reconcile 27 Member States behind a text which, compared to the draft Constitution, had to be as much the same as possible for the ones, and as different as possible for the others. Thus Chancellor Merkel on 1 January 2007 embarked on a journey with a clear target to be reached six months later, but without yet a Galileo satellite in the orbit that could have so easily shown her the way.

Thus we had to go step by step, and never too fast. I am proud to say that the European Commission took the initiative to help this process by proposing the Berlin Declaration to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. The agreement among all 27 Heads of State and Government on this Declaration, and the festivities on 25 March in Berlin last year marked a crucial step towards creating a new momentum for Europe and the new EU Treaty.

The adoption of the Berlin Declaration was a very important political act for Europe, of the kind that occurs perhaps only once in a political leader’s lifetime. In the capital of the unified Germany, it celebrated fifty years of a project for peace, democracy, prosperity and solidarity. It was the first strong political gesture of a Europe of 27 members, reunited in freedom, and was intended to re-launch a European momentum in the run-up to the 2009 European Parliament elections and the entry into force of the new Treaty, still to be finalised. I would like to read you the conclusion:

“With European unification a dream of earlier generations has become a reality. Our history reminds us that we must protect this for the good of future generations. For that reason we must always renew the political shape of Europe in keeping with the times. That is why today, 50 years after the signing of the Treaties of Rome, we are united in our aim of placing the European Union on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009. For we know, Europe is our common future.”

We all know how the story went on. Chancellor Merkel found her way without Galileo, and the German Presidency resulted in a real success for Europe, that is to say for its 27 Member States and its citizens, and also for the common European institutions.

I was delighted to work with Angela Merkel to achieve the goals of the Germany Presidency: to end those six months with a new momentum. To launch a new reform of the European Union Treaties in order to free the Union from its institutional stalemate. I have always thought that we were right to believe in that reform and to throw ourselves into it wholeheartedly. Everyone acknowledges that the commitment, the will and the determination of Angela Merkel were decisive in achieving the desired result, steering us through truly epic final negotiations!

It is quite clear: the European Union is not “them” but “us” and our common project. Then, the Union intends to shape the global economy with its own values. Finally, the Union wants to give its citizens the political means for action.

For the sake of its citizens Europe must prepare itself to seize the opportunities as well as to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century – globalisation of the economy, demographic change, migration, climate change, energy security, sustainable development, and terrorism. As a community of 27 states we are strong. We are bound together by common values. And we have common interests to defend. This is one of the main purposes of the Treaty of Lisbon: to lay down procedures which will enable Europe to move forward more effectively. A Europe which is more democratic, more transparent, and more influential on the world stage.

In areas in which we need to be united, we must act with determination. In dealing with the major international causes, such as aid to Africa and global warming, we should take the lead and promote European values.

In other words, we need to exploit Europe’s potential – Europas Potenziale nutzen.

The new EU Reform Treaty, the Treaty of Lisbon gives us the means to fulfil these ambitions.

Our success in reaching an agreement on a roadmap and the subsequent signing of the Reform Treaty last December in Lisbon under the Portuguese Presidency will enable us to concentrate our efforts on actions that meet the practical expectations of Europeans – on employment, high quality health and education systems, security, secure energy, a safe environment, sustainable development and innovation.

Our response to these expectations is the "Europe of Citizens”. It means taking advantage of the European dimension so that our citizens across all over Europe can benefit from European synergies, from the advantages of the single market and from the freedoms that go with it, in an open and tolerant Europe. And the Europe of Citizens also means a Europe with a sense of solidarity, cohesion and a social dimension.

The “Europe of Citizens” is starting to bear fruit. It has already had a number of very tangible effects in the political field: it has allowed us to continue to make progress and has restored a climate of confidence.

Under the German Presidency, we took a crucial step forward in countering climate change. This is a step forward within Europe because the European Council asked the Commission to prepare a comprehensive climate and energy package, incorporating binding targets and thus making the Union a pioneer in this field at global level. And it is a step forward in our dealings with our international partners since the Union, united to defend its position at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, has managed to initiate a consensus on the need to set common objectives for the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions.

From this point of view, I would like to say that Germany, the world’s leading exporter, has adapted to the challenge of globalisation by focussing on the environment and on the knowledge-based economy – high-level research, innovation, the information society, technology-intensive industry, and cooperation between science, research and business. Its dynamism and achievements are an inspiration to the entire Union.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Aside from the institutions, treaties and strategies, important though they are, I believe that what Europe needs today is a culture of confidence. Yes, we are facing challenges, but we are on the right track to meet them, by making use of our assets: common values and objectives, solidarity and cooperation on the basis of common rules. Above all, our history and our unprecedented experience of integration are the best reasons to have faith in ourselves, in our abilities and in our resourcefulness.

In a little over a year we will be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. When we do so, we will be celebrating an event that the German people, Europe and the whole world will never forget. Five hundred million Europeans will remember for the rest of their lives that extraordinary surge of brotherhood, joy and enthusiasm that swept across Europe in 1989.

What I want to say today, here in Aachen, is that the Lisbon Treaty is part of that historic process which began back in Berlin in 1989. It is the culmination of those twenty years of European reunification, of the return to freedom and democracy. The Treaty of Lisbon is a treaty for our new Europe at peace. It is a treaty for the Europe of today, embracing a united Germany and the other fourteen “old” member states, but in the meantime also the Baltic States, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Malta and Cyprus. It is a treaty for the twenty-first century, opening up a whole new chapter in the extraordinary adventure of European integration.

This Treaty, as I have said, provides us with what we need now that there are 27 Member States: the "Fähigkeit zum Handeln" (ability to act). But Europe is and will remain a political construct of readiness and will. Nothing is achieved and nothing will be achieved without a readiness to act, to move forward and to build on the things that bind us together. We need a genuine “Bereitschaft zum Handeln” (readiness to act) to give the Union a new economic, political and strategic dimension.

Meine sehr verehrten Damen und Herren,

Ich habe Vertrauen in unsere gemeinsame Zukunft, weil die Bereitschaft zum Handeln genau dem entspricht, was Angela Merkel und Deutschland ausmacht.

Ich weiß, liebe Angela, dass der Karlspreis für Dich Anreiz ist, Dein aktives Engagement für unser Europa fortzusetzen. Ich nehme mir das Privileg, Dir schon einen Tag zu früh, dafür in tiefer Freundschaft zu dieser verdienten Auszeichnung zu gratulieren.Ich danke Ihnen allen.


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