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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Remarks by President Barroso at the press point with Professor Piper, President of the Heinrich Heine University

Press conference

Düsseldorf, 4 April 2014

Guten Tag,

Ich freue mich heute hier in Düsseldorf an der Heinrich-Heine Universität sein zu dürfen. Ich möchte mich ganz herzlich bei Herrn Professor Piper für die Gastfreundschaft und die interessanten Gespräche bedanken.

Nordrhein-Westfalen ist Ursprung und Ausdruck der europäischen Einigung gleichermaßen: Nach zwei Weltkriegen wurden Kohle und Stahl zum Vehikel für das größte Friedensprojekt, das die Welt je gesehen hat: die Europäische Union. Nordrhein-Westfalen symbolisiert die Wiege und die Zukunft Europas. Es ist ein Schmelztiegel der Kulturen und Sprungbrett für Industrie, Forschung und Innovation. Mich faszinieren aber auch sein kulturelles Erbe und seine Museen.

Ich bin sehr froh, wieder einmal hier zu sein.

If you allow I would now like to continue in English:

Before entering into the debate with citizens hereafter I would just like to share a wish with you:

I would hope that our meetings and discussions today at Düsseldorf university and later at the Lew Kopelew Forum in Köln will help all those participating to realise that Europe is something precious. A project of peace, prosperity and freedom that is unprecedented. An idea which - far from being outdated - is more relevant than ever, as events in our neighbourhood demonstrate. An idea for which it is worthwhile engaging for one simple reason: nothing can be taken for granted: our peace, our prosperity, our social model. Neither can we be sure that 50 years ahead we will still be able to count in the world – in a world that is seeing the rise of other massive players.

We therefore need a strong, open and united Europe more than ever to make sure that each of our member states – big or small, rich or poor – will see our European interests and values promoted in a globalised world. Without Europe and a political union as our horizon we are condemned to irrelevance. This is my profound conviction.

In the face of rising populism and anti-European feelings, the upcoming European elections provide the occasion to make up our minds and make the right choices for our future.

This also requires a more honest approach, based on facts, in relation to Europe. We need to avoid stereotypes. Let's not talk down our common achievements. Let's rather have a closer look at what we have succeeded in doing together. From overcoming the economic crisis to the most ambitious climate and energy policy in the world to our strong and united stance on Ukraine and Russia.

Our enlarged Europe pulls its weight in the world in a way that no individual member state could do in isolation.

We do need to take a hard look at our priorities as a European Union, and be smaller on small things, and bigger on big things! But let's not always believe everything negative that is said and written about Europe. Some things might be true and mistakes have certainly been made.

But Europe is not the book of silly stories that some want us to believe. Europe is all of us. Brussels is only about 200 kilometres away from Düsseldorf. And decisions on EU action taken there do not happen in another world. They are decisions taken jointly by all Member States and a democratically elected European Parliament. The Commission is at the heart of it all, making proposals which then are adopted by Council and Parliament.

Let me conclude by saying that I am sure, with a committed and pro-European Germany that is able to lead in partnership, we will manage to continue our path towards the strong, united and open Europe we need.

I thank you for your attention.

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