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Address at the Natolin College of Europe Moving towards a conscience of Europe

European Commission - SPEECH/14/364   09/05/2014

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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Address at the Natolin College of Europe

Moving towards a conscience of Europe

College of Europe - Natolin

Warsaw, 9 May 2014

Good evening everybody,

First let me thank our hosts the Rector of the College of Europe, Jörg Monar and the Vice rector of the College of Europe in Natolin, Ewa Ośniecka - as well as the Head of the European Commission Representation in Poland, Ewa Synowiec - for their kind words of welcome.

It is wonderful to be back to the Natolin campus of the College of Europe especially as we celebrate Europe day

The history of the College of Europe and the history of European integration are indeed two sides of the same coin. And in many aspects we can even consider that the College of Europe is a frontrunner of the European Union, not only as we know it today, but as it might become tomorrow.

As early as the Hague Congress in May 1948, which was convened with the specific objective of promoting a united Europe; the Spanish writer, historian, and diplomat Salvador de Madariaga proposed the establishment of a college where university graduates from many different countries, some only a short while before at war with each other, could study and live together.

Just two years later, the College of Europe was opened in Bruges by the great intellectual Henri Brugmans, its first Rector. And four decades later, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the campus of Natolin was opened as early as 1992 that is 12 years before the EU's biggest enlargement.

This is, I think, a revealing illustration of the power of ideas and culture in the construction of European unity. The aspiration to European unity is indeed as old the history of Europe itself. It has suffered many setbacks but it proved to be indestructible. It has been tirelessly promoted by European intellectuals over the centuries. Ultimately the European integration process turned this intellectual aspiration into a political, economic and institutional reality.

And I fully appreciate that the current promotion of the College of Europe has chosen to be named after the French philosopher Voltaire who defended the vision of a European Respublica literaria where all European intellectuals could meet and exchange ideas on the ground of a shared belief in the values of the Enlightenment.

This is an ideal that you do keep alive. And at a time when risks of European fragmentation and emergence of new dividing lines in Europe are widely discussed you send a clear and powerful message on European unity.

When I last visited the Natolin campus in September 2011, to deliver the opening speech of the new academic year, the Bronisław Geremek European Civilisation Chair had just been inaugurated. And I remember that on this occasion I recalled that Professor Geremek, paraphrasing the Italian Massimo D’Azeglio, used to say, "We have made Europe, now we have to make Europeans." This is exactly what the College of Europe has been contributing to for more than half a century now.

Indeed the purpose of the College of Europe is not only for students from all over Europe to study together but also to live together.

To study together is key to promote excellence, to stimulate exchange of ideas and best practices. Besides the specific case of the College of Europe, programmes to promote transnational learning mobility, such as the Erasmus programme or the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowships, have proven to be a great success, helping people to acquire the new skills that will be needed for the jobs of tomorrow. It also helps to better grasp the manifold and interrelated challenges of today's globalised world.

And to live together is key to promote mutual respect and understanding. It contributes to the shaping of a European identity based on unity in diversity. It helps to be true to Immanuel Kant's principle that the imperatives of morality be "universalized" so as to apply to all, or his own words: " Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only."

This contributes to forging a deep sense of togetherness and solidarity. And this is what the European Union is fundamentally about: the centrality of the individual, solidarity and shared destiny.

Solidarity is clearly a word that has a special resonance here in Poland; the country where in the Gdansk shipyard, under the banner of Solidarność, started a wave of freedom that ended up by overcoming oppression, liberating millions of people, not only in Poland, but across Central and Eastern Europe and ultimately opening the way to the reunification of Europe.

And I am so pleased to be with you today as we also celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2004 EU enlargement. This was arguably the last and decisive step to wipe the scars of the Iran Curtain off the map of Europe. As Pope John Paul II said then, "Europe was able again to breathe with both lungs."

Enlargement to the Eastern and Central European countries has helped to correct grave historical injustice. And more generally the EU enlargement policy has proven to be one of the most important instruments for European security, extending the area of peace and prosperity, liberty and democracy. It has strengthened the European Union's position as a global economic and political player. Enlargement has made Europe more stable and stronger. And Poland is clearly a case in point.

The European Union has greatly benefited from Poland's accession. And let me stress in particular Poland's deep commitment to the European Union cause that has proved to be a powerful asset for the European Union as we had to face the worst financial, economic and social crisis since the start of European integration.

It was Jerzy Buzek who became first president of the European Parliament from the so called new Member States.

It was thanks to a very efficient blend of pragmatism and European enthusiasm, the 2011 Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union which helped to find concrete solutions to move forward a stronger, more united and open Europe. Fundamental decisions were taken then on the strengthening of European economic governance that laid the foundations on which any further reforms will be built. Everything was done to defend the stability of the euro area while preserving the integrity of the European Union as a whole. And it was also under the Polish Presidency that we signed the Accession Treaty of our 28th Member State, Croatia.

Finally, it was Commissioner Lewandowski whose commitment and skills led to the successful conclusion of one of the most challenging and crucial negotiations for our future: the European budget for 2014-2020.

But Poland has also greatly benefited from joining the European Union. The economy and the entire country has been changed and modernised beyond expectations.

Let me give you a few telling figures: Poland's GDP grew 48.7%, 2 million jobs have been created, the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion decreased by 7 million, 1.3 million were lifted out of poverty, 36,000 km of sewage treatment plants have been constructed and 673 km of motorways have been built .

The cohesion policy, a European solidarity policy par excellence, has played an instrumental role in speeding up the modernization of the country from the expansion of its infrastructures and the development of its agriculture sector to the setting up of thousands of new preschools and the creation of computer labs in over half of Polish schools. Between 2009 and 2011 the cohesion policy funded more than half of Poland's public investment. And since 2009 Poland has been the principal net beneficiary of the European Union budget.

This is far from being only a question of how much you receive this is also – and more importantly - a question of how you use what you receive. And I have to say that a vibrant and purposeful Poland has made full use of the transformative power of Europe to improve itself.

Finally let me add that in 1990 Ukraine was ahead of Poland in both overall GDP and GDP per capita. In 20 years, Poland's total GDP became three times bigger than that of Ukraine. Poland is now classified as a high-income economy, a remarkable achievement over two decades, which shows that the economic integration in the European Union over the past decade has been an effective mechanism in promoting convergence.

These were certainly some of the reasons why the Ukrainian people made the clear and legitimate choice of backing closer political association and economic integration with the European Union: because they wish to live a better and more decent life in a more democratic and freer country.

The paradox is that as thousands of people in our close neighbourhood and also far beyond are looking at us as a source of inspiration for their own future; we Europeans are too often confronted to a confidence deficit: deficit of confidence in our own strengths and skills; deficit of confidence in the future itself. There is clearly a growing feeling of estrangement among European citizens, and we even see a growing disillusionment among pro-Europeans. But if we want to safeguard peace and prosperity for citizens we need a Europe that is much more aware and more willing to project its influence and power in the world.

It is not enough to say that we, Europeans, share a common destiny! A sense of belonging to Europe, to a community of values, culture and interests, is essential to forge that common destiny.

Today Europe is very different from what it was in 1950 when European integration was about safeguarding peace and prosperity in the free part of Europe; very different also from what it was in the late 1980s and even 1990s.

Europe has now a truly continental dimension and a global outreach, and the forces of globalisation have resulted in a new dimension of interdependence that affects every European country and every European citizen. Past and current global evolutions force us to adapt.

Over the last decade, as the forces of integration turned out to be stronger than the forces of disintegration, the European Union has also moved to a greater level of political and institutional maturity. But we cannot take what we have today for granted. What we have today needs consolidation if it is to endure. And this requires a clear sense of purpose, a clear idea of the need for Europe.

As Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki put it: "We can differ, we can disagree, but we can't hate each other." The next step for Europe to take has to start with and come from the people. Now, the consensus needs to be made explicit. We need a genuine debate, so that we don't leave it only to the political extremes. And we have to get it in the right order and not put the cart before the horse.

The main challenges ahead should not be examined first from the point of treaty change. Before we discuss technical details of yet another treaty we must answer the fundamental question to know what kind of communality we do acknowledge as necessary. So we must discuss first the politics needed, then the policies needed and only third, the polity needed to achieve the first two.

We must start from a common vision on what we want to do together and we also need a cooperative approach. This is not a beauty contest. This is not about nationalising successes and Europeanising failures. This is a collective game with collective responsibility and collective gains. It is not a zero sum game.

Dear friends,

Let me conclude by stressing again that what is most needed today is leadership, and ownership for and of the European project. Foresight, political will and the power of persuasion still make the difference between shaping our future and letting it be shaped by others

In the course of this process we could also give an answer to Salvador de Madariaga's point when he said that Europe "is already a body and a soul, not yet a conscience." How to create this consciousness remains our task for the years to come; a task for you, the future leaders of Europe who have had the great privilege to be trained in the College of Europe. I am confident you will be up to it!

I thank you for your attention.


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