Dear Mr President, Dear Norbert, Dear Mrs Lammert, Dear Members of Parliament, Ministers and Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen and, for many of you, Dear Friends,
I first have to announce that I am speaking on behalf of the Federal Government. At three minutes to eight this morning, I had the Federal Chancellor on the phone - the mood was not good - and I informed her that I would be in Berlin this evening; she asked me to pass on her regards and to wish you a pleasant evening. I hope I will not make that impossible with the speech I am about to give to you.
Any guide to making speeches will tell you that you should always start by saying that you are happy to be at the place at which you are speaking. I always do so even though it is very rarely true. This evening it is true, however, because I am happy to be in Berlin for several reasons. The first time I came to Berlin was in April 1975, and I was unable to cross to this side of the city without certain obstacles. I always enjoy being in Berlin because I like being allowed to be on this side of the city without being asked stupid questions.
And, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to be able to speak to you this evening in Berlin because the Chamber Ensemble of the European Youth Orchestra is playing for us. And I am always happy to listen to the European Youth Orchestra. But it almost happened that I wouldn't have been able to listen to them ever again because the fact is that the Commission makes around 50 decisions every day that I sometimes have no idea about. But there are, fortunately, newspapers the following morning that let me know what has happened. And it so happened one day in spring that I learned that the Commission was on the verge not of reducing funding to the European Youth Orchestra but of stopping it altogether. It was purely by chance that I learned of this. And then I prevented it from happening. I have seldom felt as proud of myself as I did on that day. Because I believe that the European Youth Orchestra is in fact the best possible ambassador for the European Union. Wherever it plays, the European tune becomes a political programme, and vice versa. And I am therefore pleased that we have a European Youth Orchestra. I would much rather see young people playing music together than politicians plotting against each other. And it therefore pleases me to see this happen.
Today is the 9th of November. This is a fateful date in German history. I don't like everything that happened on the 9th of November in German history. But the 9th of November 1989 I like a lot - for two reasons. I had a serious car accident in October 1989 and was in a deep coma for two weeks. But I enjoyed that time because you are not entirely with it and are less able to be surprised. And in the evening of the 9th of November I was brought into a room with only half of my senses and then my wife told me that the Berlin Wall had fallen. And I said to her: ‘oh yes', and then I fell asleep again. I was indeed not the only politician with a good command of German to sleep through the beginning of German reunification. Others suffered a similar fate. And when I woke up the next day, nobody tried, like in the film ‘Good Bye, Lenin!' to make me believe that the Wall was still standing. They left it where it was.
And the fact that the Wall fell - actually it didn't fall but was demolished - was not down to the clever people in the West but rather to people in the East - all over the GDR and in other European and Central European countries. That day proved that people don't just have to put up with history but are themselves able to make it. And 27 years ago today the people of Berlin did make history, did write it, and this is why I will never stop admiring the Berliners and the East Germans. That was a good day.
Now I am supposed to talk about Europe - this is a ‘Europe Speech', after all - and Professor Pöttering has told me that I have only 25 minutes to do so. Normally when I give a speech I need 25 minutes just to complete the first third of my introduction. And on Europe there is so much to say and fit in that it is hardly possible to get to the point in such short a time. But today's Europe interests me. I live in Brussels and I know what Brussels rain is like. If you are President of the Commission, you spend a lot of time standing in the rain when you're in Brussels. But I would also like to talk about the prospects for Europe - about Europe as it will be in 2050.
I have had a wonderful speech written for me. And thank goodness that I read it last night. I didn't want to just read it out to you today, I wanted to have read it in advance. And there I discover, from page three to five, a gushing homage to the new American President. In other words, the speech passed its sell-by date relatively quickly.
And in this context I would like to say - and this is also the 9th of November across the continents - that, irrespective of the outcome of the election, I firmly take the view that we have to do our utmost to keep the Transatlantic relationship on track. Presidents come and go, but there are so many things that bind the United States of America and the European Union that we shouldn't get upset - indeed why get upset when a people has voted? - about having to rearrange our relationship with the United States. No, we remain partners because the world needs a close alliance between the United States of America and the European continent. And I am therefore very much in favour of closer ties. Our common values are at stake. And these common values must be strengthened. And when they are threatened, we must talk eye-to-eye with those who might seek to threaten them.
In trying to imagine what Europe will look like in 2050, it must not be forgotten that politics is always a mixture of, an interface between, geography and demography. Sometimes the way we look at Europe gives us a false image of it. Europe is the smallest of the continents and yet we think as though we are the masters of the world. We are not the masters of the world. Moreover, the world does not need any masters. Whenever anybody has aspired to being masters of the world, it has gone wrong. Europe is the smallest continent: the European Union covers 5.5 million m2, while Russia covers 17.5 million m2 - are there still any questions about the significance of the European Union? Geography provides a first answer. Europe - the European Union - is today a major trading power. We account for 25% of global added value. This will no longer be the case in 2050. By then, Europe's share of global added value will be much smaller. 10, 15% – to be seen.
Europe is actually on a downward trend, demographically speaking. At the beginning of the 20th century, 20% of the world's population were Europeans. One fifth. Now it is only 7% - 10%. And in 2030, there will be 4% Europeans out of what will then be 10 billion people. If you keep this in mind, and nothing will change these facts – that is how it will be – Europe will not get bigger, the economy will not gain a stronger share of the market, and, demographically, continental libidos are not going to be able to produce results overnight. We will remain what we are and what we will become is predictable.
And therefore, when I speak to young people – thank goodness many are here – then I do not explain Europe in terms of the past, although this is still important, but from the perspective of the future. If we want to have influence in the world, if we want to survive, then European countries will have to work very closely, and more closely, together. If I were not a Luxembourger, I would warn against small-country politics. Because we will not move forward in Europe with small-country politics or by dividing ourselves back up into national categories, because the challenges facing mankind, including the European part of mankind, can only be met if we cooperate intensively.
No country will be able to pull through the refugee crisis on its own, not even the largest Member State of the European Union. And although many do not share my judgment, I would like to say here that I greatly admired Angela Merkel during the refugee crisis. It is easier to run after populists than to stand in their way, and I prefer a German Chancellor who does not run after populists, but who challenges populists where fundamental values are concerned. And Angela Merkel did that.
We will not be able to resolve international trade issues from a position of national isolation. Here too, strong action by the European Union is needed. Who thinks that a Member State of the European Union could settle trade relations with China so that they would be of mutual interest? Or with America, or with Canada. I am advocating here once again that we need these trade agreements. Not because I am an enthusiastic free trader, I am not that at all, I am a critical person where capital-driven forces of this world are concerned. But when you talk about trade, you must know what you are talking about. 31 million jobs in the European Union depend directly on trade with other parts of the world. Every billion more European exports to other parts of the world means 14 000 jobs. The trade agreement with Korea led to the creation of 200 000 jobs in Europe and the same will also happen when the Canada Agreement, which was extremely difficult to bring about, is implemented. We need foreign trade and anyone who thinks that Europe would gain in influence or become stronger if we withdrew into our shells is fundamentally deluded. The future of Europe has a great deal to do with the trade relations that we seek with other parts of the world and therefore I am in favour, while remaining duly cautious, of concluding further trade agreements with other countries in the world. We have 140 of these and that must continue.
As nation states, we cannot resolve all problems connected with globalisation and its consequences in the way we want. By cooperating with others and by getting our own act together, we must ensure that European standards become international standards. And that is why we must cooperate with others. I say this because I often read – while feeling a sense of bitterness and shaking my head – that the European Union is supposed to be the European continent's biggest problem. I think the opposite is true: the European Union is the only solution that Europe can find to be able to survive in tomorrow's world.
Politics and Europe, that is a composite mix of reason and emotion. Those people who have declared Europe to be a purely rational process and also speak as if it is such, and are therefore not understood by the people, have not grasped the key factor in European unification. This is why we also need emotion in Europe, and we must not be embarrassed by it. We must also talk about Europe with feeling. And there is no need to be ashamed of that.
I enjoy travelling but do not travel enough. I like being in Asia and in Africa. I do not travel enough because I have to stay in the Brussels rain. But whenever I am in Africa or in Asia, and I see how other people – Africans, Asians – look at us in awe and say: what you have brought about in Europe is an amazing achievement of European post-war history. And when I then land again in the Brussels rain – in this valley of tears – I would like most of all to get back on the plane and fly to Africa, and fly to Asia because people who live far away from us see Europe in a far better light than we, who live here, perceive this European continent.
Sometimes – that‘s the way history is – reason and emotion coincide. Consider the life story of my parents‘ generation. They were the ones who got Europe going – not us. We make out that history began with us. It didn‘t. We are the heirs of those who first established Europe, of those men and women who in 1945 returned from the front and the concentration camps to towns and villages which had been destroyed. They were the ones who made of the post-war watchword and prayer ‘Never again war' a political programme, the effects of which we are still feeling today. And it strikes me as very ungrateful that many of my generation and of the following generations have forgotten what we actually owe the war generation. We should from time to time thank our parents and grandparents for the legacy they have left us and make sure that we leave a similar legacy to our children and grandchildren instead of destroying our forebears‘ achievements. And because reason and emotion must be reconciled, we also need to find a new way of describing the way in which they interact in our continent. As a young man, I also dreamt of the United States of Europe, a dream that we should now give up. The people of our states, of our countries, have no interest in living in a United States of Europe. We shouldn‘t create the impression that the European Union is in the process of becoming a single state. I cannot imagine the European Union becoming a colourless, uniform melting pot in which our own children are no longer recognisable. I like being a Luxembourger and I like being a European. Others are pleased to be Bavarians, Germans and Europeans, others Tyroleans, Austrians [and Europeans] – the list is endless. We must not make people feel that, by promoting European integration, we are depriving them of everything they hold near and dear. Nations are not some transient invention of history. They are here to stay. And we can‘t make Europe a success by setting it against its nations. Europe must be shaped together with those nations. That is why we must choose our words very carefully when we are talking about Europe as it is now and as it will be in the future.
Sense and sensitivity – but more sense than sensitivity – are the foundation of the European economic and currency union. Why sense? Old stories must not be allowed to resurface. It is increasingly being said, including in Germany, that the Euro was the result of other Europeans consenting to German unification. This is completely untrue. I was there – not yet in office as it were – but serving as a humble finance minister. At the time, Luxembourgers didn't find me humble at all, but that's another story. The foundations of the European economic and currency union were laid at an EU summit – at that time they were EC summits – held in Hanover. Jacques Delors then set out his plan – almost the exact same plan Werner, my predecessor as Prime Minister of Luxembourg, set out in 1970. He also called for something many Luxembourgers never wanted to hear: closer tax harmonisation. Many Luxembourgers do not know that. Indeed, Werner always tried to bury that idea when talking about his plans in Luxembourg. Then came German unification. Maybe it accelerated the process but it was not the trigger. So we should therefore stop saying that the Euro and the European economic and currency union was the result of German unification.
The Euro, which didn't go by that name at the time, brought about a great deal in Europe and the wider world. It is the second strongest currency in the world, strengthening too much of late, although that's more the result of people expressing their will on another continent. But just imagine if we had not had the Euro these past 20 years. Imagine the Euro had not existed after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, if it had not existed in the wake of the Iraq war, which the Americans triggered and which some Europeans – not all – lent their support to. Imagine if, in the midst of the discord and accusations following the latest economic and monetary crisis, we had not had the Euro. There would have been a currency war in Europe, as the countries that would have wanted to remain in the European currency system, would have fought one another. The Germans against the French. The Bundesbank against Banque de France. Nederlandsche Bank against Banca d'Italia. There would have been a currency war in Europe, with terrible consequences which we would still be feeling today. For this reason, despite all the gloom over the aspects which do not work, the Euro is a guarantee that the European economy and our societies will move forward together and with some degree of uniformity. The Euro is not causing us harm. It is being used by all Europeans, including the socially weaker.
Although I cannot relate to – but do partly understand – all the anger over the way the European Commission is interpreting the Stability Pact, we of course have an insight into the national realities. Not every country is equally as strong in Europe and, based on a sense of solidarity, we should make way for those who are weaker when they get into difficulty. This is why I fought hard for Greece to remain in the Eurozone. I could not bear the thought of a country leaving the Eurozone, as this would have led to other countries also leaving. This is why the Stability Pact is being interpreted as it is, as an economic reading of what is happening in our countries would require us to do. In Germany, you never get applause for saying so.
Discipline is also part of the Euro. I will not be putting up a case for no discipline. Rules are there to be followed. But if strictly following the rules means they no longer have any value, they shouldn't be changed, but the way they are applied should be. This also means that those who struggle to cope with the basic rules must be prepared to double their efforts. I am not going to refer to Italy because I am now reading in the newspapers, including in Italian newspapers, that I have once again managed to make myself more unpopular. However, Italy is an important country, the third biggest economy in the European Union. And when a country such as Italy goes through what it is currently going through: huge migrant flows, multiple earthquakes and even a tornado, I could always say 'But the Stability Pact provides for…'. But the reality in Italy is as it is. And this is why when it comes to the refugee situation and reconstruction costs following the earthquakes, our place is by Italy's side, not working against Italy. We must support Italy.
Common sense, yes. The refugee crisis also requires common sense and compassion. I believe - irrespective of the outcome of the US election - that solidarity must remain a living principle in Europe. And when people flee from hunger and poverty, from war, from torture, from rape, because they cannot bear seeing their children dying before their eyes, then Europe is the place where these people must find refuge. This is part of Europe's DNA. We are also here to help those unable to help themselves.
But we must do it properly. We need to protect our external borders and the European coastline. On 15 December 2015 we the Commission made a proposal on protecting the external borders; this proposal has now been adopted by the Council and European Parliament. And we must be serious about implementing it. Likewise, we must not lose sight of the need to tackle the causes of the wave of migration. A few weeks ago in June, I therefore proposed a plan to ensure that European companies invest in Africa. In terms of cooperating with Africa - an emerging continent - we should not be providing development aid out of sympathy. This has, moreover, been cut and has not been as low as it is now since 2003, which is a scandal. Many European Governments are involved in this. We should instead be ensuring that Africa also embarks on a path to a bright economic future. And European companies must therefore invest in Africa. Instead of letting people take to the seas, it would be better to create jobs in Africa so that people can find a way out of the crisis locally.
We need to increase security in Europe. I don‘t just mean the fight against terror, which is an area in which we are doing a lot. We‘re setting up deradicalisation programmes, we‘ve launched legislative procedures relating to the international arms trade, despite the best efforts of the hunting and gun collector lobbies to persuade the European Parliament that it should not be doing so. But the weapons used in Paris were kalashnikovs. I won‘t let lobbies prevent us from withdrawing such weapons from circulation. Kalashnikovs cause misery and mayhem wherever they are used. I say that as a loyal friend and acquaintance of General Kalashnikov, the man who invented the thing. He had his gun tested out by a soldier from Luxembourg who had defected from the Wehrmacht to the Red Army of Russia. Kalashnikovs must be withdrawn from circulation, despite the inextricable link between Luxembourg and their success, as it is not just Luxembourgers who use them.
We are doing everything we can to improve the exchange of information between intelligence services. We had already taken steps in that direction in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks on New York. The European Council is in unanimous agreement that intelligence services need to cooperate more effectively. It also agrees that they have so far failed to do so because they actually believe that government involvement would be more of a hindrance than a help in their activities. Things are improving. We‘ve launched a European proposal for rules on entering and exiting Europe that will soon be adopted by the European Parliament. By the end of the year we'll have put in place a European travel information and authorisation system, because we need to know who‘s coming into Europe and who‘s leaving it and why they are doing so. It‘s not a matter of snooping on people. It‘s simply what we have to do in order to gain control of areas in which the dark veil of terrorism obscures our view. It is essential that, in doing so, we respect both human rights and civil liberties, or libertés publiques, as the French call them. I‘m a bit concerned that some European countries are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Although I‘ve nothing against emergency legislation being adopted from time to time, I firmly believe that we should do so only for as long as is strictly necessary, and that such legislation should not be abused.
And, as I'm talking about security, we need a way of organising European defence. Hans-Gert mentioned that in 1954 the French National Assembly blocked the European Defence Community. We need that Community now. Irrespective of the outcome of the US election, we should as soon as possible forget the widely held belief that the Americans will always go on ensuring that Europeans are secure. Europe, and this city and this country in particular, owes a great debt of thanks to America, but they will not ensure our security in the long term. We have to do that for ourselves, and that is why we need to take a new approach to the European Defence Union, including the long-term goal of establishing a European army. That is the direction in which we are already heading, even if many Europeans are not yet aware of that fact. There are many aspects to security. Security is multidimensional, necessarily so at a time when Europe is facing a series of crises affecting security and our social and economic position.
That is why my Commission – if on this occasion you‘ll permit my over-the-top use of the possessive pronoun – has set up a European Investment Plan. 315 billion is to be mobilised by the end of next year: private capital with little public funding, because we cannot spend more than we have. The plan is working: 138.3 billion has been invested to date. 300 000 medium-sized companies are benefiting from the plan which – much to my delight – was originally called the Juncker Plan. But I knew why everyone had given it that name. Because they thought that it would fail, and that they‘d need to know who to blame. I should point out, to avoid confusion, that the name ‘Juncker Plan' has now been changed to the ‘European Fund for Strategic Investments'. But the name is the only thing that‘s changed about it.
We must work harder to complete the project we call the European single market. We need the digital single market. It is not something dreamt up by crazy global engineers, it is an economic necessity. We are falling behind in that area. A single European digital market means, in practical terms, 400 billion in added value in Europe – 3 million jobs in Europe. We must take this in hand, and my friend Günther Oettinger has taken a special interest in this digital single market. I sometimes wished he would just talk about that, but he's doing a good job and for that reason he will become Commissioner for Budgets in the EU as of 1 January. Because, Minister, my friend Christian, I like the fact that a Commissioner from Germany – not a German Commissioner, but a Commissioner from Germany – will have to explain to the German Government why Europe needs more money. That is the strategy behind this move. But he will do it well, because Günther Oettinger is a man who is very quick to familiarise himself with areas with which he has otherwise had very little to do. I say in all seriousness: he was an outstanding Energy Commissioner, he is a very good Digital Commissioner, and he will also be a good Budget Commissioner, to the delight of the Germans.
Security concerns people's living conditions. And for that reason we must do all we can to combat social dumping in Europe. It is a source of great regret to me that the European social dimension has remained underdeveloped – seriously underdeveloped. We launched the single market without considering the social consequences of harmonising a large number of economic subsectors. The Commission has therefore set in train a new Posting of Workers Directive. Eleven EU parliaments have raised objections, saying that it has nothing to do with Europe; it is a matter for the subsidiarity rule. So when people cross the border to work in another country it is suddenly a subsidiarity matter. To my mind it is about one thing – making sure that, wherever you work in Europe, a single principle applies: equal pay for equal work in the same place, and that is going to be implemented whatever the opposition.
The same applies to the fight against tax dumping. The Commission – here I really can say my Commission – has taken a lot of measures that people would not actually have believed it could, since it is led by a President from Luxembourg. All the progress made in the EU on tax policy has always been achieved under a Luxembourg Presidency. And it is the same this time. We must make sure that profits are taxed where they are made. It goes together: the fight against social dumping and the fight against tax dumping – also internationally. We just have to succeed, because the feeling has taken root among our populations that this European institution has very little to do with us now – it is an institution for multinational companies; it is an institution for organised forces in society, and it is passing the citizen by as if it was nothing to do with him. We have to change this. We have to succeed - I don't know quite how yet – in creating once more a greater awareness of European essentials. What we have to do, actually, is create a bit more love between the people of Europe. And if not love, then at least appreciation. If we are honest, we don't know enough about each other. What do we know here about living conditions in Northern Lapland, and what do the Lapps know – don't be cross with me Christian, it has to be said – about parts of Bavaria? Nothing. Yet we talk as though we know everything. In Europe, many people adopt a particular world view without actually looking at the world. We must look at the world more closely, and as part of that we must understand that, as long as 25 000 children starve to death each day, Europe's work is not finished. That is also something for which we have a responsibility.
Thank you for listening.