Speech by President von der Leyen at the signature of the Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, at the signing ceremony of a Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe on 10 March.
Dear David, Dear António, Honourable Members!
We all have our own dreams when we think about the future of Europe. For me, this would be a Europe that is leading the world in the green and digital transitions. A Europe that embraces the full creativity of all of its citizens and leaves no one behind. A Europe that is able to fight recurrent pandemics and protect its citizens. A Europe, whose democracies are resilient against fake news and the distorting effects of social media. A Europe that is a strong voice for freedom and reason in a world where autocrats challenge our way of life. This and much more is my dream for Europe. One out of 450 million dreams.
Conference on the Future of Europe: A strong voice for freedom
Today we want to hear about the Europe, our citizens are dreaming of. We want people to take the lead on issues that matter to them, and affect their everyday lives. Today we sign our Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe. Some may ask: Why now, in the middle of a deep crisis?
My answer is: It is exactly in times of crisis when we see where Europe works for its people – and where we have to get better. The last months have shown what Europe can achieve if it has competences and the necessary means to act. Take NextGenerationEU and our European budget. EUR 1.8 trillion to build forward better. An unprecedented investment to come out of this crisis together: more sustainable, more digital, more resilient. Stronger than ever.
Europe’s competences are weak
But during this pandemic we have also seen difficulties. When Europe’s competences are weak. Only gradually did solidarity and support overcome closed borders. It took a while until there was consensus how to better prepare for the next round in the fight against the virus and its future variants. Until everyone understood that going it alone is not an option.
Let me be very clear: This Conference on the Future of Europe is not just another conference for what some call the ‘Brussels bubble‘. This Conference will go beyond Brussels, as well as beyond national capitals. Because for this Conference to succeed we want to reach what some call the ‘silent majority’.
Creating an ever closer Union
We want to hear from European citizens in their full diversity: From young and old, city dwellers and rural residents. From Erasmus students to those who took to the streets in the Pulse of Europe demonstrations. As well as from those, who have their doubts – if ‘creating an ever closer Union’ is the right road to take. We want to hear from all!
Because it is as true today as it has been in the days of Robert Schuman, one of our founding fathers: When it comes to the future of Europe, no effort is too much and no dream too bold.
The Conference of the Future of Europe
The Declaration, signed together with the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli and Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa. The Portuguese Prime Minister signed on behalf of the Presidency of the Council. The Declaration sets a path towards opening a series of citizen-led debates, together with an interactive digital platform,. They will enable people from across Europe to share their ideas about Europe’s priorities and challenges. They will all help shape European common future.
President von der Leyen said the Conference would go beyond Brussels. Also beyond national capitals, to reach as well the ‘silent majority’. “We want to hear from European citizens in their full diversity: From young and old, city dwellers and rural residents. From Erasmus students to those who took to the streets in the Pulse of Europe demonstrations. As well as from those who have their doubts – if ‘creating an ever closer Union’ is the right road to take,” she explained.
She described this initiative also in the context of the current coronavirus pandemic, saying that it was exactly in times like that when we saw how Europe works for its people and ‘where we have to get better’.
“The last months have shown what Europe can achieve if it has competences and the necessary means to act,” von der Leyen said. She highlighted in particular the NextGenerationEU and the EU budget as investments that will help Europe come out of the crisis more sustainable and more resilient.