Speech by Ms. Anna Kinberg Batra, leader of the Moderate Party at the EPP congress in Valetta, Malta 29 March 2017.
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As we celebrate the Rome treaty’s 60 years and as United Kingdom has this very day initiated the process to leave the European Union, it is no exaggeration to say that we are at a crossroads.
We have on the table a paper that outlines a few alternatives for where the EU can go from here.
I will not dwell on the many challenges, because I think that we in the EPP family have a reasonable good common understanding of those.
Instead, I would like to use this moment to lay out how I see our priorities for our future Europe.
The most important is a Europe that holds together, and sticks to its founding principles. Our liberal democracy. The rule of law. Our open economies. These have over the decades been the pillars of prosperity, dignity, wealth and security upon which the European project has been built.
Allow me to use a metaphor.
What we have built is a common European house, and an impressive house.
There is an amount of order in it, and life is comfortable and rich for many of its inhabitants.
However, quite recently, we have figured out that the foundation of the house was not as solidly constructed as we thought.
Also, at 60 years, the electric wiring and the once so modern pipes need an upgrade to be up to today’s standards.
Moreover, not everyone gets food at dinnertime, which has caused some serious discontent among some residents.
We have also discovered that after we removed the doors inside the house, we forgot to put up a proper gate at the entrance.
All this comes at a time when one of the inhabitants in our house is moving out, and will therefore not contribute to the rent the way we are used to.
Finally, we have some serious troublemakers in our neighbourhood.
So what we need to do is not to build additional floors, or buy a new sofa.
What we need to do is to make sure that our European house, as it is, stands solid, and that there is food on the table.
This means now to concentrate on three things.
First, food on the table. We need to regain the trust on our ability to deliver jobs and hope for a better future to ordinary citizens. For this, there is no way around fixing the fundamentals of our economies. Only then we stay competitive on an increasingly demanding global market. Let me remind you that European growth remains sluggish in a global comparison.
Let me remind you that to a great extent the rise of populism is rooted in the failure of our national governments to ensure social cohesion in our own societies.
We need to fulfil the vision of the single market. We have done a tremendous lot, but core tasks remain: A digital single market. A fulfilment of the energy union. A better functioning internal market for services.
And we need to continue to fight for free trade around the globe.
Secondly, security. We have to secure our external common border, so we can trust that the migration flows are controlled in the coming decades, as we know that the migration pressure will be enormous for decades to come. And no country can choose not to take part in this common responsibility. This is a joint challenge.
We need to better our common work in the field of anti-corruption, anti-terrorism, and in defence and security.
We must implement the EU global security strategy, with the aim to export stability to our neighbourhood rather to import its instabilities.
Thirdly, Brexit. We need to settle our future relationship with the United Kingdom with as little damage done as possible – to the union, to the UK, and to our citizens, economies and security policy interests.
But we also have to deal with the budgetary consequences of Brexit. We have to trim our expenditures, and handle Brexit’s economic consequences within the current budget frame. And it must have budgetary consequences for those who do not do their share to manage our common commitments and challenges.
This is what we should focus on the coming years. We can do this. We have a beautiful house – a bit worn by time – but the best house this world has seen. It has been a lighthouse for people across the globe for decades, and we have good reasons to be proud of that.
For this, we have all the institutions and tools we need. The only thing we need to add is political will, courage and hard work – our work.
Then we can talk about whether to renegotiate the building standards, to build a new veranda or rearrange the chairs.
Then we can discuss about what to do next. I hope we will get there soon.