Metsola says Europe must look eastwards as ‘Future of Europe’ faces down cynics of EU project

President of the European Parliament on CFOE proposals: More Europe needed on defence, health, energy, and climate

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola
European Parliament president Roberta Metsola

The president of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola addressed the Conference on the Future of Europe in Strasbourg today, with a rallying call for a treaty reform convention that can take onboard citizens’ proposals for “more Europe”.

Speaking on Europe Day in an event marked by contributions from citizens, EU leaders and European prime ministers, Metsola said the Conference, which collected some 300 proposals for legislative change across the EU, proved that there was “a gap between what people expect, and what Europe is able to deliver at the moment. That is why we need a convention as the next step.”

She said that in the face of the COVID pandemic but mainly with Russia’s invasion of Europe, the call for a more deeply integrated Europe that also welcomes new member states from the East, was crucial.

Roberta Metsola welcomes French president Emmanuel Macron to the European Parliament on Europe Day, 9 May
Roberta Metsola welcomes French president Emmanuel Macron to the European Parliament on Europe Day, 9 May

“There are issues that simply cannot wait. This is true for defence. We need a new security and defence policy because we know that we need each other, that alone we are vulnerable. And here we do not have to reinvent the wheel. We can complement rather than compete with existing alliances.”

Metsola said the EU was also still too reliant on autocrats for its energy needs, in clear reference to the Kremlin, and said this reality raised the urgency for investment in alternative energy sources. “It is true for climate change, the challenge of a generation that Europe has proudly led the global charge on,” she said, of Europe’s pressing challenges ahead.

She said the Conference’s call for ‘more Europe’ meant having a better health union that makes national health systems interconnected, with shared information and which pools resources; which creates jobs and which offers a fair system for migration; and which offers equality and solidarity to all citizens.

Russian invasion

Metsola said the way Europe will continue to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine would be the litmus test of its values.

“The unity and resolve of our response has confounded critics and made us proud to be European. That must be the blueprint going forward.

“But as we speak here, Ukraine is still being invaded. Bombs are still killing indiscriminately. Women are still being raped. Millions have fled and will continue to do so. People are still trapped in the tunnels under Mariupol.”

She said Ukrainians were looking to Europe for support, as so many millions of Europeans who lived for decades under Soviet control in the east did. “There is no alternative to Europe,” Metsola said. “The future of Europe is tied to the future of Ukraine. The threat we face is real. And the cost of failure is momentous.”

Facing down cynics

Metsola also said the Conference had “faced down cynics” at such a defining moment of European integration.

“It is easier to be cynical, to be populist, to look inwards but we should expose populism, cynicism and, nationalism for what they are: false hope sold by those with no answers. Those afraid to forge the hard road of progress…

“We are once again at a defining moment of European integration and no suggestion for change should be off-limits. Whatever process is required in order for us to get there should be embraced.”

Hailing from a member state that joined the EU in 2004, Metsola said people in Ukraine, in Georgia, in Moldova and in the Western Balkans were looking to Europe the hope of deeper integration.

“There is nowhere more symbolic of the power of democracy, of the power of Europe to take the next steps – together. This is the moment to answer Europe’s call.”

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