Closing remarks by European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, in the presence of His Holiness Pope Francis, at the Conference on Rethinking Europe: Christian Contributions to the Future of the European project at the Vatican, by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community.
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Your Eminences and Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today’s reflection on the future of Europe is particularly opportune in bridging the gap between citizens and our Union.
To reinforce the sense of belonging to our project we have to give the people of Europe concrete responses to the issues that worry them the most: terrorism, illegal immigration, youth unemployment.
Strong European unity is needed with tools that measure up to our goals.
We have to reform Europe, not destroy it.
In order to do this, we need to make a new start using our values, placing the defence of the person and family, the fundamental building block of society, at the centre of our efforts.
A Europe without values is a Europe without a conscience and without an identity; it is like an oak whose roots are being eaten away by termites, a tree which is destined to fall.
Our identity has its roots in thousands of years of history, inextricably bound up with Christianity.
It is only by rediscovering the strength of that identity that we will be to open ourselves to others and accept our differences.
It is not by removing crucifixes from schools, by rejecting what we are that one truly safeguards diversity.
A true European homeland is needed, that is able to protect and truly listen to our citizens.
Politics must trump technocracy and chart the course.
Establishing the primacy of politics, of a Europe of citizens, is the first priority of my mandate as president of the European Parliament.
The European Parliament is the beating heart of European democracy, where the elected representatives of 500 million citizens engage with each other. Where, every day, freedom, democracy and human rights are defended both within and outside our borders.
Last Thursday, we decided to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the democratic opposition in Venezuela, defending the right of citizens to participate in the political life of their country.
Europe rose up from the ashes of war, because it was able to restore its faith in man, in his ability to reconcile.
In the same way that tolerance and dialogue must underpin our approach to radicalisation and fundamentalism.
Europe must, likewise, not lose sight of the importance of human dignity in its efforts to manage migration. Those fleeing war and violence must receive the protection to which they are entitled in the Union, backed by solidarity coming from EU Member States.
A handful of countries cannot not be forced to shoulder such a great burden with the risk that it carries of causing a rise in intolerance and xenophobia.
We must address the problem of migration at its roots by generating growth and opportunities in Africa through an investment plan for the continent.
The current fund, recently approved by Parliament, amounts to barely €4 billion, a figure that is totally inadequate to meet these challenges.
In the next budget, we must allocate tens of billions of euros in investment funding.
On 22 November, one week before the EU-Africa Summit in Abidjan, the European Parliament will host a high-level conference with the aim of broadening dialogue and boosting investment between the two continents.
Our duty is to ensure that no one is left behind.
In Europe too.
This is why we must tackle unemployment, especially among our youth, and the threat of social exclusion and poverty as part of a true social market economy.
The market must not be the ends, it should be the means through which wealth that benefits all.
by creating opportunities for everyone in a social market economy which holds the key to reconciling and guaranteeing market freedom and social justice.
Safeguarding human dignity must also be reflected in employment conditions.
The parliament is at the forefront in countering all forms of social dumping, calling on member states to carry-out more checks as provided for in the revision of the posted workers directive.
On 19 November, the European institutions and member states will meet in Goteborg to sign a declaration that will establish a European social pillar that the parliament fought hard for.
Our Union is much more than a market or currency.
It is, above all, a project devised and driven forward by ordinary men and women, a dream of freedom, prosperity and peace which is becoming reality. Europe is the only continent on which the death penalty has been abolished.
On 20 October, Europe was presented with the Princess of Asturias Award for Concord. Together with the President of the European Council and the President of the Commission, I had the honour of accepting that award on behalf of 500 million European Union citizens.
It is an accolade which should not only make us feel proud, it should prompt us to feel a greater sense of responsibility for our political actions.
Holy Father, I should like to offer my thanks, on behalf of the European Parliament, for these important days of reflection.
The European Parliament wants to, and must play a central role in building our future.
We must work together to defend Europe and our values.