A dialogue between two generations, remembering to move forward.
Lucia: Mr Borrell, what can you tell me about 9 May and Schuman?
HR/VP Josep Borrell: Shuman was a French foreign affairs minister and 71 years ago he proposed the first steps to build what we nowdays call the European Union. His goal was to avoid another war. A horrible one had only ended five years before. This painting depicts very well the horror and hopelessness of war.
Schuman said: “Because we didn’t build Europe, we had war. To avoid another war, let us build Europe”.
In other words, let’s work together. Starting with coal and steel, since these materials were necessary to build the weapons of war, war was fought with coal and steel. Let us manage them together so that war will be impossible.
That first step has brought us where we are now, to a Union. If you go to France, you do not have to cross a border, right? Nobody asks you where you are going, or what you are carrying in your suitcase.
When I was your age, people had to queue at the border, open their suitcases, and present passports.
Lucia: I hear people saying that the European Union is weak and that we do not need it. Is it true?
HR/VP Josep Borrell: The EU is an unfinished project and has many problems. Your generation will have to address them, but I would not say that it is weak. On the contrary, it is getting stronger by the day.
Thanks to our response to the pandemic I believe that people now perceive the EU as something absolutely necessary. I also believe that we need it more than ever, even though we have already build a lasting peace between Europeans.
However, it is very easy to blow on the ashes of a fire that is believed to be extinguished and start that fire again. But we have achieved peace between ourselves, in a world that is bocoming more complicated and dangerous. In this world, we Europeans are very few and each individual country would have a tough time going it alone.
Now Europe needs to help us thrive in a global world.
Now it is my turn to ask you a question. What does Europe mean to you?
Lucia: For me, Europe means multiplying friendships and opportunities, a common fight for a green planet. However, I also believe that Europe used to offer more economic security for its youth to become independent. I think that this has been lost and it is something that we should recover. I am convinced that the younger generations will know how to give Europe a new boost.
HR/VP Josep Borrell: You have to take over the baton. As you say, Europe offers an opportunity to get out of each country’s scope, get to know more people and work together on topics that will not be solved unless we team up. Like the problems of climate change that you mentioned. It is up to you, the youth, to take over now from the war generation.
For you, war is luckily something inconceivable. But now, Europe needs to become something more than a peace project. It needs to commit to the rest of the world.
We Europeans are very fortunate and we need to share this fortune. We need to get out and assume our responsibility towards others.
We have to remember what Schuman said. Europe will not be made all at once, we will build it step by step, responding to crises and providing answers like those that you propose.
Go ahead. It is your turn.