Sunday

20th Jan 2019

EU President issues stark warning against nationalism

  • The president speaking in Berlin (Photo: European Council)

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy has issued a stark warning against growing nationalism, populism and anti-democratic forces across the EU, suggesting that the threat to peace in Europe remains a key issue.

"We have together to fight the danger of a new euro-scepticism," he said in a speech in Berlin on Tuesday night (9 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"This is no longer the monopoly of a few countries. In every member state, there are people who believe their country can survive alone in the globalised world," he continued.

"It is more than an illusion: it is a lie!"

The president was speaking in the German capital on the Schicksalstag, or 'fateful day,' the anniversary of five pivotal events in the nation's history: the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the fall of the monarchy in 1918, but also the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, Kristallnacht in 1938 and the execution of a leader of the 1848 revolutions in the German states.

Quoting wartime US president Franklin Roosevelt, he said that the "biggest enemy of Europe today is fear," and that this ultimately could lead to war.

"Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war," he said. "Today's nationalism is often not a positive feeling of pride of one's own identity, but a negative feeling of apprehension of the others. Fear of 'enemies' within our borders and beyond our borders."

"It is a feeling all over Europe, not of a majority, but everywhere present."

In a wide-ranging speech, alighting on a range of aspects of the current state of the European Union, he cheered the day when the nations of the former Yugoslavia will join.

"To those who say that war is so far away in our past that peace cannot be a key issue in Europe anymore, that it does not appeal to the younger generations, I answer: just go out there [to the western Balkans] and ask the people there! And ask the young ones too!"

Beyond the EU's economic and political structures, he said that Europe needed to look to its heritage, in particular, the values and virtues of Ancient Greece.

"To keep such European virtues alive, to transmit their age-old qualities to our children and grandchildren, that will be one of the great challenges for the future," he said. "We have to be a union of values but also a union of civic virtues."

He also touched on the current economic crisis, cheering the recent decision of European leaders to move towards common economic governance.

"One cannot maintain a monetary unity without an economic union," he said, and went on to salute the "courage" of EU leaders in imposing austerity measures over the top of popular opposition.

"I, for one, have really been impressed over the last year by the political courage of our governments. All are taking deeply unpopular measures to reform the economy and their budgets, moreover, at a time of rising populism.

"Some heads of government do this while being confronted with opposition in parliament, with protest in the streets, with strikes on the workplace - or all of this together - and fully knowing they run a big risk of electoral defeat.

"And yet they push ahead. If this is not political courage, what is?"

He also went on to criticise the European Commission's proposals for EU taxes. In October, the EU executive proposed a list of potential EU fund-raising mechanisms in an attempt to reduce the direct contributions national governments make to fund the workings of the bloc.

"I do not think that redesigning the way the EU get its revenue is a top priority," he said, adding that the imposition of EU taxation would fall on some countries harder than others and that this would be unfair.

"The current system reflects as a rule the member states' capacity to pay. Contributions are based on the gross national income and thus seen as fair ... I am personally open to new ideas, but since most alternative sources of income would risk to hit member states unequally, this would weaken the fairness of the current system, its built-in solidarity."

He did not however close the door completely on the idea. "So let's be prudent, but let's discuss it," he said.

MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment

The EU parliament's internal chiefs have so far refused to introduce mandatory training on dealing with sexual harassment. MEPs have now asked for it again.

Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret

A number of centre-right MEPs are pushing for a secret ballot on a plenary vote that would make EU lawmakers more transparent and accountable to the public - in a move described as "absurd" by Transparency International.

Lead MEP on Morocco resigns as her report passes

MEPs ultimately adopted a controversial report on an EU trade deal with Morocco - despite the sudden resignation by French liberal Patricia Lalonde as the file's rapporteur only moments beforehand. Her departure follows an EUobserver investigation into lobbying by Morocco.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  2. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  3. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  4. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  5. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  6. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  7. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  8. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us