Friday

26th May 2017

Van Rompuy: Europe is 'Fatherland of peace'

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy has issued a robust defence of the European Union in the face of growing "suspicion and fear", arguing that the bloc must not be seen as a new "Moscow", but instead, the "Fatherland of peace."

"Sometimes, in the heat of the debate, the image of 'Brussels' is linked to the role of 'Moscow' in the Cold War. One should not accept this comparison," he declared in a speech to students at the University of Warsaw.

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  • Warsaw - Mr Van Rompuy's trip is to help prepare for Poland's EU presidency (Photo: European Commission)

The president, in the Polish capital for a meeting with Prime Minister Donald Tusk ahead of the country taking over the reins of the six-month rotating EU presidency, said that the EU was responsible for hastening the demise of the Soviet Union and that its enduring purpose is to be a bringer of peace.

"The union's force of attraction accelerated the collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War. That is a victory," he continued. "Europe is the best guarantee for peace. It was and is a work of peace. That's why I am so strongly in favour of a European perspective for the western Balkans, the last remnant of the Cold War and the last place where a war was waged."

"Europe has to be the fatherland of peace. We owe this to our history ... The bloody battlefields from our history have been replaced by Brussels negotiating rooms," he added.

The president has in recent months made a series of public speeches strongly defending the idea of the European project against all critics, whether markets or sceptical citizens.

On Wednesday, the leader told a group of students at the European College of Parma, that the eurozone "poses no risk to global economic growth." The next day, in London, he complained how eurozone members Spain and Portugal were not being given a chance by investors.

While in Berlin last November, he issued a stark warning against the forces of nationalism, euro-scepticism and populism: "We have together to fight the danger of a new euro-scepticism," he said at the time. "Fear leads to egoism, egoism leads to nationalism, and nationalism leads to war ... It is a feeling all over Europe, not of a majority, but everywhere present."

In Poland, again acknowledging the growth of euroscepticism, he returned to the theme, noting that "suspicion and fear" are growing in new member states as well.

"I sometimes explain that the enlargement of the European Union with the countries of Eastern and Central Europe in and after 2004 is not a bureaucratic process, driven by 'Brussels', but that enlargement should rather be seen as a deeply political enterprise, driven by a great historic event: the end of the Cold War and the unification of the European continent," he said.

"There is a perception that the single market is less popular than in the past and that it is seen by many Europeans with suspicion and fear. We have to reconcile both the citizens - citizens as consumers and as employees - and the entrepreneurs with Europe."

Mr Van Rompuy used the Warsaw event to outline the three policy themes he said the bloc should focus on in 2011 in order to combat both dissastisfaction amongst citizens and to return the EU to growth.

He said the coming year must see a deepening of the single market, a renewed emphasis on energy liberalisation and investment in research and development.

Complaining that research spending in the EU is 1.84 percent of GDP compared to 2.6 percent in the US and 3.4 percent in Japan, he called on "European heads of state and government to take more ownership of innovation and research."

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