The Slovenia Times

EU presidents issue call for strong, integrated Europe


"European integration has helped to realise a centuries-old hope for peace in Europe after unbridled nationalism and other extreme ideologies led Europe to the barbarity of two world wars.

"To this day, we cannot and should not take peace and freedom, prosperity and well-being for granted. It is necessary that we all engage actively for the great idea of a peaceful and integrated Europe."

The statement is carried today by major European newspapers, including three dailies in Slovenia.

It was also presented in Ljubljana today by Pahor and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who thus started an official visit to Slovenia.

Pahor, who was, according to his office, among the first signatories of the appeal, stressed that this was the first time in 40 years since European election are being held that all presidents of member states had issued a joint call to EU citizens to support Europe by turning out for the election.

"I think this shows that we all share the view that we have reached an important crossroads regarding our joint European future and that perhaps it will be the European election that will decide the future course of our beloved European Union," Pahor said.

"Usually we ask what we can get from Europe, but now we can give something to Europe - our vote that any one of us can cast," he added.

Steinmeier said that the 21 signatories of the statement agreed that Europe needed a political debate in order to determine its future course.

"Together with other partners, Slovenia and Germany want to make sure not only that the cooperation in Europe continues but also prevent Europe from taking a step backwards, where we would perceive each other as rivals or even opponents."

Steinmeier was also received today by parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan, with the pair discussing the EU elections. Židan stressed the importance of efforts tu secure a higher voter turnout in the election.

Židan and Steinmeier also discussed the future of Europe and agreed that Europeans need a strong EU which would act for the benefit of people.

In the statement, the presidents stress that this year's elections are particularly important, and urge the people to vote since the elected members of the European Parliament, along with the Council, decide which rules should apply in Europe and how Europe's budget should be spent.

The statement acknowledges that the EU is facing profound challenges, with some people "talking about rolling back one or more integration steps, such as freedom of movement or abolishing joint institutions" even as others call for more integration or for a multi-speed Europe.

"Views on these matters differ among the citizens and governments of the member states, as well as between us heads of state. However, we all agree that European integration and unity is essential and that we want to continue Europe as a Union. Only a strong community will be able to face up to the global challenges of our time.

"The effects of climate change, terrorism, economic globalisation, and migration do not stop at national borders. We will only meet these challenges successfully and continue on the road to economic and social cohesion and development by working together as equal partners at the institutional level."

The presidents thus make an appeal for a strong EU that has "joint institutions, a Union that constantly reviews its work with a critical eye and is able to reform itself, a Union that is built on its citizens and on its member states as a vital base."

"This Europe needs a vibrant political debate on the best path forward into the future ... Europe is able to withstand a very wide range of opinions and ideas. But there definitely must not be a return to a Europe in which countries are no longer equal partners but opponents.

"Our united Europe needs a strong vote by the peoples. This is why we call on you to exercise your right to vote. It is our common European future that is on the ballot," the statement concludes.

The statement was signed by all EU heads of state except from countries that are monarchies, since by convention monarchs do not sign such statements.


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