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Post-Wall Europe needs to become “Europe for all”

Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, gave the fourth State of Europe of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

24 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy expressed in Berlin his concerns over the challenges Europe is facing today. In front of 600 invited people at the Allianz Forum in Berlin, Van Rompuy warned against growing populism on the European continent and the rising of distrust. “Populism and nationalism cannot provide the answer to the challenges of our time”.

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“From here, we can almost see the Brandenburger Tor, where twenty-four years ago, the thirst for freedom burst out into the open”, Van Rompuy started his speech. This event in Europe’s recent history, closed the ‘Post-War’ period, and opened a new, what he called ‘Post-Wall’ period, where Europe is still in the midst of it today. In the last two decades Germans developed a sense of common belonging, whereas Europeans are still getting to terms with this new situation. “We have not yet reached the moment to say: “The new Europe” has become just that, “Europe for all”.

To get to this Post-Wall Europe, in times of “globalization and financial crisis”, Van Rompuy expressed the need for reforms in all member states. The economic crisis has forced the European Union into a new role and many Europeans have the impression that Europe makes them weaker, “whereas the founding promise was that Europe would make people and countries stronger.” Therefore the EU leader asked for a little more help from all Europe’s national leaders. “They must tell the truth, and one such truth is that there are no quick-fixes and that reforms on growth and jobs take time. Those who pretend that their country can succeed on its own sell illusions.” This could lead to mistrust and prejudices against other EU citizens, he said.

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Europe a free home for all

“The still open geography of Europe doesn’t make it any easier for Europe to become a ‘Heimat’. Each time our Union grows, we ask people to feel at home in a new club.” In recent years, because of the economic situation and the globalization, this growing Europe has come under some criticism and raised distrust between one another. Van Rompuy said he understood these concerns but stressed the only solution was economic growth and job creation, not blaming immigrants from other EU countries. "Catchwords like 'benefit tourism' and 'social dumping'" should not be used against immigrants. One fundamental change, the fall of the Berlin Wall brought for many Europeans was the freedom of movement. “For me, a space of freedom and rule of law – for restless travelers and home-staying citizens alike – is more than an element of an economic Union: it is a pillar of the new, post-Wall Europe: it is a sign of civilization.”

This safe haven attracts people to come to Europe. “Today people no longer flee FROM Europe as in centuries past, but TO Europe.” Still, he said, legal migration should not be mistaken for illegal migration, referring to the recent dramas that happened at the island of Lampedusa. These are problems that should be tackled at the root of the problem in the countries of origin and transit countries. This way, a "Post-Wall Europe" could be built and the EU could become a "homeland" for its citizens, he said. By giving some numbers, Van Rompuy reminded Europe to its responsibility concerning asylum policy, hoping these numbers can help nuance some of the discussions. “There are just over 300.000 asylum applications to the EU every year. About a third was granted protection last year, which makes it about merely 200 asylum seekers per million EU citizens. Looking at applicants, last year most came from Syria, followed by Afghanistan and Somalia – people fleeing war zones. And here it is really important to set things into perspective: in 2 years of war, our 28 countries saw the arrival of about forty thousand Syrian refugees, compared to now two million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey alone.”

Europe has gone a long way, but has still a long way ahead. “European countries are taking much more joint action in the world as people think. People are looking at European countries, including Germany, to see if they are ready to play their role, in terms of money and also in terms of manpower.” And while being the richest continent in the world, solidarity should be given priority in the facing challenges for the European Union. “The challenge today, as I said, is to set forth this work, at a most difficult moment for the people of Europe: when the results to convince them are not yet all there, and with globalization and the crisis already having left their traces. But I trust this work of conviction, and of convincing, will succeed; and that Europe's citizens will rise to the occasion.”


The European Parliament: the centerpiece of Europe’s democracy

The Chairman of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering, took his chance in his greeting words to explain the importance of the upcoming European Parliament elections and the importance of advancing European integration. In May 2014 the European citizens will vote for a new parliament, “a centerpiece of Europe’s democracy”, Pöttering said. As a former president and longtime member of the European Parliament, Pöttering said that the previously chosen way to overcome the economic crisis must be urgently taken forward. A wise deepening of integration is highly desirable he said by quoting Robert Schuman: “Truly thinking European, means to be aware of all the realities, possibilities and duties that concern us all.“

Die Europa-Rede, the “State of Europe” is an event organized by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Robert Bosch Stiftung and Stiftung Zukunft Berlin. Each year on the 9th of November, one of Europe’s highest representatives will deliver a speech to present their views on Europe’s past and future. In 2010 Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council the “State of Europe” series, opened the yearly state of Europe event. He was followed by the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, in 2011 and by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, in 2012.


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Fourth State of Europe of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

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Event Reports
November 9, 2012
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About this series

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, its educational institutions, centres and foreign offices, offer several thousand events on various subjects each year. We provide up to date and exclusive reports on selected conferences, events and symposia at In addition to a summary of the contents, you can also find additional material such as pictures, speeches, videos or audio clips.

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