Your excellences, ladies and gentlemen
Let me get straight to the point; Ukraine belongs to Europe.
Ukraine does not belong to something ”in between”, like the subtitle of this seminar suggests.
In order to defend their European identity the Ukrainian people have shown tremendous bravery and determination.
Euromaidan activists gave their lives for the right to belong to Europe.
At the same time; as we all know the European Union is facing major challenges.
Uncontrolled borders and migration flows, the fear of Brexit, the rise of populism and economic mismanagement. That’s the reality we have to deal with.
My belief, as a Christian Democrat, is that all these challenges stem from a lack of respect for fundamental values. Despite all the current challenges, despite the fact that most of our time as decision makers is used to solve everyday problems – politics is about something more.
Politics is about ideas, about ideology and conviction.
And let’s face it; Without a clear political vison, without holding on to the core values that the European Union once was founded upon, we will not be able to confront the challenges.
What Europe as a whole need today are political leaders rooted in ideas and conviction, and who dare to stand for it. Dare to stand for reconciliation between peoples and nations, for a European cooperation which is about more than economics and money.
The EU is a union of values.
Of that reason, there can be no room for an inhuman handling over refugees fleeing persecution and war. No room for extremism or terrorism.
No room for politicians expanding their own wellbeing on the expense of their citizens. No room for corruption or economic mismanagement.
All these short-comings in contemporary European politics stem from the lack of true values: Solidarity, generosity, human dignity, rule of law and respect for human rights.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees 60 million people around the world are currently displaced. What we see is a humanitarian crisis equal to the struggle Europe faced after World War II.
As of May 1945 approximately three million Ukrainian refugees were seeking protection and humanitarian assistance.
Today millions of war-torn Syrians are knocking on our door. Just as Europe showed solidarity and compassion in 1945, we must do it today. In the same way we took responsibility then, we need to do it today.
Not because we are well off, not because we have sufficient means. But because we believe in human dignity and solidarity with fellow human beings in need.
As Europeans we have a responsibility – but the responsibility has to be shared. The fact that only a few EU member states show solidarity while facing a historical challenge is frankly not acceptable.
The political reluctance that so far has marked the actions is a result of lacking political leadership. Instead of standing up for European values, some member states have fallen back to self-interest and closed boarders.
A binding sharing mechanism, combined with an increased number of quota refugees, is therefore of absolute importance – as well as a functioning system for boarder control.
Beyond our borders and internal difficulties, on a geopolitical level, Russia today is the greatest threat facing Europe.
At a time when the EU foreign policy is characterized by a lack of unity, when the US foreign policy is conducted by a-leading-from-behind-doctrine, Vladimir Putin has identified a space for increased Russian influence.
This influence is today exercised in Syria and the Middle East, but especially in the immediate vicinity; in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Russian military action and aggressive policies are of course a danger to these specific countries and their freedom – but it is also a threat to security and stability in all of Europe.
Therefore it is absolutely imperative to take action. The EU needs to integrate Ukraine, as well as Georgia and Moldova, closer to Europe. We need to further assist in the national efforts for reform and anti-corruption measures.
And we need to stay firm and robust in relation to Russia. The annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas must end.
Full compliance with the Minsk agreement is an absolute precondition for restored relations and lifting of sanctions.
Today no European nation is able to handle the geopolitical threats, nor the refugee situation, on its own. More than ever before we need unity, we need cohesion – and we need a solid, effective and future oriented European cooperation with strong transatlantic ties.
A cooperation founded on values, rooted in Christian ideas and tradition.