Through the eyes of Syrian children

Through the eyes of Syrian children

The eyes of the Syrian children I met in Lebanon, once again, have defined my week. They fled their cities, only the luckiest of them are still with their families. They left their friends and their homes behind, tore to the ground. Their souls have wounds that none of us can really understand or imagine – only those who are old enough to remember another war, on European soil. These children are now studying in Lebanon – others like them are in Jordan, in Turkey, in Europe – with the European Union’s constant support. Because they are children, before being refugees. And they will be young adults, when they will be refugees no more: they will have to rebuild Syria – physically, but also socially, economically and politically. Each school year or school day that they miss is a gift for those who want to recruit and enslave them to the logic of terror; it is a gift for those who don’t want peace and democracy in Syria, and don’t want Syria to rise again through peace and democracy. For this reason, during my visit to Lebanon this week, I donated the Demokratiepreis that I had received in Bonn a few months ago to a school for Syrian children – who are now refugees – in Bar Elias. I had visited the same school a year ago, on March 21st. That was the day before the terrorist attacks in Brussels. I cannot forget what I saw in their eyes, I could not forget it the day after, as I learnt about the attacks, and up until now: the fear and the pain of the war, and at...

Statement ahead of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day

We remember the genocide committed here, on European soil, just two generations ago. We remember the millions of Jews murdered in the Shoah, and the many other victims. As Shimon Peres, now sadly no longer with us, once said: ‘We are their eyes that remember. We are their voice that cries out.’ To those who would deny, this is our message. A message of collective responsibility. We have a responsibility to remember: a responsibility towards the victims, towards the survivors. A responsibility towards the future generations. And a responsibility towards Europe, and all European citizens. As a reaction to the World War and to Shoah, the founders of a united Europe decided to turn the page. A united Europe was the only way to ensure that “never again” such tragedies would happen inside our continent. Our founders rejected the vicious idea that one nation, one people, one ideology should enslave all others. They chose to build a Union of diversities. And it is a choice we are called to confirm each and every day. As we celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Rome Treaties, and over seventy years of peace inside our Union, we must pass the message to younger generations: a peaceful and diverse Europe cannot be taken for granted. Anti-Semitism has not disappeared, and European Jews have too often come under attack. Discriminations based on religion and on ethnicity are worryingly on the rise. Each new generation needs to commit again to the foundations of our peaceful coexistence. A peaceful and diverse Europe needs constant care, and it is everyone’s interest, and...