Europe is what we make of it. Speech at the PES/Together event in Rome for #EU60

Check against delivery

First of all thank you for organising this. Thank you Gianni (Pittella), thank you all. It is good to be surrounded by friends in a moment that is important for Europe and our Union – and by the way in my city, so it’s even more pleasant to be here, back home, in all senses.

Today we celebrate, somehow, the intuition of our founding fathers and mothers – and let me add “mothers”, because we always refer to the fathers and we forget there were many women, sometimes in the shadows, that contributed to build our Europe.

The Europe they knew, sixty years ago, was a devastated continent. It was a dark continent, the place where the greatest tragedy in human history had just taken place.

But they decided to change the course of history. They realised that war in Europe was not inevitable, that it wasn’t simply a fact of life. But things had to be done in a different way. They chose a different path for Europe. They knew that Europe could be a different place. A continent that would export peace and stability, instead of exporting war – as we did, as Europeans, for thousands of years.

So after sixty years, and so many achievements, let us keep in mind one simple message from 1957. Europe is what we make of it.

And light comes… (laughter)

There is nothing inevitable in our future. The people of Europe have a choice – that’s democracy. Don’t ever trust those who tell you that Europe is doomed to failure. Only nine months ago, exactly nine months ago, after the referendum in the UK, everybody was betting that many other countries would follow, immediately – and tomorrow we recommit to our common future. I know the limits, all the limits we have. But we are re-investing in our Union today – and tomorrow even more.

I think we don’t have to trust those who tell us that the European Union will never work, because it’s too slow, too big or too bureaucratic. I think the European Union works simply if we make it work. Because the European Union is us – including us socialists, democrats, progressives.

We have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to make the case for Europe. We must make the rational case, and we must make a passionate case for Europe.


Rational, first of all. For my generation, the European Union is the dream of a finally unified continent. The fall of the Berlin wall. Europe without borders. Freedom to travel, a single currency for many of us, and the same rights for all. It’s the Erasmus – the most successful European project ever, that we have to continue supporting. It’s the discovery that we are all different, and yet all European. The European Union for us – my generation – has been a gift, and a luxury.

In today’s world – a fragile, difficult world with big threats and big powers – a united Europe is a need, a necessity, a must. There are forces, in today’s Europe and in today’s world, saying they want to bring sovereignty back to the national level.  Well, let me tell you something: the only way to give sovereignty back to the people in Europe is through the European Union.

The only answer to the anxieties and the aspirations of our citizens, is a European Union that is strong enough to be relevant in the world. No single European country, in the world of today, has the power, the strength, the size to go alone. We are strong only if we are together. So, it’s a must, it’s a necessity, it’s a need.


This is true on security. This is true as we manage our borders. This is true when it comes to our defence, where we need to spend more effectively and we can do that together, investing on new economies of scale, joining forces to stabilise our region and the world, because when we act together – with our European operations, with our joint humanitarian programmes, with our combined diplomatic strength – our potential has no comparison in the world. We are by far, everywhere in the world, the first humanitarian donor, the first development investor, the first diplomatic power, the first – this will also be true after Brexit – the first market in the world.

When I say we are a global power, this is what our friends and partners in the world see. The point is: not all Europeans realise how strong we are. And if you don’t realise the strength you have, you don’t use it – and you lose it.

So we have to be aware of what we have, and how to use it.


The answer to the imbalances and the inequalities produced by globalisation is also a European answer. It is not isolation. That is an illusion. Isolation cannot solve any – any! – of the problems of our citizens. It can only make them worse.

If we really want to protect our citizens, to give our firms – including the small ones – better opportunities to grow, if we want to support our products, we need to engage outside our borders as a Union. When we talk to China, to the United States, to the rising powers of today’s world – we are much stronger if we talk to them together, as Europeans. We are much stronger if we negotiate together, as the biggest market in the world, as a global economic power, as a force for not only a free but a fair trade.

Of course, some other powers in the world would prefer to negotiate with small nation states, with little leverage, and little bargaining power. But that is not our interest – and I think we have to be realistic and pragmatic in today’s world. It is not our European citizens’ interest to have a Union that is disunited or disaggregated, facing the difficult times of globalisation.

But as a Union of half a billion people, we can be not only stronger, not only protecting our citizens, but also the rule-setter of the global economy. And the global economy needs to be settled by rules – because the rules are not a constraint for one: they are a guarantee for all. And I think this is a basic concept of our political family.

We can push for better protections of workers, higher standards on food safety, a stronger recognition of our traditional products – and more opportunities for our jobs.


And finally, the answer to migration and human mobility can only be a European answer. We are a Union – as I said – of half a billion people, we are one of the greatest world economy. And we must say it loud and clear – we must say it loud and clear, because nobody else will do that: together, we have the strength to welcome the people knocking on our door. We have the strength to do it, and we have the responsibility to say it in Europe, as a family.

But together, and only together as a Union, we can also work with our partners, first of all in Africa. This is what we are doing: investing, creating job opportunities in the African continent, fighting the criminal networks that are making money out of the desperation of people, so many women and children dying not only at sea but also in the desert. This is also a responsibility we have as a political family: to dismantle the criminal networks that are making money on people’s lives.

We can make sure – as Europeans, as progressives, as socialists and democrats – that everyone’s right to dignity is always, always guaranteed and respected, in Europe and outside of Europe.


This is the rational case for Europe. But this is only one side of the coin. This is the European project that we need. But we need also to invest in the passionate case for Europe. The need of Europe, the necessity of Europe won’t be enough, without the dream of Europe. The rational case for Europe has to go together with the passion, the dream that our political family can put in it.

We – the European progressives, the socialists and the democrats – we can only be in the frontline in making this passionate case. Personally, I suffer when I see that we are a little bit shy in making this passionate case for our Union.

Because we are the party of Altiero Spinelli, who dreamt of a united continent as the only way for peace and for the prosperity of the working classes.

We are the party of Jacques Delors, who had the courage to challenge every conservatism, and advance the European project.

We are the party of Willy Brandt, who in the middle of the Cold War – in the middle of the Cold War! – imagined a European Union of peace and security, that would finally bring together the East and the West, and unify our continent.

We are the party of Giorgio Napolitano, who spoke here earlier today, and for his entire life has fought for a modern, social and united Europe. A Europe that could finally be a global force for good – and I will always thank him for his leadership and his dedication to this.

So we have great fathers and mothers ­– by the way, about mothers: the “inventor” of Erasmus is an Italian woman, and I am proud to mention this, because the mothers sometimes are a bit hidden, but they are behind any great thing we have… We have great fathers and mothers, a great history we can be proud of. But at the same time, we – the progressives – can never be satisfied to just look at the past.

Policies that were right ten or twenty or thirty years ago, might not be right today. And I think we, as progressives, must recognise this and change ourselves – because our world changes fast, our societies change fast. And we must bring our history and our ideals into this new era, make sure they still speak to the men and women of today, and they listen to them. Making sure that our discourse is recognisable to their ears.

We must focus on the great opportunities of globalisation, but make sure that no one is left behind – protect. We must remove the obstacles that block innovation and growth, and provide a safety net for all those who are struggling.

I believe we are the party of “yes, we can” – that we shouldn’t forget, also that there is another America out there. And I am sure we are the party of “yes, we care” – for everybody in our society, leaving no one behind.

We are those who believe that the best is yet to come – not because we believe that progress is inevitable. On the contrary, it requires a lot of hard work – and Pierre (Moscovici) and I do a lot of hard work every day. But because Europe is what we make of it. We trust our own sense of direction, our own determination, and our own energy.

We have a choice. That is the point. That is the point also for tomorrow. The future of Europe has not been written yet. It is not something we inherit from our founding fathers: it would be reassuring maybe, but it wouldn’t be fair. The people of Europe have a choice. We all have a choice to make, and a great responsibility.

I trust our political family to exercise that collective responsibility, so to make the Union of tomorrow – sixty years from now – as great as it has been for these sixty years. Changing all the things that today don’t work, focusing on them, without saying that all we have built in sixty years has to change. Because we have excellent things that were done, by our founding fathers and mothers, by the generations that built Europe for us, and we have a responsibility to move that work forward. Thank you.