The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel gave speeches at the European People’s Party Congress in Madrid on 21 October, 2015, and laid out the need for unity in the face of the migration/refugee crises and Ukraine. The two European leaders also inspired hope and belief in Europe’s abilities to continue to prosper.
Both Merkel and Juncker dedicated their speech to the need for bringing a united Europe to bear against the migration crisis. “We will build Europe together and we have to be together in solving the migration crisis,” Juncker remarked during his speech as he encouraged Europe to bring about solidarity in this crisis. Juncker has repeatedly said that the EU will never turn its back on those in need of international protection. Juncker also reminded member states of their commitments, particularly on the financial side:
We’ve mobilized 2.5 billion Euros and we still need 2.3 billion that member states have not mobilized.
Juncker, though critical in regards to money, was also quick to praise Europe for its efforts remarking that “We have achieved a lot over the past few months,” but he was also quick to remind member states that the crisis was far from over and that they would have to commit to the plan in order for it to work.
Juncker concluded with a reminder that participation in the migration crisis and building bridges with other continents was not a threat to European culture, but rather that:
We don’t have Europe on the one hand and Europe in the other, Europe is in the world and we must be aware of these affairs.
Juncker encouraged the EPP and all of Europe to reach out across oceans and nations, saying “We need Africa, and we will be needing Africa even more so going forward.”
Merkel, often known for her shrewd nature as a politician, showed a more hopeful and humanistic side as she cited her first belief about the migration crisis:
For me this means first all those who come to Europe has the right to be treated like a human being. Secondly those who want to can stay, and are allowed to stay.
Merkel’s more shrewd side came out though when she reprimanded both Greece and Turkey for their lack of cooperation in Aegean sea and the subsequent crime and lawlessness that has taken place there.
In Libya we have a failed state, it is not a real state we can cooperate with . The situation between Greece and Turkey is completely different we have a border between two NATO partners there. It is not acceptable that Aegean sea is left to criminals.
Speaking of Turkey, Merkel said that it was up to the rich nations of Europe to help burden share going forward. Turkey, she said, is sheltering 2.5 million migrants right now and that each European nation has a responsibility to help Turkey and other embattled states reminding them that “Not a single country can overcome it alone.”
The need for economic growth
Economic growth was the second overarching theme in the two leaders’ speeches in the Madrid EPP Congress. Both stressed the need to modernize the economy, with Juncker remarking:
We need to modernize Europe. We need to project it into the 21st century, which is why we proposed launching an energy union. We have better things to do than fund our dependence on our suppliers.
Juncker also cited the digital market as being an area in which the EU was falling behind its target.
Merkel, almost as if on cue in her speech picked up with the digital market describing it as one of the areas in which Europe must “invest in the future, that we realize that we are not the best everywhere in the world.”
However, Merkel spoke on an issue which Juncker did not, the need for Europe to create strong trade agreements. While she did not mention it by name, Merkel was almost certainly referring to the both praised and criticised TTIP agreement which helps merge the United States and Europe into what some might characterize as an approach towards a global single market. However, Merkel did not emphasize the monetary gains of these agreements, instead she emphasized their other benefits:
We want to set worldwide standards for environmental protection, trade standards… This may be more complicated than in other free trade agreements and once we’ve done it this will set standards for other free trade agreements that are beneficial for us.
Merkel urged Europeans to see these agreements as a bond between Democratic countries to trade together, and to help improve the standard of living through environmental regulations as well as reductions in customs duties.
Strong message sent
Juncker and Merkel, two of Europe’s best, both elucidated a need for Europe to band together and to take shelter in their common goals and dreams. The need to modernize the economy and create jobs, the need to help neighbors fleeing civil war in Syria, and above all the need for solidarity.
It was Merkel who had the line of the night when she reminded all in the audience that a united Europe was something “I will not stop fighting for.”