EP president urges EU leaders to fight for Europe

Xinhua News Agency


In his final address to a European Council meeting as president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz urged European leaders on Thursday to "have the courage to fight for Europe" as the European Union (EU) faces unprecedented existential challenges.

"You all agreed that you need the EU, that the EU is the only means to tackle the challenges we are facing in this century," Schulz reminded the EU heads of state and government who gathered in Brussels for the annual meeting at the end of year.

"This spirit should never be forgotten and should guide your actions over the years to come," said Schulz.

The outgoing president of the European Parliament will step down in January to return to national politics in his native Germany and possibly threaten German Chancellor Angela Merkel in national elections next fall.

He spoke in light of unprecedented challenges to the European Union, including Brexit, migration, common defense, ongoing economic concerns, rising populism and the conflicts in its neighbourhood, typified by the one raging in nearby Syria.

Solidarity is essential if the EU is to successfully tackle the migration crisis, said Schulz. "Since more than one year, asylum and migration have become the deepest challenge for the European Union, a challenge we will only master if we help each other and stand together in solidarity."

Schulz also weighed in on Brexit, urging EU countries to work in "a spirit of loyal cooperation."

"We cannot allow the Brexit process to become an emotional affair, nor should we turn it into a legal maze from which exit is extremely difficult. We must not feed populists' unfounded claims that the EU is the master of all evil," said Schulz.

Echoing fellow parliamentarians, he also warned against Brexit negotiations being undertaken without the full involvement of the European Parliament: "If we are not adequately involved, we may not be able to give our consent. And in this situation the UK would face the hardest Brexit possible."

"One of the effects of Brexit was the new impetus this has given to go further in defence cooperation," the European President observed, turning to the question of the European Defense Union, approved by the European Parliament in a resolution adopted in November.

"I see many among you driving this initiative and this makes me optimistic that after many years of empty rhetoric, concrete actions are finally taken. I urge you to make sure that this momentum is now maintained," insisted Schulz.

In line with his support of the European Defense Union, Schulz admonished leaders for spinning successes as national and failures as European: "What we all do in Brussels can only become a success if everybody takes proper ownership."

In his last speech to the European Council as president of the European Parliament, Schulz concluded: "I have called this Union the biggest achievement of our civilisation of the previous century, and I am still convinced that this is true. Let us have the courage to fight for it."

Schulz was first elected to the European Parliament for Germany in 1994, and had served as leader of the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group until his election as president in 2012.