Quo vadis Europa? That is the question posed once again by the history of our continent. And for many reasons, the answer Europeans will have to give, if they want to do well by themselves and their children, can only be this: onwards to the completion of European integration. A step backwards, even just standstill or contentment with what has been achieved, would exact a fatal price from all EU member states and from all those who want to become members; it would exact a fatal price above all from our people. This is particularly true for Germany and the Germans.
The task ahead of us will be anything but easy and will require all our strength; in the coming decade we will have to enlarge the EU to the east and southeast, and in the end this will mean doubling the number of members. And at the same time, if we are to be able to meet this historic challenge and integrate the new member states without substantially denting the EU's capacity for action, we must put into place the last brick in the building of European integration, namely political integration.
The need to organize these two processes in parallel is undoubtedly the biggest challenge the Union has faced since its creation. But no generation can choose its historic challenges, and so it is with us, too. Nothing less than the end of the Cold War and of the forced division of Europe is facing the EU, and thus us, with this task, and so today we need the same visionary energy and pragmatic ability to assert ourselves that Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman showed after the end of the Second World War. And like then, after the end of this last great European war, which was – as almost always – also a Franco-German war, this latest stage of European Union, namely eastern enlargement and the completion of political integration, will depend decisively on France and Germany.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Two historic decisions at the midpoint of the last century fundamentally altered Europe’s fate for the better: first, America’s decision to stay in Europe, and second France’s and Germany’s commitment to the principle of integration, beginning with economic links.
With the idea of European integration and its implementation, not only did an entirely new order in Europe – to be more precise, in Western Europe – come into being, but European history also underwent a fundamental turnaround as well. Just compare Europe’s history in the first half of the 20th century with its history in the second half and you will immediately understand what I mean. The German perspective in particular is especially instructive here, because it makes clear how much our country really owes to the concept and implementation of European integration.
This new principle of the European system of states, which could almost be called revolutionary, emanated from France and her two great statesmen Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet. Every stage of its gradual realization, from the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community to the creation of the single market and the introduction of the single currency, depended essentially on the alliance of Franco-German interests. Nevertheless, this alliance was never exclusive, but always open to other European states, and should so remain until finality has been achieved.