An old friend and our political family, the European People’s Party, turned 40 years old this week. European conservatives from all over Europe celebrated its conservative founding fathers, their wisdom and thoughtfulness in Luxembourg on Monday. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that Europe’s largest political group, the EPP, is the force that has the courage to be brave and outspoken in answering today’s toughest challenges.
Without the EPP, Orbán said, the Soviet Union would not have disintegrated in the 20th century and communism would not have fallen. He said that, without the EPP, Hungary would never have become a member state of the European Union.
“World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it,” reads the often-quoted wisdom of Robert Schuman, a founding father of today’s European Union and the European People’s Party. The conservative politician’s words are more appropriate now than ever.
Praising the EPP for making the right decisions at big moments in history, Prime Minister Orbán said that the EPP should not simply continue its work but should recognize that we have arrived at a new chapter. Regarding the migration crisis, terrorism and a stubborn European economy, we must think about the future in a way that is braver, broader-ranging and regenerative. Just as Robert Schuman advised.
The European People’s Party is the EU’s most influential and strongest family of parties, with 75 members representing 40 countries. Such a strong family must be able to courageously propagate and lead the fight against the dangers threatening our freedoms.
However, the most important source of power for this struggle is with the citizens of Europe. Who else would know this better than the European People’s Party? Speaking at the event, European Council President Donald Tusk warned of a very real danger, the danger of Europe losing touch with its own citizens.
“Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that ordinary people, the citizens of Europe do not share our Euro-enthusiasm,” Tusk explained. “Disillusioned with the great visions of the future, they demand that we cope with the present reality better than we have been doing until now.”
“It is us who, today, are responsible for confronting reality with all kinds of utopias – a utopia of Europe without nation-states, a utopia of Europe without conflicting interests and ambitions, a utopia of Europe imposing its own values on the external world,” Donald Tusk said, warning of the “specter of a break-up haunting Europe,” before adding that a “vision of a federation doesn’t seem to me like the best answer to it.”
We pause this week for celebration, appropriately so, but then its time again to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Looking around the European map we see several countries where the distance between citizens and center-right politics is growing. Recent election results and in other countries polls show that citizens turn in increasing numbers towards far-right and far-left parties. Christian-democratic politicians have been at the heart of the European project since the very beginning. But shaping Europe starts at home. EPP parties need to act responsible and not shy away of taking tough decisions.
To keep our leading role at home and in Europe we must listen more to our citizens and lead in re-inventing Europe to meet their expectations.