Lessons from Giscard d’Estaing: Do not divide pro-European forces, build a stronger parliament, a more solid democracy
|Key extracts of the Speech of President David Sassoli at the ceremony in honour of former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in Strasbourg|
|“It is an honour for our Assembly, an honour for me and for Parliament to pay tribute to Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, a former Member, and an exceptional man to whom Europe owes so much. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing always devoted his energy and drive to the construction of a stronger Europe.|
“First and foremost he was a European by conviction. For him, Europe was not a strategic calculation nor a random choice. Europe was the upshot of history.”
Sassoli focused on the former French President’s role in creating a more democratic and unified Europe:
“Our House, the home of European democracy, is quite aware of what it owes to President Giscard d’Estaing, who paved the way for the election of MEPs by universal suffrage in 1979, demonstrating his unshakeable faith in European democracy and parliamentary democracy.
“As we Europeans know, while President of France he supported European integration and the consolidation of democracy in Europe, particularly in the countries of southern Europe. ‘One does not keep Plato waiting’ he observed, and his commitment to the accession to the Community of Greece, followed by Spain and Portugal, reflects one of his deepest-held convictions: Europe is not simply a common market or an economic construct. It is also, and above all else, a spiritual and cultural ideal, a treasure-trove of civilisation, and the embodiment of fraternity among peoples.
“For Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the European project was the fountain of youth for each of its member nations.”
Sassoli went on to discuss President Giscard d’Estaing’s close friendship with German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt:
“They had both experienced the war, each on opposite sides, and also came from opposing parties. Despite this, Helmut Schmidt and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing built Europe together, rising above party lines and driven by the shared values, principles and ideals which inspire pro Europeans.”
Sassoli concluded by recalling Giscard d’Estaing’s message to young Europeans:
“In his twilight years, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing continued to devote himself to Europe, as reflected in his last essay in 2014. Based on a clear and uncomplacent appraisal of where Europe stood at the time, he and Helmut Schmidt presented a number of daring proposals for even further integration that reflected his lifelong commitment to Europe. I recall here the strong message that he addressed to us, aimed particularly at young Europeans:
“This project belongs to you. For it to be successful, you must cast aside negative ideas – political bias, personal ego and the fear of change to name but a few – and, relying on the foundations of our history, believe in the sincere hope of building one of the great civilizations of the 21st century. We ask that you succeed.”
“This message is a direct call to us all, to counter anti-European sentiment, not to divide pro-European forces, to strengthen the powers of Parliament, to make democracy more solid.
“Thank you President Giscard d’Estaing, thank you for the legacy you leaves us.”
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