Alexander Van der Bellen wanted to dispel a misunderstanding: it was misleading to believe that one had to choose between loving one’s homeland and loving one’s Europe. On the occasion of a visit to Baden-Württemberg, the President of the European Union said on Thursday evening: „We can love our homeland – and the European idea – we can help our compatriots – and foreign fellow citizens – and contribute to the greater good of all.
“ Europe is a continent of „and,“ not „either-or“ – that makes it unique on this earth, said Van der Bellen, who called himself a „happy man“, because like all Europeans of his and following generations he has „lucky enough to have landed a major hit in the birthplace lottery“. Nobody should feel superior to others simply because he was born on this continent in an epoch of peace.
„Game of mighty states“
For those political forces that questioned the EU or even described it as obsolete, the Federal President recommended thinking about the alternative: of course one could argue that national identity should be given preference over the European idea. „But then you have to say that the European dwarf state is very alone when it is alone.“ For on a world scale, even countries like Germany are not giants and would merely be the „ball of the game of more powerful states“ such as the USA, Russia or China.
Therefore, the President warned: „It is not a good deal to end European solidarity, we need the indivisibility of the Union, we need unity in the Union and we need European unity.“ This community is urgently needed to meet the great challenges of our time – and he cited as an example the United Kingdom’s momentous exit from the EU (Brexit) and the global climate crisis: „No country in the world can solve it alone: not Germany, not Austria.
Van der Bellen acknowledged that the European Union was not a finished work: it was „never completed“ but „an ongoing project“. As previously stated in his speech – and on several occasions during his current term of office – the Federal President warned against „forfeiting into yesterday’s petty state-run volunteer twinning Boris Johnson, Ukip, (Marine) Le Pen is the last thing we do need.“
Europe should never give up the advantage of being a „transnational association“. Only in this way could common interests and priorities be defended and enforced internationally. In this context, the Federal President urged that early reactions be made to the tendencies that can be seen here and there that would question European values or reduce them via „salami tactics“: „The rule of law and liberal democracy are inalienable goods that we must defend.“ With „we“ Van der Bellen meant the Europeans – that is, all those who, like himself, landed a jackpot in the „Birthplace Lottery“