Austria President Alexander Van der Bellen: The European idea is great15 February 2017 | 15:26 | New Europe
“The European idea is great,” said Alexander Van der Bellen in a passionate speech in favour of the European Union. “It is unique. It is worth all the effort.”
The 73-year-old also warned about the consequences of growing nationalism and populism: “No single problem will be solved by violating people’s dignity, rejecting everything that is different, restricting fundamental rights, constructing new walls and nationalism. We will only create new problems.”
Stressing the need to work together, van der Bellen, who took up office on January 26, said: “I believe in a Europe that with its law-based value system can continue to be an example for the whole world.”
As reported by Euronews, van der Bellen stressed that his own election was a “clear rejection of the burgeoning nationalism, protectionism, the seductive, simplistic populism”.
In a statement, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said: “I am happy that President Van der Bellen has chosen to set out his European views firstly here in Strasbourg. The European Parliament is the voice of the people of Europe. We have a responsibility to listen to citizens and contribute to a Europe that responds to their concerns.”
He also said he is looking forward to working with van der Bellen to prepare for next year’s Austrian presidency.
Meanwhile, the European Green Party also welcomed the Austrian president’s “strong pro-European signal”. In a statement, the party’s co-chairs Reinhard Bütikofer and Monica Frassoni said: “He held his first public speech abroad in the European Parliament, clearly declaring his support of the European unification as well as rejecting false contradictions: one can love his home country – and the European idea. I welcome his appeal: We, the older people, must not allow that Europe is stolen from the younger ones.”
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