Press Releases Dr Alois Mock Europe Prize: Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell in Austria

Dr Alois Mock Europe Prize: Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell in Austria

Dear Minister, Abbot, Ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you, Alexander [Schallenberg].

You have been very kind.

There is a saying in Spain that says: “Libreme Dios, del día de las alabanzas”. Which translated means: “Please God, save me from the day where everybody will be praising me”. Because it means that either you are leaving or you are dying.

I am not dying. I am still not leaving. But I thank you a lot because I know that this prize and your friendship is one of the rewards that I will take with me after these years.

We are here in a fantastic place [Göttweig Abbey]. Father Abbot, a fantastic place.

It comes to my mind that monasteries, churches, are at the heart of the European identity. And monasteries make the perfect place for European awards because they have been the centre of intellectual exchanges; they have linked Europeans beyond borders for hundreds of years. European identity has been forged in places like this, which were a haven of peace in troubled times, where culture has been transmitted from generation to generation, building what Europe is today.

Let me tell you that last week I was in another monastery for another prize.

I was at the monastery of Saint Jeronimo de Yuste, in Spain, where Mario Draghi received the Carlos V European Award. It was the King of Spain who was giving this award.

Charles V for you, for Spain he was Charles I. But in any case, this king or this emperor marked the history of Spain and Austria, because with him the Habsburg were ruling both Austria and Spain.

Charles was born in Flanders and he was educated there. But he was sent to rule in Spain when he was 16 years old. And he did not speak a single word of Spanish.

He was educated in French. “Now you are becoming king of Spain”, he was told. And he came to Spain not knowing a single word of Spanish. He ruled not only Spain, but Austria, and the Sacro Romano Imperium.

When he decided to retire he went into a monastery to spend the last days of his life living as a monk.

He had a brother, Fernando – Ferdinand for you. His brother was educated in Spain, in Alcala’ de Henares, and he was sent to become the archduke of Austria. And he didn’t speak a single word of German.

Well, at that time this happened – and they did not have simultaneous translation – but one who didn’t speak a word of Spanish went to rule Spain and another who didn’t speak a single word of German was sent to rule Austria. And then for years, the Habsburgs built something that was already called Europe.

It shows how deep the historic links between Austria and Spain are.

This attempt of building Europe beyond borders has been followed by other rulers, they did it by means of war.

What is extraordinary and historic is that we are building Europe by peace.

The European Union has been the biggest machine of erasing borders, of cancelling borders. And that’s good because borders are the scars that history left on the skin of the Earth.

These scars, these lines [were left] on the skin of the Earth by fire and blood.

But erasing borders and uniting people beyond borders, making them feel part of a bigger identity, does not cancel the original identity.

I am Catalan. I am Spanish. I am European. I am personally ready and able to have these three identities inside me. They are not contradictory. They are complementary.

And the European identity is not yet finished. And it will not be finished, as you have been saying and working for, until the countries of the Balkans – all of them – will be part of this family.

So thank you. Thank you very much for honouring me with your friendship, first of all, and with this prize and for all of you being here.

I have to recognise that I have never met Alois Mock. But I know of his most famous act: cutting the Iron Curtain together with the Hungarian foreign minister.

There are pictures that have made history, and the picture of Alois Mock cutting these wires and cancelling a border, a bloody border, is part of European history.

I am a Spaniard, I spent at least half of my life living under military dictatorship.

Our border did not have barbed wire, but for my generation, Europe represented political freedom and social cohesion. Political freedom and social cohesion are the trademarks of Europe.

And for us, Europe was the beacon in the night of the dictatorship. To become part of a land where political freedom, social cohesion, and economic prosperity were being built together.

During my life I’ve seen freedom expanding all over the continent.

First, the dictatorship in Southern Europe fell, later the Iron Curtain.

20 years ago, more or less exactly, in July 2004, I was President of the European Parliament. And I opened the first parliamentary session with the new members from the 10 new EU member states.

20 years ago, people were wondering, is it going to work?

With 10 more people sitting in the cycle, with more languages, with more translation activities. Is it going to work with the different cultures of these people coming from living under the communist regime, and it worked.

And for them, it was an incredible boost to prosperity.

Yes, enlargement has been a story of success, and the pending enlargement will also be a story of success.

The problem is that it has been delayed for too long, and now we have to speed up.

You [Minister Schallenberg] have been playing an important role, you and the other members of the European Union being represented here today, in order for us not to forget that Europe is not complete, and will not be complete, until these partners become real members.

After the Iron Curtain fell, we believed that freedom, peace and democracy were going to drive humankind. That it was the only solution, and everybody would be living in democracy, in peace, and in freedom.

Well, this is not the case. On the contrary, have a look at the world.

We built peace among us, but the world is not a peaceful place. We are living in democracy, but democracy is not expanding, on the contrary. Freedom is being jeopardized in many places, and some countries are being invaded by powerful neighbours.

History has taken a different course from the one we expected.

Today we see the return of power politics. We see the decline of international norms. We see the use of force as a way of solving conflicts.

All interdependencies are becoming weapons. Everything is being weaponized. Energy, food, technology, migration.

And inside Europe, we see a return of the authoritarian ideas, which have done so much harm in the past.

I think that we are shifting from a Europe open to the world, and wanting to find common solutions, to a Europe of walls and national solutions.

The key word of the first wave of European integration was market. The key word today is security. Why?

Because we are living and facing important threats. Because we are living in a dangerous landscape.

But take care. National solutions and building walls is not going to be a solution for Europe as a whole. We need to continue building bridges, to find common solutions, and be open to the world, which needs Europe.

You cannot imagine how much people around the world demand more from us. They want more Europe. Because we represent freedom, prosperity, and social cohesion.

We live in a deeply interconnected world, like it or not. And we need to stay united, more united, and open to the world if we want to influence events globally.

If we want to be a global player, we have to go to the rest of the world, united.

How the war in Ukraine ends is essential for European security. And only together we can influence the way this war will finish.

What happens in the Middle East impacts European societies profoundly. It is the strongest cause of division among us and inside our societies. And once again, only united we can help to take steps towards peace.

Instability in the Sahel, or climate change in Africa, are consequential for migration. Migration has root causes, and climate change is one of them. And political instability in Africa is another one.

And then we have security, maritime security, in the Red Sea, in the South China Sea. Next week I will travel to the Red Sea to visit our fleet. Yes, a European fleet, ships from several different European navies, trying to protect the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.

This matters for our trade, it matters for our economic security, it matters for our security.

Let me repeat: only by becoming more united, we Europeans will survive. No European country can face the challenges of this world alone. Even the biggest, the most powerful, will be irrelevant in the face of the challenges of the world.

Only together, joining our forces, sharing a common story, will we be able to protect our political freedom, our economic prosperity, and our social cohesion, which are the elements of this European civilization which are underpinning this building and what this building represents.

So, thank you very much, and let’s work for a more united Europe.

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