“Don’t ask what Europe can do for you but ask what you can do for Europe!” Although we all know that this is based on an even more famous quote, such an attitude would take us a giant step forward. The European Joachim Gauck – having asked himself what he wants in this situation – has listed his responses.
First, do not be indifferent! Brussels may be far away, but the issues which are negotiated and decided there concern all of us. We cannot be indifferent to how the EU influences norms which subsequently have an impact in our children’s bedrooms or on our tables. We cannot be indifferent to the yardsticks by which we measure the foreign, security, environment and development policies implemented on our behalf. We cannot be indifferent to how the EU deals with people who have to leave their countries for political reasons.
Second, do not be lazy! The European Union is complicated, it truly is, but it has to achieve very complicated things. It deserves citizens who are interested and keep themselves informed. It deserves more than a 43 per cent turnout at European Parliament elections. And it does not deserve to have Brussels made a scapegoat, especially not when national interests or national failures are to blame for any problems.
Third, recognize your ability to make a contribution! A better Europe will not emerge if we always believe that others should shoulder the responsibility. We have so many possibilities. Anyone who wants to initiate or prevent something can take advantage of the European Citizens’ Initiative. Anyone who wants to found or build something can apply for a grant. And anyone who wants to do good and get to know their neighbours can apply to join the European Voluntary Service. Everyone can find a good reason to say: Yes, I want Europe! Does anyone know this comment, this wish, better than you here in this room? Who knows it better?
I would like to thank so many people today, starting with the European Ambassadors with us here and European activists in the education field, academia and society, not to mention the fantastic teachers in bilingual nurseries in the euroregions. I would like to thank everyone who is helping to link up Europe in countless ways – economically, socially and culturally. I also very much want to thank our German politicians who have reconciled their national tasks with our European obligations. And my special thanks go to those who do not believe that solidarity simply means looking after the property of the propertied class.