Stand United, Says European Commissioner

European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on May 9th gave a positive message which can well be applied to Georgia and should certainly be heard by its citizens.

Europe Day, held annually on 9 May, celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historical 'Schuman Declaration'. At a speech in Paris in 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, laid out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.

His vision was to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production. A treaty creating such a body was signed less than a year later. Schuman’s proposal is considered to be the start of what is now the European Union.

“66 years later, the EU remains most the ambitious democratic project in a very uncertain world,” said Commissioner Avramopoulos, speaking in the context of the Thessaloniki ‘Realising the Potential of the Region- SMEs Join Forces’ conference and B2B meetings organized by ProCredit Bank, and just before witnessing the signing of the first European Fund for Strategic Investments InnovFin Guarantee between EIF and ProCredit Group. “The global EU project gave a definite end to long-standing wars, creating a stable and safe social and economic environment,” the Commissioner said. “That’s why Europe has become the main destination for many people all around the world.”

Freedom, equality, diversity, solidarity

The Commissioner emphasized the core values of the EU, but recognized the challenges faced daily in trying to hold on to these values. “We have to always keep in mind that we achieve more together than we do alone,” he said. “Today this common EU house is fragile because of the numerous challenges we are confronted with. The EU has to prove that it’s close to its citizens and their real needs. It is important to stay on the course of reforms.”

One need, felt most by Greece but also by many other EU member states, is a boost to economy and employment. To that end, the Commissioner gave his audience the latest numbers: “InnovFin aims to mobilize at least EUR 315 bln in new investments in areas of strategic importance to the EU economy over the next three years. So far we have mobilized more than 18 bln EUR across 25 EU member states. 57 ambitious large scale projects have been approved for financing and 165 agreements have been approved, benefiting some 136,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and midcaps across the EU.”

Security a precondition for growth and development

The Commissioner, recognizing his prime responsibility for migration, security, and home affairs, ‘top issues on the EU and global agenda,’ went on to mourn the ‘tragic loss of human life in Paris and Brussels.’ But, “we have no fear of terrorism,” he said, on behalf of all citizens of the EU. “Terror attacks only strengthen our determination to fight. Now is the moment to move ahead in order to create a real secure union in the EU.”

Further emphasizing on the need to stand united, he said: “We have to understand that it is crucial to share information to strengthen our cooperation, and to trust each other.”

Moving to the hot topic of migration and refugees, the Commissioner told the audience of the need to face reality head on as the common European endeavours are brought under question. “Last week the EU Commission presented a proposal to reform and establish a common approach.  It is important, the Commissioner says, that the burden of dealing with the inflow of migrants in not borne by frontline member states, like Greece and Italy, alone. This is why, in 2014-2020, the EU Commission is giving EUR 83 mln to Greece to improve the living conditions of refugees with funding available immediately and is ‘working hand in hand with Greek authorities to manage the situation on the ground.”

Solidarity & responsibility

“The EU is based on two principles: solidarity and responsibility. These are not moral issues but legal issues and explicitly stipulated,” the Commissioner said. “Xenophobia, populist national wars, moving fences, and mind-sets make it difficult to convince others of the need for more Europe. This is the moment for all of us- the member states, the Commission, to prove what we really mean when we talk about these principles.”

Katie Ruth Davies

19 May 2016 21:13