In the midst of the crises Europe is facing, EU leaders need to act swiftly and stop behaving “like if they were in a souk,” said Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, at a dinner in Brussels, on Wednesday evening (21 October).
“This is the hardest Presidency we have had,” he noted, saying that Europe is at a crucial time, because of the many challenges it is facing.
Brexit, Grexit, ISIS, refugees, Ukraine and Russia are blunt reminders that the project our fathers and grandfathers decided to build was a project of solidarity, he insisted.
“With supranational problems, we need European solutions, we need European legislation and common rules. We need some permanent mechanism,” he said referring to the thousands of migrants and refugees massing at Europe’s borders.
“After Syria, who knows who will be next on the list. We can’t every six months meet in Brussels and discuss like if we were in the souk, unable to take our responsibilities. This is shameful,” he said.
Speaking at the annual dinner of Friends of Europe, a Brussels-based think tank, the 42 year-old premier reminded EU grandees that he was old enough to remember a Europe with borders, a Europe with different currencies, and less solidarity.
“Today, we take all we have built for granted,” he added.
“The crisis we faced in Greece showed us that if we stick together, we are able to find solutions,” he argued.
Hinting at the big debate awaiting EU leaders on the UK’s renegotiation of its membership, Bettel said “we need to get serious about citizens”.
“Very often we speak about citizens but we don’t speak with them,” he said.
Bettel joked about letting social media hijack the democratic debate. “We think a lot that citizens don’t know, but they know because they read it on Facebook. So it must be right,” he remarked.
“You cannot control information, but it is important to educate young people of the danger of the new communications, and keep the dialogue open,” he continued.
He added that Europeans should be proud of what they have built, and not apologetic.
Forget not Ukraine
Bettel has taken his duty as rotating President of the EU earnestly. He said he had met Russsian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi earlier this month, and was flying to Kiev in the morning to meet Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko.
“On Ukraine, we only have one agreement,” he said referring to the Minsk accord. “It has to be respected, and if it’s not, we have to strengthen sanctions. But on the other side, if the agreement is respected, we have to review sanctions,” he insisted.
It’s not because we have a situation in Syria that we have to forget Ukraine, he said.