A global crisis is always evaluated by the way it has affected society or by the way it has been dealt with. There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic still poses an imminent threat despite the European Union’s successful vaccination campaign (almost 70% of adults across all countries have received the jab). The danger continues to loom large, yet it is our obligation to prepare for what is to come and not wait for this crisis to eventually end. By learning from the difficulties of the present, we enable ourselves to better prepare for the challenges of the future. President von der Leyen’s upcoming State of the Union Address is the perfect opportunity for her to reassure everyone that our European Union is here, is strong, and will guarantee a better future for all Europeans.
There is no denying that the challenges of today not only create more difficulties but also generate opportunities. The European Union has had a long-standing obligation of promoting our European Way of Life, a vision that is more relevant today than it has ever been. The ongoing pandemic has accelerated the need for establishing a stable European Health Union that will allow Member States to coordinate efficiently in the face of another health crisis. President von der Leyen’s commitment to this endeavour must ensure the establishment of a Health Union that includes all Europeans. Moving forward, we must accept that only through solidarity and coordination will we be able to face the difficulties that lie ahead.
The European Way of Life, which I mentioned previously, is a continuous idea on which our Union thrives. This way of life is inexplicably related to the European rule of law. The rule of law is not just a guarantor of rights and values; it is the living embodiment of European righteousness, and must be followed to the letter. Further strengthening European law will not only allow for better coordination between countries, but also create a strong sense of security and justice amongst European citizens.
Cooperation and understanding are cornerstone values that define our Union, yet we are now about to face another difficult challenge. The resurgence and subsequent victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan has initiated a chain of events that could lead to another serious humanitarian crisis. We have all seen the images and videos from Kabul airport, where thousands of families desperately tried to flee from the wrath of the Taliban. The European Union must participate in the difficult task of preventing any type of human rights violations, especially towards women and girls. In addition, we must formalise a concrete policy that will prevent a new wave of immigrants similar to the one caused by the Syrian Civil War. The European Union needs to take necessary action in order to ensure that Afghan citizens, who are fleeing from the Taliban, remain protected. Moreover, we must find common ground on asylum rules and evidently support the unified, well-structured, and efficient refugee plan that the Commission has recently presented. This will include a vast agenda on the protection of human rights, the safety of our borders and the fight against organised smuggling.
The crisis in Afghanistan has proven that the European Union needs to assert itself as a political community with a geopolitical role. The vision of creating a standing European military force has existed for quite some time now, yet it has expanded further into the realm of fantasy rather than reality. Now is the time to revisit this idea with the full consent of our European community. Had there been a rapid response force in Afghanistan, the EU could have prevented the scenes of chaos that erupted after the departure of the American troops, keeping Kabul airport operational, and consequently ensuring a stable continuation of evacuations. Strength in unity is a value that characterises our community. While facing unprecedented geopolitical challenges, we must unite, coordinate and cooperate in order to protect Europe, and the European Way of Life that we represent.
Turning our attention from the vast mountainous regions of Afghanistan and into the deep forests of Central Europe, we realise that another crisis is developing, which threatens the integrity and stability of three Member States. I am specifically referring to the migrant crisis orchestrated by the tyrannical regime of Alexander Lukashenko. Lithuania, Poland and Latvia are witnessing a version of a “hybrid war”, orchestrated by the Lukashenko regime, which threatens the stability of our Union within our own borders. We express our solidarity, and further hope to continue supporting these countries. The European Union will not tolerate these acts of blackmail conducted by Lukashenko and his autocratic regime.
Now is the time for us to unite under the common goal of improving the lives of every European. I wholeheartedly believe that with President von der Leyen we can achieve this. We believe in her, she believes in us, but most importantly, we all believe in the European Union.
The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 179 Members from all EU Member States