An Europe Calling! opening speech form King’s Commissioner Theo Bovens at the EPP-Summit in Maastricht on Thursday 20 October 2016
Your excellencies, distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen
Welcome to this house of the Province of Limburg, the birthplace of the Maastricht Treaty. It was here in this room on the 9th of December nineteen ninety-one – now almost 25 years ago – that twelve European heads of government met. Twelve European heads of government who here – entirely in the spirit of that time – negotiated a more united Europe. A more united Europe that was embedded in the Maastricht Treaty, which was signed two months later also in this house. One floor up in the chamber of our provincial parliament. We here in Limburg, in Maastricht, have always been exceptionally proud of this Treaty. Not only because it was signed here, but above all because we recognised ourselves in the united Europe it portrayed. Now, 25 years later it seems that the Treaty is losing some of its sparkle. In a world that looks very different to the years following the fall of the Berlin wall; in a world where one of the twelve founders even wishes to leave the Union….
Nevertheless, we in the most southerly and international province of the Netherlands remain ‘admirers or fans’ of the Treaty. This is particularly because living in a European borderregion, we experience just how important the added value of ‘unification’ is. How it makes us – together with our close European neighbours – so much ‘stronger and smarter’.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is therefore out of respect for all the good that Europe has given us, that we are taking this opportunity of the Treaty’s silver jubilee to organise a wide-ranging debate. A wide-ranging and critical debate about the future of Europe. In this region of dialogue there is room for both criticism and support. The debate about Europe’s future is open. Precisely because Europe needs a new story or narrative. That’s why we are putting together a varied programme under the motto: Europe Calling! So on the 9th of December, we will be reliving the original European summit by means of a conference, titled ‘EU & ME’. A ‘EU & ME’ conference in which people from ‘then and now’ will focus also on the issues of today. Such as the belief of citizens in Europe… On the seventh of February two thousand and seventeen – the actual twenty-fifth anniversary of the Treaty – thousands of young people from all over Europe will be coming to Maastricht to share their vision of the future. Their future vision of a Europe that they – La Génération Maestricht – only know as the united Europe in which they were born and grew up…
And in May two thousand and seventeen, we will be organising a Europe Calling! Citizens’ Summit, especially for the people of our Meuse-Rhine Euroregion. With five different governments spread over three countries and speaking three languages, you could call this Euroregion a mini-Europe…
… With Dutch, Germans and Belgians (French, German and Dutch speakers) as experienced Europeans, whose ideas for a better Europe we really like to hear. Moreover, we will be throwing the doors of this birthplace of the Maastricht Treaty wide open to European meetings such as symposia and your summit. And who knows, perhaps the Brexit negotiations should also be held here in Maastricht. … Those who came here twenty-five years ago to build a bond, should perhaps return to this very place to discuss that bond again…
Having said that, let’s hope, above all, that the spirit that inspired – right here – twelve heads of government to create the European Union will also offer you now – 25 years later – inspiration and wisdom. Especially for your preparations for the European Council meeting today and tomorrow in Brussels.
Enjoy your meal in this room where once other European leaders gained an appetite for a Europe that entered the hearts and minds of many.
Let’s hope that it will keep its strength and sparkle.