This morning, the European Summit was opened by a performance of United World College (UWC) Maastricht students. They expressed their future dreams for a united Europe through an artistic performance. After this strong message from the future generation, the public was officially welcomed through speeches by King’s Commissioner of Limburg Theo Bovens and Mayor of Maastricht Annemarie Penn-te Strake.
Theo Bovens immediately showed that today wasn’t about telling fairy tails about the EU with the quote “Europe has lost its shine” and it is of vital importance to create an all-inclusive Europe for everyone. The Mayor of Maastricht, Annemarie Penn-te Strake, mentioned the great achievement of peace that came with the European integration. However, this was immediately followed by a call not to lean back as the problems in Europe today cannot be denied and must be addressed properly.
The welcome speeches were followed by UWC students that wrote a letter to a former minister. In the letter they asked questions regarding the Treaty and the challenges of Europe today. An interesting quote from former Prime Minister of Belgium Mark Eyskens “To be a political refugee is a human right”.
After this, it was the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker who entered the stage on his birthday to give talk. “Those who think we can deconstruct the EU…we won’t exist as single nations” was one of the main messages that Mr. Juncker had for the existing Euroscepticism in today’s world.
The speech of Mr. Juncker was followed up with a panel discussion consisting of Prof. Segers, Prof. de Grauwe, Gordon Baijnai, and Klaas Knot. The latter believes political obstacles to be the biggest hurdle towards necessary reforms while Prof. Segers argues that poverty needs to be battled and that there is a great lack of creative and original thinking. Furthermore, as we don’t have federation the Member State carry a great responsibility to keep the project going. Prof. de Grauwe added that it cannot be a surprise that the people are turning against Europe when their social welfare is being cut. Gordan Bajnai concluded the discussion that there needs to be found a way to keep the EU afloat.
Finally, it was time for lunch wherein former President of the European Council gave a keynote speech wherein he warned against protectionism and that the answer to the enemies of Europe is to keep open minded.
Text: Brian Megens
Photography: Johannes Timmermans