TALLINN - Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid and another 20 European heads of state made a joint declaration on the occasion of European Day inviting to think about the future and present of the European Union before the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The presidents said that we need a strong and effective European Union, a European Union that will be a global leader in the transition to sustainable, climate neutral, and digitally supported development, according to the Office of the President of the Republic.
"“We need a European Union we can all identify with, certain in the knowledge that we have done our utmost for the benefit of future generations. Together, we can achieve this. The Conference on the Future of Europe will be an opportunity to talk openly about the European Union and to listen our citizens, especially young people. It creates a space for dialogue, conversation and discussions on of what we expect from the EU tomorrow and what we can contribute today," the joint declaration reads.
Full text of the declaration:
"Let's talk about Europe
We would like to extend our best wishes to all European citizens on the occasion of Europe Day.
This Europe Day is special. For the second year in a row, we are celebrating it in the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. We sympathize with all those who have suffered because of it.
This year's Europe Day is also special because it marks the beginning of the Conference on the Future of Europe. We call on all EU citizens to use this unique opportunity to shape our common future.
The circumstances surrounding this discussion on the future of Europe are very different from those of previous years. It may seem that there is not sufficient time for an in-depth discussion on the future of Europe in the current situation. On the contrary, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of what is truly important in our lives: our health, our relationship with nature, our relationships with our fellow human beings, mutual solidarity and working together. It has opened up questions about the way we live our lives. It has showed the strengths of European integration, as well as its weaknesses. We need to talk about all of this.
The challenges we face as Europeans are manifold: from tackling the climate crisis and the creation of green economies, while concurrently balancing the increasing competition among the global actors, to striving for the digital transformation of our societies. We will need to develop new methods and new solutions. As democracies, our strength lies in engaging the many voices of our societies to identify the best way forward. The more people participate in a broad and open-minded discussion, the better for our Union.
The European project is unprecedented in history. It has been 70 years since the signing of the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, and 64 since the birth of the European Community in Rome. At that time, European leaders found ways to unify war-torn Europe. Thirty years ago, Europe's East and West began to connect more closely. Very different countries joined together to form the European Union. Each country has its own historical experiences and burdens of the past, which it deals with on its own and in its relations with other countries.
The European project is a project of peace and reconciliation. It has been so since its conception and remains so today. We advocate for a common strategic vision for Europe, a Europe that is whole, free, united and at peace.
All the fundamental principles of European integration remain extremely relevant today: freedom, equality, respect for human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression, solidarity, democracy and loyalty among the member states. How can we jointly ensure that these fundamental principles of European integration remain relevant for the future?
Although the European Union may sometimes seem ill-equipped to face the many challenges that have arisen over the last decade -- from the economic and financial crisis to the challenges in working towards a just and equitable EU migration system and the ongoing pandemic -- we are aware that it would be much harder for each of us if we were alone. How can we best strengthen European cooperation and solidarity and make sure that we emerge from the health crisis in a way that makes us more resilient to future challenges?
We need a strong and effective European Union, a European Union that will be a global leader in the transition to sustainable, climate neutral, and digitally supported development. We need a European Union we can all identify with, certain in the knowledge that we have done our utmost for the benefit of future generations. Together, we can achieve this.
The Conference on the Future of Europe will be an opportunity to talk openly about the European Union and to listen our citizens, especially young people. It creates a space for dialogue, conversation and discussions on of what we expect from the EU tomorrow and what we can contribute today.
We need to think about our common future; therefore, we invite you to join the discussion and help find a way forward together."
In addition to Kaljulaid, the declaration was signed by Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, Bulgarian president Rumen Radev, Croatian President Zoran Milanovic, Irish President Michael D. Higgins, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Latvian President Egils Levits, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Maltese President George Vella, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Portugese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, French President Emanuel Macron, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova, Slovenian President Borut Pahor, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Czech President Milos Zeman and Hungarian President Janos Ader.