Gunter Verheugen: We have to make sure that Europe pools its resources

From a speech by the European Commissioner responsible for EU enlargement, given at Charles University in Prague
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I was born in 1944. I belong to a generation of European politicians who remember the difficult years after the Second World War. Who were driven by the unqualified maxim: "Never again war; never again a totalitarian regime; never again persecution." So European integation was never just one option; it was an absolute necessity.

I don't think you have to justify yourself when you defend Europe. I think you have to justify yourself when you don't. I do not underestimate the cohesive force of the nation state, and I do not try to deny it. I am a German. But I am quite clear that I cannot be a European on German conditions. I can only be a German under European conditions.

European unification is a complex process. It is not easy to understand. The sophisticated structure that has taken shape over the decades has many shortcomings. But it has served its purpose. And now we can make one more big stride forward that will bring us a good bit closer to our goal of European unification. At last, we can overcome the artificial division of Europe brought about by two world wars.

There is still so much to do in the process of uniting Europe; we cannot afford to waste time and energy on pointless debates. We have to make the structures on which Europe is built more democratic and transparent and bring them closer to the people. We have to make sure that Europe maintains its immunity against its greatest enemy: excessive nationalism, which brings only xenophobia, gross self-interest and the arrogant illusion of superiority.

We have to make sure that Europe pools its resources to stay at the cutting edge of social and economic progress. We have to make sure that Europe speaks with one voice on foreign and security policy and brings all its influence to bear in countering global threats. And we have to make sure we keep alive the thing that makes Europe so special: unity in the intellectual and cultural diversity that enriches us all.

That is what Europe is really about. That is where the duty and the roll of the nations lie. I'll put it bluntly: you cannot be a good Czech, Pole, German or Italian without being a committed European.