Which tree will they plant to remember us?
Morten Østergaards åbningstale EU-konference den 26. november i Landstingssalen.
Det talte ord gælder
Who would have known, that when we planned this conference on Europe’s future, it would take place on the eve of the historic Brexit-agreement that was sealed between the remaining 27 EU-countries and United Kingdom at yesterday’s summit.
On his recent visit, President Macron of France said: “we didn’t chose ourselves to be here at this time in age – but the choices we make, will determine the future of the planet”.
The young brits will have to live with the choices being made on their behalf these days. They voted in in vast majority to remain. But their voice wasn’t heard.
This can’t be leadership.
So today we do it differently. We ask the political leaders of today to stand accountable to the generations of tomorrow. From east, south, west and north we’ve asked leaders to join us in the quest for a new soundtrack for Europe. One of hope, trust, safety and optimism. And we’ve yielded the floor and the inquisitory questioning to the leaders of tomorrow. To the generations who will live with the consequences of what we do or even more so – what we fail to do. Challenges left unmet.
Outside the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, they’ve planted a tree in Denmark's honor. It reminds us of our efforts to save the Jews across the Sound during the Second World War. From pursuit in Denmark to security in Sweden.
I was in the Synagogue in Copenhagen to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the rescue. As the Jews were being haunted all over Europe in Denmark the people manage to bring most to safety in Sweden in a civil disobedient act of humanity. We listen and we keep the memory of the atrocities as well as the bravery a live. The actions of our grandparents makes us proud.
But when you enter the Holocaust Museum you also learn, that leading up to the second world war – was a period where world leaders stood idle by. There is a map stating: For Europe’s Jews the world is made up of places where they can’t live and where they are not allowed to live. Nobody wanted part in “the Jewish refugee”-problem. It wasn’t their problem. This is also part of our history. Also to be remember. Though not with pride.
So who will they plant a tree for in the civil war museum in Damascus, when the war in Syria is over? Denmark, EU? I don’t thing so. Why should they. Even though the war has contributed strongly to the fact that there are more refugees in the world right now than at any other time since World War II, the lack of political leadership is the most predominant impression.
The fact is, that many people, our own citizens as people from outside Europe blame the European Union: "Why did the EU not handle the refugee crisis?" and "The crisis has shown that Europe cannot solve big challenges together".
In Moria on Lesvos, thousands of people sit in the cold waiting for us to decide on their destiny. They live under conditions that are completely obscene to offer people. And even on European soil. They are saved and forgotten. Nobody wants to talk about them. Nobody wants to decide on them.
When you’re been down there in Moria, as I was for the second time two weeks ago, you can’t help to see the camp for what is also is:
A testimony that it was not the EU that failed when the refugee flows hit our borders. It was us. We are lacking political leadership. Leaders who stand up and dare take to responsibility, when it becomes difficult. Leaders who stand up for our values and stand firm on compassion. Leaders who do not stop before we have found the right solutions to the very real problems as Moria. Leaders, in who’s honor we’ll plant a tree when time comes.
Where are the European leaders today? Because we need them in the fight to regain the trust of the people who have been let down. Not only in Syria and in Moria. But also right here in Denmark and all over Europe. Here, on our own continent, there is a sense of disillusion. We who wants a stronger Europe have to understand and recognize that many people see and experience our Europe as an unfulfilled promise. They can’t see, what’s in it for them, they don’t believe, that Europe will take care of their children and grandchildren. In fact to them Europe is the problem of all problems.
To them we must reach out. We must listen to them. And fight to win their trust. This is as hard a task as it is bound.
Let me be very direct: I urge not only political leaders but you, me, everybody, to look in the mirror, and ask what are we fighting for? We are fighting to regain the trust of the people who have been failed. Against those fear-mongering nationalist forces who will stop at nothing before all that was build up by generations before us is again torn down.
But not by becoming them. Not by shaming the people who considered voting for them. Not by picking old fights but forging new alliances. I don’t care if you were once this or that. Are we joining hands to move Europe ahead then no hand is to small og too tainted to reach out to. We are not in it to win it for ourselves. This time so much more than party politics and national politics it at stake.
To regain the trust of the people we need to have as many political forces as possible posing to simple questions:
Who do you trust to build a better future - those who say that our best days are behind us or those of us who insists that every generation is obliged to provide more opportunities for a peaceful co-existence to our peoples?
In a world of change do you prefer to stand alone or when facing a storm stand with your friends and neighbors? In Radikale Venstre we have joined in with our European sister parties in Alde, including the Center Party in Sweden, NEOS in Austria, Ciudadanos in Spain, D66 in Holland. And with La République En Marche. We are fighting for a greener, freer and stronger Europe. And we believe that if we dare, that is actually what we can deliver to future generations. And we want civil society, NGOs and all citizens as yourselves to join in.
Our agenda is change and progress in Europe. We are in the process of creating a reformist movement towards the European Parliament elections in May next year.
So today I ask you: what will be your tree? Will you rise to the occasion and take actions that our children will look back at with pride?
My name is Morten Østergaard. Today I want to plant the tree of trust. Trust in each other, trust in our common future. Trust in the fact that when facing daunting challenges we’re not better of alone – but together. Trust in that our best days are still ahead.
I trust we’ll have a great discussion today. Welcome!