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Schulz: “Let us have the courage to fight for the EU”

Martin Schulz stressed the importance of cooperation and solidarity in his last speech as Parliament President at a European Council meeting. Addressing heads of government at the summit in Brussels, he called on them to make progress on issues such as defence, migration and Russia. “You all agreed that you need the EU, that the EU is the only means to tackle the challenges we are facing in this century. This spirit should never be forgotten and should guide your actions over the years to come.”

In the margins of the summit Schulz also had meetings with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen.

In his speech the President  also addressed Brexit, urging EU countries to work in “a spirit of loyal cooperation”: “We cannot allow the  Brexit process to become an emotional affair, nor should we turn it into a legal maze from which exit is extremely difficult. We must not feed populists’ unfounded claims that the EU is the master of all evil.” He also warned EU countries that Parliament needs to be fully involved throughout the Brexit negotiation process: “If we are not adequately involved, we may not be able to give our consent. And in this situation the UK would face the hardest Brexit possible.”

Schulz also called for more cooperation on defence: “One of the effects of Brexit was the new impetus this has given to go further in defence cooperation. I see many among you driving this initiative and this makes me optimistic that after many years of empty rhetoric, concrete actions are finally taken. I urge you to make sure that this momentum is now maintained.”

The dramatic developments in Syria this week were also mentioned by the President: “The capturing of Aleppo is a game changer in the conflict. Now more than ever we have to urge all UN Security Council Members to abide by their international obligations and act in the name of humanity.”

Solidarity is essential if the EU is to successfully tackle the migration crisis, said Schulz. “Since more than one year asylum and migration have become the deepest challenge for the European Union, a challenge we will only master if we help each other and stand together in solidarity.”

Schulz also challenged the political leaders present to help improve the EU by addressing problems head on and not wait for them to become too big, divisive or unmanageable. “The EU needs leaders who follow their convictions, even though they may be unpopular to some parts of the electorate in the short-run.” He also called on them to stop blaming the EU for everything: “What we all do in Brussels can only become a success if everybody takes proper ownership. Stop pretending that all success is national and all failure European.”

In his last speech to the European Council as President of the European Parliament, Schulz concluded: “I have called this Union the biggest achievement of our civilisation of the previous century, and I am still convinced that this is true. Let us have the courage to fight for it.”

Compliments of the European Parliament