Speech of Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen at the closing ceremony of the EU Youth Conference
Full text of the speech of Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen at the closing ceremony of the European Union Youth Conference, 4th September 2018, 11:30
Dear Minister Bogner-Strauß,
Dear Commissioner Navracsics,
Dear Youth Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you here in Vienna at the occasion of the closing of this EU Youth Conference.
I am delighted to see so many young people from all over Europe. I am happy to see your motivation and drive to change the world for the better.
You are the first generation of Europeans who were born in a united Europe, in the European Union. You have enjoyed the freedom and prosperity the post-war institutions of the 20th century – the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United Nations –have brought.
As citizens of the EU we take many of these achievements for granted. I think it is a great time in history to be alive and to experience the world we live in.
However, it would be foolish to assume it will automatically always stay like this. For hundreds of years the European continent was a continent of violence. Europe was a place where the ugliest human characteristics have shown their faces.
Thanks to European integration, bloodshed is a thing of the past in the European Union.
As a reaction to uncertainty and societal changes, some are calling for a new European order, based on isolationism.
However, this path leads away from freedom and democracy and towards repression and oligarchy.
I want to send a message to you: You, the representatives of a generation that grew up in these changing times. I would like to ask you to make a conscious choice to reject an excessively pessimistic view towards our world today.
I ask you to be optimistic about our common future, and to think about the long-term effects of the choices you make today.
The challenges are manifold: economic and social inequality, the fight against climate change, terrorism and extremism, migration and its root causes, and technological developments we have never even dreamt of.
I ask you to consider and confront these challenges with reason, to analyse the facts and keep an open and positive mind.
Do not allow others to reframe these issues in a way that will make you believe the world we live in is a bad place.
You have spent many months discussing and evaluating the European Youth Goals for the coming decade.
This makes me very hopeful. I know the future of Europe is in good hands. The youth goals you propose range from fostering a European culture and identity, better education and health, a culture of open-mindedness in discussions, the tolerance of other lifestyles to economic as well as social solidarity and the protection of our environment.
I would like to thank you for your hard work and the efforts you have all put into this endeavour. You have proven that Europe’s youth has an active interest in shaping their future.
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