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The Significance of European Integration (February 2, 1996)

In the following speech, Chancellor Helmut Kohl emphasized the important role that European integration would play in the 21st century. He referred to European integration as “a matter of war and peace.” Europe, as Kohl explained, had to assert its weight in the world and needed to be economically competitive. According to the chancellor, this would require progress toward common foreign and security policies and coordinated domestic and legal policies. He argued that the EU needed to reform its decision-making procedures in order to enjoy greater support from citizens.

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Speech by Chancellor Helmut Kohl on the Occasion of the Conferral of His Honorary Doctorate by the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, February 2, 1996

[ . . . ]

There is no reasonable alternative to an ever closer bond between the peoples of Europe. We need to build the House of Europe. We all need a united Europe. I would like to mention three reasons that are particularly important to me.

First, the policy of European integration is a matter of war and peace in the 21st century. That is how my late friend François Mitterrand saw it as well. On January 17, 1995, he stood before the European Parliament in Strasbourg and said, “Nationalism means war.” I know that some people don’t like hearing that. My warnings might contain an unpleasant truth. But it doesn’t help to deny this basic question. If we lack the impetus to continue the project of integration, there will not only be stagnation but also regression. We do not want to return to the old version of the nation-state. Let me say this in the language of Thomas Mann from the early 1930s, as he called out to the Germans, “We are German Europeans and European Germans!” The nation-state of the 19th century cannot solve the great problems of the 21st century. Nationalism brought great suffering to our continent – think only of the events of the first half of this century. Four years before the end of this century we should finally grasp that it is time to draw the necessary conclusions.

Second, we need Europe so that our common word carries weight in the world. We can only assert our common interests in an adequate fashion if we speak with a single voice and combine our strengths. This applies in relation to all our partners and friends, also to those on the other side of the Atlantic. Precisely he who supports Europe’s close connection to transatlantic friendship and partnership must also acknowledge his own identity as a European.

And third, we all need Europe in order to remain competitive on the world markets. Only together can we assert ourselves in worldwide competition with the other great economic regions, East Asia and North America – and with the Mercosur trade pact, this includes Latin America as well. [ . . . ]

We are now on the eve of the intergovernmental conference that will review the Maastricht Treaty concluded in February 1992. I dare make the following assertion: if we experience a setback now on the path to Europe, then it will be more than a generation before we are given such a chance again. For me, the progress we have made in four areas is particularly significant:

First: Strengthening the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). After the terrible years of war in the former Yugoslavia, it is not necessary to go into detail in justifying this goal. It is precisely because we were not able to establish a CFSP, because we have not yet approved such treaties, that we have embarrassed ourselves so abominably. We should not let further progress be blocked due to the inevitable difficulties regarding certain details.

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