“We risk now a devastating split, one between the East and the West. Almost going back to the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall”.
by Guy Verhofstadt
“Dear Colleagues, dear Chancellor Merkel,
The last time on European soil that a University was closed, was exactly 75 years ago, in November 1943. In Norway where the University of Oslo was closed. Officially because part of the buildings burned, in reality because the occupying Nazi authorities were determined to suppress the continuous calls for autonomy and freedom by the students and the academic community.
I tell you this story Mrs. Merkel as within two weeks from now, on the 1st of December, the same risks to happen in Europe again, this time in Budapest, in Hungary, where the Central European University, the CEU will be forced to close its doors. And everybody knows also why. It is part of the personal crusade full of coded anti-Semitism of Viktor Orbán, against the founder of the university Georges Soros.
My question is, when will you put an end to this? How long will you and your colleagues continue to sit next to a man who calls himself a Christian-democrat, but who behaves in everything he thinks, in everything he does, as an ordinary autocrat.
If I ask you this question because I firmly believe, that more than migration, more than the next financial crisis, even more than Putin, it’s this threat from within that undermines the European Union. After a near fatal division between North and South during the euro crisis, and after Brexit, we risk now an even more devastating split, one between the East and the West. Almost going back to the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall.
Allow me to say that precisely since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, Europe has not made a lot of progress. Since that reunification, Germany became the most powerful member state of the Union. In population, in economic wealth. But with more economic and more political power, comes also more responsibility, European responsibility. And precisely, since 1990, Germany hasn’t always assumed fully this bigger responsibility. In a certain way, this was understandable, as the country was preoccupied with the reunification. An enormous endeavor. The integration of a bankrupt communist state. All space, all energy, all attention went to this gigantic task. But by doing so, the traditional, post-war German ambition, so typical for Adenauer, for Genscher, for Kohl, to build an ever-closer Union on this continent, lost traction, lost energy. The debate about Europe narrowed to a discussion about “Kompetenz-Abgrenzung” and “Steuern”. And more dramatically, the vacuum has been filled by forces that want to destroy Europe.
Two weeks ago you announced that after this mandate, you will quit politics. But let me encourage you to use the coming months and years to put Germany back on track towards such an ever closer Union. We need a big leap forward for Europe. A relaunch of the project so that we are ready to face the challenges of the new emerging age. We will be on our own in the world of tomorrow, facing the Chinese, the Indians, the Russian, sometimes even the Americans.
So Mrs Merkel, to can do that. I know your strength, we have seen your courage, you have a unique chance to achieve this. Unique, as the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron is also a convinced European — not with the traditional French approach of “Vive l’Europe, pourvu qu’elle soit francaise/ long live Europe as long as it is French”. He already outlined his European project in a speech before the Sorbonne. My message is: embrace this vision, join forces, revive the European dream. As mirrored in that emotional image of both of you, in Compiègne, holding each other in a tender but powerful embrace. You showed there the whole world how immensely beautiful this common European project is.”