On the occasion of the publication of memories entitled “Fortunately We Are Unified. My European Path”, a meeting promoting his book was held on 18 January. Prof. Pöttering is Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Warmia and Mazury. During the meeting, Prof. Pöttering brought up many issues. The main thoughts of his statement are presented below.
About the European Parliament
In 1979, the European Parliament had very limited competence. Presently, it has power equal to governments. In 1979, Europe and Germany were divided. Poland was under Communist rule and stood opposed to Germany. In 2009, my successor – the President of the European Parliament – was a Pole, Prof. Jerzy Buzek. For my generation, it was a miracle.
The European Community is us together, not Brussels. This community is endangered. The future of Europe is your (students’ – Editor’s note) future. We cannot allow nationalism to win. I am a German, but also a European. You are Poles, but also Europeans. It is not the Kremlin and White House which will decide about Europe. It must be done by your generation.
Law is a very important thing. European countries must be law-abiding. It is unacceptable that a country applies only laws which suit it. There is the government and legislation. The government should respect the opinion of the Constitutional Tribunal.
About the future
I am not able to say what the EU will be after 50 years. Some time ago, when countries held different opinions, it led to wars. Now, due to the European Union, they talk with each other. We need to talk. If someone has a different view, he or she should express it. We do not have to agree. Voting time comes after talks. The results of democratic solutions must be respected. Eventually, a way will always be found. The EU must adhere to this principle.
The EU politics is not only about deals and making money. It is something more. It is founded on common values, e.g. law, equality and democracy. The things which Donald Trump says about the EU and NATO are alarming. Nevertheless, he is advised by many reasonable people, hence, we must wait and observe the situation. A tendency toward separation is visible in Europe. We need to talk with each other. Meeting people from other countries and getting to know them is very significant. We must not build new walls.
About Lech Wałęsa
Wałęsa is a great hero for Germans and the world. Maybe he committed some errors when he was young. However, without what he did as the leader of the “Solidarność”, there would be no unification of Germany and we will not forget that about him.
About Poles and Germans
Germany started World War II. We will not forget this guilt. It cannot happen again. Let us not reawaken the ghosts of the past. The things which unite us are more important than things which divide us. We are together in the Union, thus, we form unity. We hold common values. For this reason, Germans are not indifferent to what is happening in Poland. Poles are not indifferent to what is happening in Germany. If the principles of democracy are violated in a country, the European Commission has to deal with it and clarify it. It is not meddling in internal affairs. It is a great benefit for the Union.
After the meeting, Prof. Pöttering gave autographs to buyers of his new book.
Prof. Hans-Gert Pöttering PhD (*1945) is the only person who is Member of the European Parliament continuously since the first direct elections in 1979. He held in it the position of Chairman of the European People’s Party and the President of the Parliament. In his autobiography, the politician recalls the beginning of parliamentary work and overcoming seemingly hopeless crises. He describes the reactions of Members of Parliament to the fall of communism and unification of Germany. As the leader of the European Parliament, he took part in enlargement of the European Union with the countries of the north, south and east, and the development of the European institutions through the Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon treaties. Prof. Hans-Gert Pöttering PhD is currently the President of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.