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Ursula von der Leyen gives heartfelt speech on the future of the EU on Europe Day

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen - Credit: European Parliament

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has given an emotional speech to mark Europe Day at an event in Strasbourg.

During the Conference on the Future of Europe, the heads of the European parliament and the European Commission delivered speeches on their vision for the continent.

Von der Leyen said the conference was a “real opportunity to bring Europeans together”, rallying “around a common ambition for our future, just as previous generations did”.

She said: “For some, the narrative of peace is not as compelling as for others. This is an opportunity to help build a new common purpose for all Europeans.

“We see how important that is when we look at the world around us, globalised but fragmented. Full of contradictions and confrontations. It reminds us of the importance of a shared sense of purpose and that none of us can go it alone.”

Von der Leyen spoke of the importance of tackling climate change so that “our grandchildren can still experience spring, summer, autumn and winter,” and said the environment was currently the most important issue for the EU.

The EU Commission president also reflected on how being a grandmother for the first time last month has shaped the work she does as a politician.

“The first caress with my young granddaughter was one of those moments that really, really allows you to get your priorities right and remind you of what really matters in life during that moment of tenderness, of love.

“She showed me one thing that we must never forget, that we always owe it to the world to allow them to believe in the world and that we are old enough to make that difference happen.

“I did what all new parents and new grandparents do and always have done. I thought of all of the opportunities and I try to imagine the kind of world that she would grow up in. Would there be forests? Will there be any fauna left? Or maybe it will only be remaining in history books or films.”

Von der Leyen also questioned what European project would look like in the future, noting that present actions “will determine the answers that we will be looking for tomorrow”.

She ended her speech by referencing Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. She said: “The most beautiful profession a man can have is that of bringing men together. It’s up to us now to keep on doing that. Thank you. Long live Europe.”

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