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06.11.2019 00:00

EPC President Herman Van Rompuy delivered the following speech at the EPC Annual Conference on 6 November 2019 in Brussels:

"I'm usually someone who looks at the bright side of life. With regard to the EU, I remember how hopeful we were after President Macron's Sorbonne speech when a Franco-German initiative to relaunch the European project seemed possible. We are less hopeful today. 

I will deal with three themes that are important for the coming years: unity, sovereignty and the future of our socio-economic models in the light of the growth of populism.

Unity

The European elections did not result in the dreaded great leap forward of the extreme right (after Brexit, that group will be severely weakened, by the way), but their strong presence in the larger countries of the Union still weighs on policies and society. The European institutions are functioning normally, but for how much longer? I add that those three major institutions have to cooperate much more to make the Union function effectively instead of arguing. The deepening and widening of the Union and the euro area are stagnating. “If we want everything to remain as it is, everything must change.” (Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s “The Leopard”).

Of course, the EU-27 remained united in the negotiations with the two British governments, both of which failed to get the House of Commons to support the draft divorce agreement. Unity is always to be welcomed, even if it is about a sad event like Brexit.

After Brexit, we will have to negotiate the future relationship with the UK. It will be a complex negotiation for both sides. The British can hardly deviate from our norms and standards for goods and services, and on the EU-27 side, we will have to reconcile conflicting national trade and other interests. However, the Commission is used to doing this job, simply because it has negotiated so many times with other third countries. The Commission will be guided by EU principles and interests. The Union will not sacrifice the acquis to accommodate a country having left the Union.

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