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“There is more to Europe than making money and creating jobs”

Schuman lecture by former Latvian president

In Finland, the Euro-sceptical party True Finns won 19 per cent of the votes last weekend. Their main point: Finland pays Brussels too much. And the aid for Portugal – a multi-billion loan to give the country some breathing space to straighten out their economy – should not be given. Elsewhere in Europe, Euro-scepticism is on the up and up too (including the Dutch Freedom Party of politician Geert Wilders). The former president of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, is sorry to see this development. On 9 May, she will present the Schuman lecture on the long-term future of the EU.

Vaira Vike-Freiberga (1937), former professor of psychology at the University of Montreal, was president of Latvia for eight years and played a leading role in achieving Latvia’s membership of NATO and the European Union. She was the only female candidate for the first President of the European Council, a position for which Herman van Rompuy was eventually chosen. And she was vice-president of the Reflection group on the long-term future of the European Union (2007-2010).

Europe is very dear to her. “Sometimes it seems that you (the western Europeans, ed.),” she said two years ago in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, “who have reaped the rewards over the past decade, have forgotten that Europe is worth defending. Europe is more than making money and creating jobs. This applies now more than ever, as the banks are no longer safe.” To continue critically: “People are well-fed and forget the values of European humanism. At the beginning of the last century, a Latvian writer wrote a story about a country where roasted pigs flew through the air. You only had to stick your fork in the air to catch one. And to make matters even easier, the sky was so low that there was no space for elevated thoughts.”

 

Riki Janssen

Schuman lecture, Monday 9 May, 20.00hrs • Lecture hall Tongersestraat 53 • Free entrance

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