Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen addressed the EU Parliament today
In a speech to the EU parliament left-wing president Alexander Van der Bellen hailed the project as a “success story” for others to follow.
Despite the numerous crises threatening to sink the bloc the veteran Green politician described Brussels as “great, unique and really worth the effort”.
But he admitted that the future of the EU is now in doubt and that it is “vulnerable” to attacks from populist politicians because federalisation is “incomplete”.
Mr Van der Bellen was greeted with wild applause and a standing ovation which last several minutes as he concluded his first ever speech to the EU Parliament in Strasbourg.
During his address he repeatedly attacked nationalism and eurosceptic politicians and made thinly veiled attacks on Brexit and Donald Trump.
He also railed against the current debate on immigration, saying that EU nations must be prepared to accept people who “think differently, look differently and live differently”.
The Green party veteran said the EU should act as a political model for the world
His speech was greeted by a long standing ovation from MEPs
The Austrian leader’s address came following an intense debate in the chamber over the future of Europe, during which eurosceptics rounded on plans for an EU “superstate”.
He said: “I believe that this Europe can be a model for the entire world. I’m not wagging a finger, I simply believe that the developments of the last 70 years can, put together, provide this model.
“But we must also say together that these European values are not negotiable. We, the elder ones, cannot allow the younger people to be stripped of their Europe.
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“We are perfectly able to love our own homeland and also the European idea. I don’t think it’s exaggerated to say that’s what makes us unique on this planet.”
Mr Van der Bellen urged fellow European leaders to take a pro-EU stance rather than attempting to pander to eurosceptic voters, saying young people wanted to see the Brussels bloc survive.
I believe that this Europe can be a model for the entire world
Alexander Van der Bellen
And in comments likely to anger some anti-Brussels politicians he urged eurocrats to make political capital out of upcoming commemorations of both world wars and the Prague Spring to push an openly europhile agenda.
In an obvious reference to Mr Trump, he said to rapturous applause: “If we undermine human values, if we alienate everything that is foreign to us, if we build new walls and nationalism, we are not going to solve any of the problems. On the contrary we are only going to create new ones.
“For other states it may appear more beneficial to them to split the union and divide us and it’s a waste of time to complain about this.
“We just have to take it that some third countries will try to undermine the negotiating clout of the European Union.
“It’s very important for every member state of the EU that we should avoid falling back into our individual state situations. In the long run we would all lose out.”
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At one point the Austrian leader made reference to his country’s role in Nazism when talking about the current debate on immigration, saying that Europe “should have learnt our lessons from that”.
And he characterised the debate over whether or not the European Union should continue to exist at all as a question of “whether we still believe that all people are born equal with equal rights and values”.
Mr Van der Bellen did not directly mention Brexit during his speech, but many of his remarks about European solidarity and people being better off in the bloc will be taken in the context of Britain’s decision to quit.
Yesterday the Austrian leader, whose role is largely ceremonial, caused controversy when he implied that people who voted for Brexit were “not particularly intelligent” and that they were “crazy” for wanting to leave the Brussels club.