Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, delivered an impassioned speech, urging MEPs to defend the fundamentals of freedom and respect that the EU is based on in the face of populism and global and internal challenges.
He underlined that it is vital for the EU to remain open, both towards the world and among its own member states, despite high geopolitical tensions, which encourage protectionism. “Our problems are common. Protectionism makes you poorer”, Mr Bettel said.
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister urged lawmakers to protect freedom of movement and the internal market in upcoming legislation, and called for a “truly common European migration policy” based on the proposed European Asylum and Migration Pact. He also took direct aim at those seeking to undermine the rule of law in the EU and said that it must remain the backbone of the EU, including in the defence of the rights of minorities, which some in the EU try to silence.
On the war in Ukraine, Mr Bettel called on the EU to continue united against “Russia’s unacceptable aggression”, while delivering arms, financial aid, and reconstruction efforts to Ukraine, and accompanying it on the road to eventual EU accession.
Reactions from MEPs
MEPs welcomed Prime Minister Bettel’s commitments to building a more equal Europe, defending the rule of law in the EU, the European Green Deal and institutional reforms related to the upcoming European elections. Some MEPs warned that the EU is at a crossroads, facing the Russian war in Ukraine and called for Europe to have its own, independent military forces and more European sovereignty based on unity, whilst others voiced criticism of Luxembourg’s corporate tax regime.
This was the ninth “This is Europe” plenary debate, following Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda on 14 March 2023, and debates in 2022 with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob.