I cannot, however, limit myself to the emotion of these historical sites, no matter how strong. Rather, I wish to hear what they have to say. Because these places demand that we listen to them, because it was here that the modern State was created, here that the city of Athens was built patiently by the sovereignty of the people, the sovereignty of their destiny, we must ask ourselves without complacency “what have we Europeans done with our sovereignty?”. Because it was here that the risk of democracy was taken, the risk that puts the government of the people into the hands of the people in the belief that respectable law is better decided by as many as possible and not as few, we should ask ourselves: what have we done with our democracy?
And the words that, not far from here, Pericles spoke in honour of warriors who died in war, let us listen to them and reflect even more deeply. “Freedom”, he said, “is our rule for governing the Republic, and our daily relationships. Suspicion has no place.” But we Europeans, do we still have trust in ourselves?
On the Pnyx, it was free speech, debate and even controversy that prevailed. Therefore, I would like to be frank with you this evening and speak plainly: in Europe today, sovereignty, democracy and trust are in danger. You will know this better than anyone, because the so-called “Greek crisis” brought this into the open.
This crisis was not entirely restricted to Greece. It was a European crisis, and in a sense, I would dare to say, a European failure. Should we just accept to swallow this bitter pill and give up on the European ideal? Should we give up this fight, because we have not been able to live up to the European promise? Or should we instead resort to summits during every crisis, every bump in the road, a few individuals locked away in a room not talking to anyone else? This is tantamount to resignation and would be a profound mistake, a double error.