As Europeans, we share a history and a destiny. We can rebuild confidence because we will rediscover this path. Look where we are standing: even now, during the night, you can see the hill behind me: the Acropolis. Whoever you are, whatever your age, your nationality and your origin, does the miracle of this hill, the columns of the Parthenon, the silhouette of the Erechtheion and its caryatids not awaken in you the feeling that something was born here that concerns you, that belongs to you, that speaks to you?
Yes the Acropolis of Athens is a mirror reflecting our European identity, we recognize ourselves, we read our common destiny in this mirror and this temple was that of the gods from antiquity, but today the beliefs that created it have vanished and yet we still have this force in our minds. We can still fell its sacred element.
As André Malraux said, some nearly sixty years ago in this very place, there is a hidden Greece that is lying in the hearts of all men and women of the Western world. This hidden Greece is what we do not grasp, which means that even if we allow ourselves to get caught up in our trivial European debates and these civil wars that I mentioned earlier, we can be a few thousand miles away and still recognize a European, an image that reminds us of Europe, a feeling that unites us, a smell, a colour, something we read, that makes us feel European again.
This Europe of literature, cafés, public discussion, our peoples’ warmth and civility that exists nowhere else in the world, is one whose true cement is culture, our culture.
We will never fight enough for Europeans to recognize of their own accord this shared foundation that for centuries has been expressed in myriad ways, the Europe of the literary sets, reviews, travellers, libraries and ideas, the Europe of luminous capitals and fascinating fringes, this Europe that has existed through so many and so many paths that at times did not even mention its name, that did not wait for our institutions, our treaties, our reorganizations, and our controversies. The Europe of Madame de Staël and Benjamin Constant spoke nearly every language, it was there, this Europe that has united us for so many centuries, it is the Europe of culture. And for this spirit of recognition and mutual understanding to live, and for us to finally restore European confidence, we should clearly begin with culture as our basis.
Student exchanges are key, our young people should travel to even a greater extent, academic exchanges, learning one another’s language, far beyond my fervent attempts earlier, this is what should make our Europe vibrant, not obscure rules and decisions. That means being even more ambitious in this Europe of culture, university and academic exchanges.
In the proposals we will make, in this ten-year roadmap, I would like to see us embrace this bold and far-reaching ambition so that this Europe of culture, knowledge and language sharing can be completely overhauled.