26 septembre 2017

Ministers,
Members of Parliament,
Prefect,
Dean,
University Presidents,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I have come to talk to you about Europe.

“Again!”, some might exclaim. People will just have to get used to it, because I will not stop talking about it. Because this is where our battle lies, our history, our identity, our horizon, what protects us and gives us a future.

“Already? Is it really necessary? ”, others might say. Because for them it is never the right moment to talk about Europe. It is always too early or too late. They have got used to such tactics. It is so much easier to never explain where we want to go, where we want to lead our people, and to remain with hidden arguments, because we have simply lost sight of the objective. It is so much more comfortable to hold long discussions about instruments, without knowing exactly where we are going.

We have all therefore got used to not saying what we think, what we want, passing it off as tactics. Experience shows that this gets us nowhere.

Broaching this subject at the Sorbonne University makes a lot of sense, as I am sure you will agree, Dean. We are all aware of the prestige of this lecture theatre. But the Sorbonne did not start out as a prestigious building. It was first and foremost an idea. An idea supported by a few scholars and their disciples who built their future sitting on straw.

This lecture theatre does not make the Sorbonne, however. The Sorbonne lives today because of the idea that its professors and students have of knowledge: an idea whose vitality has already lived on through eight centuries. Europe, too, is an idea. An idea supported for many centuries by pioneers, optimists and visionaries, and it is always up to us to claim it for our own. Because the best ideas, those which drive us forward, which improve people’s lives, are always fragile. And Europe will only live through the idea that we have of it. It is our responsibility to bring it to life, make it ever better and stronger, to not stop at the form that historic circumstances have shaped it into. Because this form may change, but the idea remains, and its ambition must be ours.

Living collectively was the ideal of Robert de Sorbon. And the intellectuals and scholars came from across Europe to forge European thought. Through wars and crises, through all the vagaries of history that have impacted Europe, this thought has not stopped growing and spreading. And where chaos could have triumphed, civilization has always won out.

We have inherited all of this history. We have inherited the two shock waves which could have brought our Europe to an end, the shock waves of the last century, the two world wars which decimated Europe and could have overwhelmed us. But together, we overcame the challenge without ever forgetting the lessons. The idea rose from the ruins. The desire for fraternity was stronger than retribution and hate.

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