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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Laureates  

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Pierre Werner and Jacques Santer

Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences 1998

Your Majesty,
Your Highness,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Being in Oviedo today to receive an award as prestigious as the "Prince of Asturias" is a great honour for me.

And it is an even greater honour to receive this distinction alongside of so many other world-renowned, noteworthy figures.

Sharing the Social Science award with Pierre Werner - who was Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg - is a particularly emotive experience for me.

And not because he is a countryman and predecessor of mine, but rather because he is one of the true inspirations behind the single European currency.

Do we need to recapitulate here on the history of the single currency and its advantages?
Pierre Werner would undoubtedly do that better than I could.

Moreover, he would have the full backing for his cause of all those in this magnificent theatre today before he even began. We are all well aware of the fact that your country - like others - has made major efforts to guarantee participation in this project as from 1 January 1999. This is another clear indication of Spain's vocation for Europe.

However, the European currency is not an end in itself. It is an instrument to establish even closer bonds between the peoples of Europe. Therefore, the first of January will not be an end. Instead, it will be the beginning of a new phase in the European Community project.

We should therefore look towards the future to foresee what kind of European Union we wish to build. Feeling a desire for change is normal as the turn of the century and the millennium approach.

So now we should indeed resume the work whose foundations were laid during the post-war years. On Saturday and Sunday, in Austria, Heads of State and of Government will debate how to perfect, adapt and modernise it. To do so, three questions - in my opinion - will need to be answered: how do we best round off everything that our countries have begun to work on jointly? How do we best respond to the expectations of the citizens of our countries? How do we reform institutions so that they continue to work effectively towards achieving these objectives? To respond to the expectations of our fellow citizens we should focus on those fields of activity where the actions of the European Union are considered insufficient, where Europeans want more Europe. These are the fields we should specifically work in so as to clear new paths to progress. I will mention three of these fields: employment, international affairs, and domestic security.

The first area: the economy and social issues: for the first time, and for a year now, we have a real strategy to favour employment at our disposal. This strategy is already demonstrating its validity.

Because there is real political will in Europe to design a joint model for economic and social growth. A model that creates employment while at the same time gives free reign to the potential entrepreneur, and exploits opportunities for real economic change. A model that recognises the participation of all these dynamics via training and the development of an ability to adapt to different jobs as the best guarantees of solidarity. It includes, clearly, a safety net for those who experience greatest difficulties in reincorporating into society and facing the trials and tribulations of life.

This growth and solidarity is today the characteristic feature of the European social and economic model. We need to update in our respective countries and promote it at international forums.

I will next refer to the second expectation of Europeans: international affairs.

At the outset I should state that I sometimes feel frustrated in this regard. This is a Union that has been capable of radically changing the relationships between the member countries and their neighbours. A Union that is the world´s leading power in trade. The world´s major provider of aid. A Union equipped with a single market that is unique in the world. A Union made up of states that have unparalleled diplomatic experience. And yet it is also a Union that hesitates, that finds it difficult to speak with one voice, a Union whose message is clouded by obscure bureaucratic controversy.

I wish for but one thing: for heads of government and state to become aware of the enormous potential of the European Union and for them to make the collective decision to play a key role on the international scene. Toward this end, political will is necessary, what doubt can there be. But there must also be agreement on developing a coherent foreign policy based on all the instruments that we have at our disposal.

The area of justice and domestic affairs is the third challenge that European citizens hope that the Union agrees to take on. It constitutes an ongoing concern, one that is increasingly vital for all of our citizens. Citizens also would like there to be more Europe in this regard. But they are not the only ones, for this also holds true for those that are actively working in this area: security forces, immigration services, legal systems. All of them ask that we aid in developing our ability for rapid response, in a unified and effective way, so as to create this broad space of freedom, justice, and safety.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are aware that all change causes uncertainty. We shall undertake it by respecting identities and with that same sense of solidarity that characterises the European project.

This solidarity is based first and foremost on political identities that are the fruits of history. Thus, Asturias combines a strong feeling of identity within the bosom of Spain with an undeniable European facet. In this stance I see a way forward that fits in very well with the European way towards the future: identity and solidarity.

The European project rounds off this "natural" solidarity with solidarity amongst countries. The cohesion of the present member states of the European Union remains one of my priorities. In the future, the enlargement of the European Community to include Central and Eastern European countries will be a new stage in the development of solidarity. We should also aim for success in this field, for it offers a unique, historic opportunity to bring our continent together in reconciliation, peace and democracy for the first time in four hundred years.

At the same time, we should tirelessly reaffirm the proof of European solidarity towards other countries in the international community. Our model for growth and solidarity can be an example for other parts of the globe, and our credibility will the greater, the more we support others in times of difficulty. I would therefore like to avail myself of the opportunity provided me by the presence of Emma Bonino, who has been equally honoured at this ceremony. I wish to express my support for the exemplary work carried out under her guidance at the Humanitarian Office of the European Community, which has contributed towards European Union humanitarian aid being first in the world. Thanks to her, Europe has achieved a presence that is missing in so many other areas.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world of the XXI century is searching for its reference points. Europe has an obligation to the world. To show that this continent - where two world wars broke out - has truly decided to look beyond the desires for power of its states in favour of a higher ideal more in keeping with the talent of its nations, the desire for (mutual) trust. That is why the success of the European Union is crucial. Because it guarantees our ability to take on the responsibilities incumbent upon us.

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