HERMAN VAN ROMPUY AT THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE OTTO VON DER GABLENTZ AWARD
     
Herman van Rompuy awarded
The Otto von der Gablentzprijs is a Dutch award that is been given to a person or an institution who/which has devoted himself/itself to the stimulation of good relations between Germany and the Netherlands, or for the European idea. In 2012, Herman van Rompuy, long-term President of the European Council, is been honoured. He is been valued by his European colleagues for his ability to provide stability due to his discrete and careful approach, which makes him a valued mediator. In the presence of more than 150 invitees, chairman of the European Council Herman van Rompuy, lectured on Europe as a market, Europe as space and Europe as a place.

It is a great honor and joy to receive this award, in this particular company, a prize named after a man so delicate: I never met Otto von der Gablentz in person- to my regret, unlike to many of you. But I do know Von der Gablentz' great reputation as an inspiring and influential diplomat, as erudite culture medium. A man who personified in the 1980 the new Germany in the Netherlands. Gave it a face. Who took away very old matters . Not with diplomatic tricks, but as a man, speaking from understanding to the other. A man who gave cooperation between the two countries, two neighbors, a new form and impetus. His deep interest in culture helped him in this debate, very natural.
Von der Gablentz performed simply, what was then no buzzword, "public diplomacy". In Belgium, Otto von der Gablentz made name in smaller groups, especially as very beloved Rector of the College of Europe in Bruges. (From that period, two of my employees keep the best memories of him).
Such work as Otto von der Gablentz devoted during his life, is still very important today. Also and especially between the countries in the European Union.

The European Union is not only a machine in Brussels to facilitate export of flowers or breeding tomatoes... No, the Union is primarily a group of European countries, that have decided to do certain things together. A club where it turns on relationships, friendship and good neighbourship. I stand here in front of you as European and Belgian, as Von der Gablentz always stood in front as German and European.

Recently I found a quote from Raïssa Maritain, the wife of the great philosopher. "Nos amis font partie de notre vie, notre vie et explique nos amitiés (our friends our part of our lives, our lives declares our friendship). "Last week I read in a simple plaque in a town hall somewhere in Belgium: "la comprehension et l'amitie entre les peuples feront l'Europe. "Understanding and friendship between the peoples will make Europe. A sentence from 1958. Then, you could say it so simple in the year when six countries started an Economic Community.
The innocence and generosity from that time is far away. Today the EU is seen as a source of mania, of budget cuts, competition in the labor market, subsidy flows - and are the freedoms and opportunities that the Union also offers to students, entrepreneurs, consumers, travelers almost taken for granted.

The beautiful idea of 'Europe' decreased in the indication "Brussels" and that original nucleus, coexistence of nations and peoples on our old continent, is slowly disappeared out of sight. And yet ... "Understanding and friendship between the peoples will make Europe." Also today.
Confidence is thereby the keyword. Creating trust and regaining confidence. Between governments and between people. It is difficult in an age of distrust. The masters of suspicion (Marx, Nietzsche and Freud) have done their work well.

Of course the situation is very different now than fifty years ago. The fate of the Europeans today is in many ways stronger ringed than ever.Partly through work of the Union itself. She became a victim of her own success. The integration is deeply penetrated in daily life. We see the advantages but also disadvantages - and in this critical time especially disadvantages.

It's one thing to share with six neighboring countries a market for agricultural and industrial products ... It's a complete other thing to mount with almost 30 countries in the world and to share one currency with 17 countries. Certainly the latter requires much moremutual understanding and trust.

Coexistence of peoples and states, is like coexistence of people: it requires effort. "Love is a verb." Everyone must take into account the other, asin a partnership or a marriage. Also in the Eurozone we are together "for better and for worse. "We have certainly experienced this for the last two years with the debt crisis. In that crisis came the realization how much we all are intertwined in the Eurozone and therefore have become dependent from each other. How state debt, housing bubble, pension reform in one country (or lack of it), has a direct impact on jobs or savings in another country. Perhaps we knew already theoretically that we, with the Economic and Monetary Union, have become each other's territory in some way, but by the crisis we know it now also in practice. That was not always a pleasant discovery, I readily admit that. And it makes Europe also not popular with the people. - I will return on this subject in a moment.

But first I want to say something more, even from my own experience, about the debt crisis. That crisis coincidenced almost my first term as President of the European Council. I say in caution: there is no causal relationship between the two ..! No "cum hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). "However, the debt crisis did shape the role I fill from early 2010. After all, events often drives politics. I did wanted to use the period of my office as President to maintain a common direction during the storm, at the highest level. In this, I see myself ((*) and Ben Knapen has already referred to) as "Guardian of the trust." Ensuring mutual understanding between the head of states of governments, as they come to the table 6 or 7 times a year to make decisions. If they each other do not trust, what can we expect from the people? Leaders must take the lead in this. I am therefore pleased that there is trust at our European table.
That was needed too. The euro crisis was - and still in a sense is- an unprecedented crisis in terms of severity and extent. Our currency was and is forcibly put to the test. The euro was born with two defects, with insufficient supervision (which then also became toothless in 2003 when two large countries undermined the Stability Pact) and with insufficient response during the crisis.
Lack of discipline made it a coin for good weather. And therefore it was that we had to repair middle in the storm our ship in the middle of the storm.

Drastic decisions were required. We tried to tackle the roots of the crisis. In each country, elimination of excessive debt and deficit. Through making our economies more competitive. And also be able to cope with the crisis. From that interdependence and interconnectedness we have drawn the lessons. It has become a long haul of institutional reforms. Responsibility and solidarity were the keywords. And with the result: tougher sanctions. better control on both the budgets but also (and this is new) on the economies. The creation of financial emergency funds. Structural reforms of economies, labor markets and pensions. Tightened banking supervision. And so on.
For some journalistic observers it seemed all little steps, but who is looking back over the full period of two years and add up all those little steps will come to a completely different conclusion. The Union today is incomparably better placed than 3 years ago to intercept shocks and fluctuations.

As guardian of unity of the 27 countries I have always insisted on, and make ensured that all Member States and institutions were involved in this work. European decisions should not be a matter of winners and losers. Each member of the European Council should support the decisions, which member can defend in his own country, whether here in the House of Representatives or in the Greek Parliament. To this end, time is required, and - again - confidence.

The crisis we are currently experiencing, must never be repeated. That I regard as a of the main challenges in my second term. But there is more that should happen.
The word "Europe" has long been a sign of hope, and was equated with peace and prosperity. During the recent crisis that equalization is under pressure. For some, "Europe" became a dirty word. It's a big task to ensure that Europe will become again a symbol of hope. A symbol of a better future for all of us, together.

About that, I want to make some comments. First, we may not underestimate the emotional, psychological impact of the crisis. Our nations experienced two dramatic confidence shocks. In 2008-2009, the credit crisis and confidence in banks. (And when I read the newspapers, I see that you also here in the Netherlands are still struggling on the credit crisis politically ...). In 2010-2011: the euro crisis and confidence in the currency. Not its value, but its existence. We have, as I said, worked hard to overcome this blows.
Yet it will take time this underlying confidence - of consumers, investors, the public - to restore. To reconcile again people with their currency. Here counts in the first place the moral of the results. We must make clear to consumers, to investors, to taxpayers, that the euro is irreversible and that this crisis will be finally overcome. And a return of confidence in itself has a positive effect on economic growth. Certainly in countries like the Netherlands, where the mild recession indeed is mainly a question of trust.

Second, in the euro crisis Europe is for countries on both sides of the debate the culprit. In creditor countries the feeling is alive that the EU "our hard-working citizens"(I speak in clichés) do pay for corruption and mismanagement of the so-called Mediterranean. One may recall that it concerns only loans, contingent loans, which the German or Dutch taxpayers has cost no cents (on the contrairy!). But that will make little impression, and it is true that there is risk in the game.
In debtor countries, however, the EU gets the blame for budget cuts, of the erosion of welfare. This is obviously unfair: a debt of 160 percent of GDP, a public deficit of 15 pc. BNP is anyway untenable (I call the Greek figures) - EU or no EU.

Again here, the recovery of confidence is a matter of perseverance.

Finally, at the end of this thank you, I will share with you a third idea - an idea that touches a part of the dissatisfaction about the European Union (as it was heard very loudly now almost seven years ago in the referendum of 2005, also in the Netherlands) and whereat we can do something.
We have Europe from the beginning designed as a "space" and perhaps underestimated that people also need a "place". A place to feel at home.

The distinction between both terms place and space - in French "place" and "espace" - is explored by the French philosopher Michel de Certeau.Locality or place is associated with an order. An arrangement of elements. No two things can be at the same place. Locality provides stability, security. In the opposite, 'space' is related to motion. It's about direction, about ime. Not for certainty and predictability, but for possibility.

Perhaps you already feel how these abstract notions apply in the work of the Union.

Europe is conceived as a market, an area of free movement for goods, capital, persons, services. Lifting borders, that was the European activity par excellence. Freedoms and opportunities for individuals to undertake actions. And what energy is spent to achieve this goals in the last 50 years by government, ministers, commissioners, parliamentarians, judges. And what a struggle is there has been to make Europe one space!Successive Dutch governments and politicians played here a terrifying role: think of minister Jan Willem Beyen who devised the plan for the market (but my compatriot Paul-Henri Spaak was more convenient and received the honors!). For Europe-as-place was less attention. After all, the Community was founded after a momentum of motion. This post-war mentality also fitted well with the years of economic expansion, the general and increasing prosperity and in all respects a stable political situation (despite or perhaps because of the Cold War). But that world from 1989 does not exist anymore. The term "globalization" summarized how the economic space spanned the world. This was seen more and more as a threat and less more as an opportunity seen, against which one is asking to "protect".

Is Europe a place of safety and security? On itself, the Union is working very hard on it - fighting together against illegal immigration or against organized crime. Yet dominates the idea of a Union that, just by opening a space, uncertainty and insecurity does increase. That brings unwelcome competition. Or do also think of the resistance against the expansion of the Schengen area with Romania and Bulgaria.

Anyway, the successive enlargements worked destabilizing. People in West Europe may have the feeling, especially since 2004 when 10 countries join at the same time: "But where does that Union ends?" As long as there are new countries in the waiting room, sit, it will indeed be difficult to develop a sense of place. The Union is struggling to draw a line. Because the countries does not mutually agree where this line should run. But also because we ourselves hardly allow to say: till this far and no farther. The inability to draw a line is an expression of nobledesire for openness to the outside world, but we also pay a public price.
In the European Council itself is fortunately a great willingness to offer a European perspective to the countries of the Western Balkans. I do not notice any 'Enlargement fatigue'. But one day we have to clarify an endpoint to our neighbors and ourselves.

But simply admit to "fear" paralysis. The answer is not getting back into the fortress Europe. We need to remain an open, aggressive and innovative continent. If we did not have done this after the war, where would we be today? Anxious people are easily digested by mistrust, a lack of confidence.
We may not admit it. Certainly not the leaders.

Otto von der Gablentz wanted to forge a closer bond between the peoples of Europe. He did not want them resembled on each other. It is the difference between unification and living together. Often, one compared the European Union to a house. This does not convince me. Perhaps we are in this too close together. Our Union must both offer space and a place.
What do you think therefore of the metaphor of the street? Europe as a street, with currently 27 houses, acting on itself, but also doing things together. With relations between neighbors and friends. Attention and understanding for each other. For everybody in the street. And the windows kept open. No dead end street. No alley on the edge of the Eurasian continent. A bustling street:
our Europe.


(*) Laudatio Ben Knapen:
Ms. von der Gablentz, Wim Kok, dear Herman [Van Rompuy], ladies and gentlemen,

Tomorrow it is exactly ten years ago that Otto von der Gablentz delivered a beautiful speech about Europe. That was in the Laurens Church, Rotterdam symbol of reconstruction. He spoke about the great influence of the European perspective on young Germans after the war, young Germans like himself, born in 1930. According to Von der Gablentz the European idea is not so much an escape from the disastrous national past of Germany, it was rather a self-liberation from the shackles of a purely national thinking, the political religion of the nation state that his countrymen for decades had been imposed. It meant for him a return to European civilization, the liberal-humanist tradition to which Germans as Humboldt and Kant have contributed.
For Herman van Rompuy, ladies and gentlemen, the war is a caesura. Not for nothing begins his "testimony of a someone in his thirties', published in 1979, with this poem by Henriette Roland Holst.

At the turn of times born,
In our view, even the sunsets
of the old worlds fade,
our lips at the new folded greeting
and in our hearts a desire of discord
to dreams of old, we lost
to the new, whose blossoms break
.
In this book, Van Rompuy described the baby boom generation ─ ─ a generation as children of peace, far from death threat in many areas, born in the euphoria of liberation and reconstruction. The European ideal was lectured to his generation as a substitute for Flemish nationalism, he wrote, and also from the conviction that the only chance was to save us from the pain of world wars.

In 1979 Herman Van Rompuy came to the conclusion that peace is the only justification for a continued modernity of the European message. All other motives he called secondary. I quote: "Peace is the most important thing the old continent has to offer to the world." End of quote. I thought of this when I read december last year, amid the euro crisis, an interview with Van Rompuy The Times. Herman says in this interview that he and European leaders are motivated because they realize that the survival of the euro zone is necessary for the survival of the European Union. And that the European Union then is guaranteeing peace and democracy. It signs Van Rompuys consistency. Or, better, it signs his "quiet strength" ─ one of his favorite quotations from the work of Henriette Roland Holst; even as favorite as he and his wife Gertrude have given their home in Sint-Genesius-Rode the same name: Quiet Strength . It is this quiet strength that makes Herman van Rompuy the right President of the European Council. On the first appointment in November 2009, the important magazine Der Spiegel sneered that dangerously smart, too brave or very popular candidateswould be the first to be eliminated for the presidency, because leaders of large states were not waiting for a competitor in Brussels. They would rather opt for colorless, free of vision, mediocre and obedient types. If these considerations indeed have played a role, and let I doubt it from out my current job, then the European leaders have made an unparalleled error in judgment in 2009.

Who thinks that Herman van Rompuy is a little imposing chairman, confuses drabness with civilization. Certainly Dutch people have that tendency. Politeness is here soon seen as a lack of personality, good manners apply here soon as hypocrisy. But I quote Schopenhauer, "Höflichkeit ist wie ein Luftkissen: Es mag wohl nichts drin sein, aber sie mildert die Stöße des Lebens." The Belgians know all about this.

You could say that Herman van Rompuy has sublimated the lack of Belgium to his advantage. He is gifted to deal very well with very different viewpoints, the man never loses his patience. In the Netherlands we had a flamboyant politician whereof was said where Pim is, is a fight. For Van Rompuy aplies: where Herman is, is calmness. He fills a room not with his ego, but through his serenity And only calmness, as you know, can ultimately save us.

Ladies and gentlemen, when accepting his second term as Chairman of the Van Rompuy described his own role as follows. 'In a way, my job is to be the guardian of trust: Fostering mutual understanding around this table among ourselves, knowing that for us together, our duty is to preserve the trust of citizens in the Union. "The President of the Council as guardian of trust; it speaks to me highly. Through the Treaty of Lisbon we promised our citizens a Europe of freedom, security and justice. This van not be achieved without confidence, mutual confidence between Member States and confidence within the European institutions. Trust, reliability, a constructive attitude, a quiet and perhaps a civilized tone are things that, also for the Netherland and his functioning in Europe, are more important than is sometimes thought. Precisely the role of the European Council, more and more the center of power in Europe, is crucial for promoting this. A strong President of the Council ensures a consistent, visible, efficient, decisivily and, where possible, transparent Europe. The euro crisis did proved that Van Rompuy did succeed in this in many ways. He did not abandoned the affairs. He called on the European Council as often as necessary, he chaiedr a task force, he put endless energy into finding solutions. He has, summarized, seized control. Fortunately, I add, because a weaker president had chosen a more cautious attitude. For awaiting in this case was no time. But I do shortage to his good works when I today only would refer to the euro crisis. Van Rompuy also recognizes the importance for Europe concerning innovation and economic growth, in which latter subject he devoted in January an informal European Council meeting. And we'll return to it in June extensivily.

Herman van Rompuy, ladies and gentlemen, is in short an excellent President of the European Council. But he is also a special person, especially due to his pleasant insensitivity to the zeitgeist. I will mention two random examples. In 1979, amidst of, what can be mentioned with some drama the 'sexual revolution', he calmly wrote that, historically seen, nothing is as little original as proclaiming sexual freedom. And in 1984, long before others cared, Van Rompuy turned against the decline of village life. He wrote: "How distressing is the writers' village out of his childhood, plowed with concrete and highways, as he has known it as a farming community only a few kilometers from the Brussels town hall." End of quote. So it's hardly a wonder that he enriched the world at the end of the last century with the aphorism, 'who does not have to please, is free. That Van Rompuy is not coquettish, we recently noticed, when he, as to say, relativized the size of the Dutch budget cuts in a television program. You will understand that I do not want to go into the details. But let me say this: it's not necessary in Europe to speak with meal in the mouth. We know each other in the mean time well enough to exchange not only meaningless pleasantries. Honesty is the best, provided we do not lose sight the good manners and etiquette. For me, Herman van Rompuy is the personification of the honest but courteous Europe.

It is therefore an honor to address you, Herman, especially since you get a price that keeps the memory of my deceased friend Otto von der Gablentz alive. I congratulate you with this deserved award. And I wish you, to speak with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Otto often quoted, the joy of hidden life and the enduring courage to participate in public life. It benefits Europe. Thank you and cordially