"This idea will remain strong and survive the current challenges and problems." The Federal Minister of Finance, Wolfgang Schäuble, paid tribute to the work of the non-partisan organisation and its promotion of European unification. "We are not really in a mood to celebrate," Schäuble started his speech. "The willingness to accept majority rule and the willingness to accept decisions of the institutions is not growing." "Still," Schäuble said, "the EU was the best idea of the 20th century and it will be our best provider for the 21st. We will have to move on, call it intergovernmental, call it pragmatic or call it core Europe."
It was a worthy location for the celebration, the French Cathedral at Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin. The organist played solemn, almost bombastic classical pieces before the mostly political speeches were held in a similar mood. Unlike other UEF celebrations that I have attended, this time there was no euphoric lightness. The impact of Brexit, the refugee crisis and the attacks on the EU from so-called populists threatening the integrity of the Union were mirrored by the seriousness of the speeches. „Especially in these days, the Europa-Union would have to be invented if it didn't already exist,“ Wieland pointed out.
At the same time, the merit of the long-lasting movement was stressed by the speakers. „Maybe the EU used to be slim and now it is a bit fat, it is still unbelievable what has been created with it. And Europa-Union has always been a step ahead,“ said Michael Roth, Minister of State at the German Foreign Ministry. The President of the European Movement in Germany, Rainer Wend, appealed to the ordinary citizens,asking them to wake up: "Without ideals there was only 'realpolitik'. The EU is being used as screen to project anxieties onto. At this point the silent majority must not be silent anymore." Danuta Hübner, Chairwoman of the EP's Committee for Constitutional Affairs, encouraged the invited guests to stand their ground: "For 70 years you have been a source of inspiration for leaders, civil-society and citizens and nothing that has been achieved should be taken for granted. We must not stop trying to make Europe a working democracy."
While the appropriate seriousness of a liturgical event was carried out in the cathedral and very thoughtful speeches were held, the dismissal lead the guest to the dinner. There,eventually, the courage came back to the guests when Jo Leinen and Elmar Brok took the floor for a toast. They called on the members of the Europa-Union to remember previous crises when the EU was at risk and to step up the fight against the challenges of today, against populism and the turning back of the wheel of history. After all these years of struggling for a peaceful unification of Europe, there it was again, the spirit at the end of that wonderful night, bearing a sound that interferes with all the worries Federalists are facing today, whispering: Bring it on.