Onderstaand de toespraak die partijvoorzitter Hans Huibers gaf tijdens de opening van het EPP Congres in Rotterdam.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
9 European Heads of State and Prime Ministers, 5 deputy Prime Ministers, 2 Presidents of EU Institutes, 8 EU Commissioners, 172 Members of the European Parliament, 800 special guests from members parties, 75 representatives from observer and associate parties, 300 people from the international press and more than 300 people staff, crew and volunteers. Ladies and gentlemen, this is by far the greatest international political assembly in Europe in 2022. Welcome in the Netherlands, welcome at EPP Congress 2022, welcome to Rotterdam!
Not only is this the biggest and most important, it will also be an historic assembly. Last November we had to decide at the last moment to postpone. At that moment we could not imagine how fundamentally our reality would change in those few months. We could not realise how fundamentally the perspective in which this assembly takes place would change. And, to be honest, we were not fully aware how important and current, how relevant and appealing the values of our Christian Democratic philosophy are for present society.
I have two daughters, Dana and Loes. They are 24 and 22 years old. They are privileged, well educated, speak multiple languages, have an international orientation. They took everything for granted, their future was always full of opportunity. Then came corona. For the first time in their lives some things were nót possible. No international exchange, graduation on line instead of celebrating together. Two difficult years. And then, then there was war in Europe. For the first time they are aware that peace cannot be taken for granted. That our freedom and freedom of speech, of press is something we have to stand up for. That basic values, human dignity, respect for diversity and differences in beliefs and opinions are something we have to fight for. That society, the intrinsic power of human being, living together and creating a society we believe in, is something that has to be cherished and has to be defended. We stand with democracy.
And, ladies and gentlemen, let us be honest. Did we not all take these values for granted. Did we not áll became part of the spirit of the age of individualism, lack attention when it comes to building our society. In this society the privileged you and me can support ourselves and find our way. We assumed the government would solve the problems of others. That government turned out not to be competent at all when it comes to facing those challenges. The only political family that took advantage of this lack of awareness, that took advantage of our intellectual and ideological neglect were the populists, from both the right and the left wing. We gave them the opportunity for political presence. They understood the lack of trust many people have when it comes to society and government, but they will never give any answer or solution. They thrive on mistrust. Their business model is to stir up hate, to turn groups of people against one another instead of connecting and building bridges. And so they worsen problems and enlarge the gap.
It's no use blaming them, there is no point attacking their strategy. We have to go back to our own roots. We have to re-invent our own story for and our contribution to society. It was Christian Democrats who started to build up Europe. One of the first presidents of the EPP, 40 years ago, was Piet Bukman. He would have attended the Congress in November but unfortunately passed away this March, at the age of 88. I welcome the members of his family, Bert and Hilleen, who sit here right in front as our special guests. I spoke at his funeral, but I also met him just a couple of weeks before his passing. “Hans”, he said, sharp of mind as ever, “you as newly elected president of CDA have to bring our party back to where it comes from. Not out of misplaced nostalgia, not longing for faded glory, but because our philosophy is in this time frame incredibly futureproof. Our story is what modern society is longing for. We are the Peoples Party, so we have to stand next to people, shoulder at shoulder”. Piet Bukman, at 88 years old, was completely right!
We, as CDA in the Netherlands, had some difficult years. We lost elections. Not because of the success of others, but because of our failure to extend a hand to all those people who have lost faith in government, who have lost the hope for a better future. We did not adapt our party structure and culture to modern necessities and working methods. As the party of society we lost the connection with that society. We lost the faith in the problem solving ability of that society itself. Let us be honest again. In many countries our party has lost ground. Many member parties are struggling with their role in the political field. We should face this and take action!
So, this Congress is also a call for action, a call for urgency. We can learn from each other and have to unite. Not only on political issues. Also on our common story, our common contribution to society. As our founders once did! It’s a call for action to innovate our organisational structure, at European and national level. New generations, my daughters, ask for new ways of working. New ways to engage them with a people’s party. We have to reach to new target groups, more diversity, more cultural backgrounds, more people in the cities, more women! It’s a call for solidarity and unity. Within Europe, as a family, shoulder to shoulder, especially for the leaders and people of Ukraine!
Ladies and gentlemen, there are many signs of hope. In my country, led by our political leader Wopke Hoekstra, with a new elected national board, with Esther de Lange, our leader of the Dutch EPP fraction, we stand together and realize new impetus. We work on a comprehensive political program for society. Shoulder to shoulder. Less Me, more We. The society that unites people, builds bridges, values and norms. Respect, communities and associations. We have an answer to neo-liberalism and to populism from left and right. At the last municipal elections, out of 300 municipalities, we had 100 local party leaders under the age of 40. They al stand for that Christian Democratic story, in cities and in rural area. And they were successful. So, they are the party of the future and the future of the party! And, on a European level, there are signs of hope as well. Europe was never so united as it is now. Our peoples party family was never so united as it is now. We realize that to face the challenges of the future, this is the moment to get up, stand tall and roll up our sleeves.
So dear friends, let’s make this Congress a milestone in the development of the European People’s Party. I am looking forward meeting you all, in the plenary, in side events and in the informal moments. Let us, shoulder to shoulder, stand with democracy, stand for the common values we share. I wish you all an inspiring EPP Rotterdam Congress 2022!
Finally, it is an honour for me to introduce two people. For the first time, this EPP Congress will feature a Plenary chair both for Day 1 and Day 2: former CDA Cairwoman, one of my predecessors Ruth Peetoom! The Plenary chair will ensure the correct proceedings of our Plenary session and will have the right to intervene as needed. Ruth Peetoom will also function as Chair of the Voting Committee and will, together with the other members of the Voting Committee oversee the voting process and she will announce the results in the Plenary.
And it’s a great pleasure for me to introduce to you the host and moderator of the Congress. For many years she was active in the media and hosted very popular national television shows. She developed successful programs with the aim of improving the position of people with a disability in the Netherlands. Since 2021 she works on realizing the same goal as a member of Parliament for CDA. She speaks up for people with a handicap, difficulty reading, the elderly as well as the LGBTQI+ community. Above all, she believes that everyone should get the opportunity to pursue happiness and society should leave no one behind. Ladies and gentlemen, give her a big round of applause: Lucille Werner!
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