The so often quoted European Security Strategy of 2003 contains a now legendary quote: “Europe has never been so prosperous, so secure, nor so free. The violence of the first half of the 20th Century has given way to a period of peace and stability unprecedented in European history.”
When I meet my fellow parliamentarians and Europeans, I can almost physically feel that many of us are so much longing to belong to that Europe of 2003 – prosperous, calm and confident. Still recovering from the wounds of the last century, many of us, Latvians would so much want to continue belonging to “Europe of 2003 Security Strategy” so that we can fully consolidate and contemplate our development and progress.
However, no longer! Daily we hear that the EU project is close to unraveling, values of solidarity are being contested, the global environment is fragile, internal tensions are mounting. In such a situation we usually search for big words and big thinkers to give us perspective of how to view our here and now and how to move ahead.
I will do just that as well. However, the place where I will look is perhaps a bit odd. I will not quote great European thinkers and visionaries, architects of the European project. Instead, I will quote the words attributed to Mother Theresa. Apparently, she had attached these words on the wall of a children’s’ home in Kalkuta:
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered, LOVE THEM ANYWAY
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives, DO GOOD ANYWAY
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies, SUCCEED ANYWAY
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow, DO GOOD ANYWAY
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable, BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY
What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight, BUILD ANYWAY
People really need help but may attack you if you help them, HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth, GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU'VE GOT ANYWAY.
Now, talking about the question of how to overcome the manifold challenges in today’s Europe, I would like to rephrase these worlds for the European Union today, and it would sound thus:
Member states and their political leaders are sometimes unreasonable,
illogical, and self-centered, LOVE THEM ANYWAY
If you do good by investing in infrastructure, building roads and
bridges, you will nevertheless be accused of selfish, ulterior motives
and a wish to extend “diktat” from the above and of being “distant”
and “soulless”, DO GOOD ANYWAY
Since the European Union has been successful, it has won false friends
and true enemies, your friends are prepared to give up on you when
difficult times come and your enemies accuse you fiercely whilst
enjoying and marveling over your weakness, SUCCEED ANYWAY
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow, DO GOOD ANYWAY, it
might be remembered only in the history books but we are so much
better off with the European Union then without.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable, BE HONEST AND FRANK
ANYWAY because these are the values that are at the very core of the
European ideals and you are not going to be able to outsmart those
What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight, BUILD
ANYWAY, do not let the borders, old divisions and bitterness come and
destroy the many years of your work
People really need help but may attack you if you help them, HELP
PEOPLE ANYWAY, especially in your neighborhood that so much needs
your attention and guidance, no matter how frustrating it can
- Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth, GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU'VE GOT ANYWAY.
Finally, lets remember that the Security Strategy of 2003 also has these words: “No single country is able to tackle today's complex problems on its own”. And that was the Security Strategy of the happy Europe of 2003!
*An address at the Conference "The European Union: Imprint of the Latvian Presidency" on 15 February 2016