Dear speech-fans and -friends,
On the eve of a new five-year term for the European Parliament, European Commission, and other major positions in Europe, here’s our monthly selection of the best quotes and speeches for inspiration.
In these important times for the European project, it’s all the more an honour and pleasure to see every month new speech-fans and -friends registering for this newsletter, both European institutions insiders and citizens caring for words and quotes to express their ideas in a powerful way. Welcome and thank you for your trust.
You’ll find the best quotes, speeches, and rhetorical devices below, under ‘Read more’.
Make the most of this summer to get inspiration, read good speeches and books (see the Bibliography section), listen to good stories, and prepare for new challenges.
See you in September.
Advice to a newly elected European Parliament
Comme il est naturel et normal dans une assemblée démocratique telle que la nôtre, nous divergeons par les programmes que nous souhaitons mettre en oeuvre, par les idées que nous voulons défendre et même quant à notre propre rôle.
Gardons-nous cependant du travers qui nous conduirait à faire de notre Assemblée le forum des divisions et des rivalités. Trop souvent déjà, les Communautés européennes donnent à nos opinions publiques l’image d’institutions bloquées, incapables de parvenir dans les délais nécessaires à des décisions.
Notre Parlement aura pleinement satisfait les espoirs qu’il a fait naître si, loin d’être le lieu de résonance des divisions internes de l’Europe, il parvient à exprimer et à faire percevoir par la Communauté l’élan de solidarité si nécessaire aujourd’hui.
Lire le discours complet de Simone Veil, à l’occasion de son élection comme première Présidente du Parlement européen, 17 juillet 1979
As is only natural and normal in a democratic assembly such as ours, we differ on the programmes which we
wish to implement, on the ideas which we wish to advocate and even on the very role we are to play.
Let us, however, avoid the error of turning our Assembly into a forum for rivalry and dissent. Too often in the past, public opinion in our countries has gained the impression that the European Communities are hamstrung institutions, incapable of reaching decisions within the necessary time-limits.
Our Parliament will entirely fulfil the hopes which it has raised if, far from being the sounding-board for the internal divisions of Europe, it succeeds in articulating and bringing home to the Community the spirit of solidarity that is so necessary today.
Read the full speech here : Simone Veil, on her election as First President of the European Parliament, 17 July 1979
The value of a speech
One of the great powers and responsibilities of being a central banker is that you can move markets with a single line in a speech. Every word counts a billion. And this is why I always admire Mario's speeches, which are priceless pieces of art.
Telling the story of the euro
Allow me to tell you the story of the euro (…) As every European success story, it is full of crises and lessons learned (…).
And the speech comes full circle :
These six moments, these six examples are all examples of crises. But every time we have been challenged, we have found solutions and even surprised ourselves with what we can achieve. This is a fitting way to tell the story of European construction.
For a series of surprises and lessons learnt, from the British statesman who wanted his grandchildren to be able to pay in euro to the military asked to burn banknotes :
Read the full speech here: Jean-Claude Juncker, celebrating 20 years of the Economic and Monetary Union, 'Building the euro: moments in time, lessons in history, 19 June 2019
We live in a world of 24-hour news cycles.
A world where misinformation has overtaken information.
A world where sensationalist, and often irrelevant, news stories dominate headlines.
And a world where the relentless influx of information too often overshadows storytelling and analytical thought (…)
Why we need storytellers
This is why we need journalists like you.
Journalists who report on facts, on things that matter, who raise awareness and inform on issues that are more than just headline-grabbing news. The entries to this year’s Lorenzo Natali Prize not only open our eyes to unseen truths. They give a voice to those forgotten about and left behind. And they tell stories.
Remarkable stories of hope and perseverance.
Stories that demand that we stand up – collectively and individually – to fight all forms of poverty and inequalities.
We have all seen the latest facts and figures on inequalities (…)
You tell these people’s stories.
You put their plight on the public’s radar.
You move our hearts and minds, setting something in motion.
This is where change starts.
Read the full speech here: Neven Mimica, Lorenzo Natali Prize - European Development Days, 19 June 2019
Surprise in the contrast
Digitisation is reshaping every part of our economy and society, so that today, there are really only two types of business – those that have gone digital, and those that soon will.
Vision and leadership
In this uncertain world, we have a big task ahead of us, to keep Europe’s economy working strongly and fairly. But we mustn’t lose heart. The challenges we face are big – but Europe is big as well. And we have the resources we need, to face those challenges – and to succeed.
Make it concrete, make it tangible – I
Take the merger between two of Europe’s biggest steelmakers, Tata Steel and ThyssenKrupp, which we blocked just last week. (…) By defending competition, at every level of our economy, we can do our bit to make our economic ecosystem work as well as it can. We help to make sure that Europeans get a good deal for their money, when they buy a tin of tomatoes in the supermarket, or save up to buy a new car.
Make it concrete, make it tangible – II
To give you an example, our planet is warming, temperatures are going up. But even in a warming world, it still snows. And if you’re a local authority, responsible for keeping the roads clear in winter, it’s no use telling people that you decided not to send out the snowploughs, because the trend shows that the climate is getting warmer.
And the same is true for us as competition authorities. There’s certainly a trend for business to become more global. But doesn’t necessarily mean that buyers can rely on global competition, to keep prices down.
Read the full speech here: Margrethe Vestager, Dealing with mergers in a digital age, 18 June 2019
Build a bridge with your audience
To my friends at the ILO: congratulations on your centennial! For a hundred years now, you have served the noble cause of social partnership and social justice.
When you think about it, the founding of the ILO has a lot in common with the founding of the IMF.
You were founded after the First World War, on the premise that lasting peace is founded on social justice. We were founded after the Second World War, on the premise that lasting peace is founded on economic cooperation between nations.
You bring together the social partners in the service of ensuring decent work for all—knowing that decent work is not only about a paycheck, but is also a source of meaning, purpose, and dignity. We bring together the nations of the world—189 of them—in the service of promoting financial stability and sustainable and inclusive economic growth—knowing that this is a precondition for true human flourishing.
In this context, my topic this afternoon—social spending—could not be more relevant. Relevant to both of our institutions.
This is not a new insight. The importance of providing financial security to citizens to keep the peace and foster harmonious social relations is a lesson that goes all the way back to the ancient civilizations.
It is a lesson learned during the industrial revolution, as politicians responded to new social and political challenges with different forms of social protection—think of the Bismarckian reforms in Germany.
It is a lesson learned after the darkest days of the 1930s (…)
And it is a lesson learned in the postwar era, when the three decades of strong and shared growth in the advanced economies— les trente glorieuses—were underpinned by an accompanying social contract with broad participation and widespread social and political support.
What this tells us is that for economies to be resilient and growth to be sustainable, this growth needs to be inclusive—which calls for social spending. This in turn provides the social and political buy-in for growth-supporting policies—and in doing so, builds trust.
Whom do you quote when your speak to Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European countries ?
Vaclav Havel famously said, “It is in the moment of profound doubt that we can give birth to new certainties.”
Read the full speech here: Christine Lagarde, Forging a stronger social contract—the IMF’s approach to social spending, 14 June 2019
The art of metaphor
Over the past three decades, integration has been the driver of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European economies’ (CESEE) rapid economic growth and acceleration that helped dramatically raise living standards. And the region’s success has, in turn, fueled the success of the EU more broadly.
Now you may have noticed that I chose my words carefully this morning. Driver. Acceleration. Fuel. It is not because I am thinking about attending the Formula One German* Grand Prix next month. No, it is because the CESEE economies are like a powerful engine, one that is about to be put to the test.
*: the speech was delivered in Germany.
Read the full speech here: Christine Lagarde, Strengthening the economic engine: prosperity and resilience of CESEE economies in a changing trade landscape, June 12, 2019
Make it concrete, make it tangible
"Everything is interaction" is what Alexander von Humboldt noted down in Mexico, deeply impressed by what he had observed and experienced during his Latin America expedition. It had taken him through the mangroves and jungles of Colombia, to the indigenous tribes and colonial rulers of the Andes mountains, to Cuba and via the volcanoes of Ecuador almost up to the Chimborazo summit, which at the time was considered the highest mountain on earth, and, finally, through Lima into the heart of New Spain, or Mexico.
And the art of repetition: see how elegantly and powerfully the key quote is repeated six times throughout the speech.
Read the full speech here: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Reception for fellows of the Humboldt Foundation, 27 June 2019
If you think about it, the blue bioeconomy is much like a genie in a bottle. Today it still fits into a relatively small space, but make the conditions right and it will break out in all of its blue-tinted magic and make more than a few of our wishes come true. This is such a promising sector. Unlocking its potential in Europe is one of the objectives of our 2018 bioeconomy strategy.
Read the full speech here: Karmenu Vella, Blue Bioeconomy Forum, 5 June 2019