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President Higgins joins fellow European Heads of State in issuing an invitation to debate the future of Europe

Date: Sat 8th May, 2021 | 01:00

Marking Europe Day 2021, President Michael D. Higgins has joined with other European Heads of State in a joint invitation for a broader and more inclusive discussion on the future priorities of the European Union.

The appeal comes ahead of “Europe Day”, which sees the beginning of the Conference on the Future of Europe. In their letter, the signatory Heads of State call on all EU citizens to use this unique opportunity to shape our common future.  

A copy of the Presidents’ letter is available here.


Speaking about the initiative, President Michael D. Higgins said: 

“On Europe Day, we are invited to celebrate peace and unity in Europe, such as was sought in the Ventotene Manifesto of Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi in 1941. Europe Day, 9th May, also marks the anniversary of the ‘Schuman Declaration’, regarded by so many as one of the departure point on our shared journey towards a Union of the peoples of Europe.

As we continue on this journey, there is much to celebrate. Too often, as we engage in the important and necessary debate on how to improve and strengthen the European Union, we neglect to refer to the many benefits of EU membership. Recent years have demonstrated what can happen if proponents of European co-operation make the case in purely economic and monetary terms, celebrating the common market rather than the core multilateral values embodied in the institutions, or the social values that form the very heart of the EU.

This year, on Europe Day, let us take the opportunity to pause and reflect on the current circumstances facing Europe, including the sources of disenchantment that have produced a sometimes raucous, angry and disappointed discourse echoing from the European street.

The citizens of Europe continue to bear not just a memory, but a retained set of experiences, still reverberating, from the responses to the banking-sourced financial and economic disaster of 2008 and the ensuing austerity policies that reduced cohesion and widened inequality among and within member states.

These mistakes of the past have done untold damage to the social fabric of our European Union, and they hold an important lesson for our current situation: As we prepare to turn the corner on the Covid-19 pandemic, we must resistthe slowly re-emerging calls for the politics of austerity and take those measures that are required to build on, and strengthen, social cohesion on the streets of Europe.

Since my election to the office of President of Ireland, I have sought to contribute to a broadening of the debate on Europe, arguing for the inclusion of philosophical, ethical and cultural dimensions of our work together, and seeking to protect the human decency and solidarity that are the lifeblood of the ‘European project’.

Today, as the Member States of the EU prepare to consult the citizens of Europe on our future together, I have joined my fellow Heads of State in a renewed call for a meaningful and authentic re-engagement with the European street, on the basis of an acceptance that the all-encompassing threats to our continued existence – climate change, poverty, social exclusion and growing inequality – will require effective trans-national action and accompanying accountability mechanisms.

As we seek to craft, together, a new vision for our united Europe, and re-kindle the fire of the inspirational vision of Europe as a zone of peace and solidarity, let us base our work on co-operation in this time of intense global crisis.

Our challenge now, as we see light emerging after a devastating period of pandemic, is to draw on the best of indomitable instincts of solidarity and ingenuity so well exemplified as Covid-19 confronted 21stcentury European society.. We must galvanise those sentiments across the citizenries of Europe, inviting a reflection on the inherent weaknesses of our current model of existence, so that we may create the capacities needed for embracing a new paradigm founded on universalism, sustainability and equality.”


  • You can read the Presidents’ letter in full here.