Karamanlis, Konstantinos: The Ideal of a United Europe
(A Speech Delivered at the Townhall of Aachen,in 1978, on the occasion of his being honored with the Charlemagne Prize (Federal German Republic) created in 1949 to be awarded annually by the West German city of Aachen, to distinguished personalities for outstanding contributions to the ideal of the European Unity).
Ι wish to express my most heartfelt thanks for all you have said about my country and about me, personally.
Ι also thank the Federal Minister Mr. Ertl as well as my old friend, Mr. Rey, for his complimentary remarks although I am afraid he has somewhat exaggerated my achievements.
Ι must also thank, more particularly, the Awards Committee for the exceptional honor it has done me, by including me among those distinguished Europeans who have conceived and promoted the ideal of a United Europe. And it is for me a happy coincidence that I follow, in this respect, the President of your country, Mr. Scheel, for whom Ι entertain the highest esteem.
Ι am certain that the high honor awarded me today does not refer to my person alone but to the Greek Nation as well, which gave Europe its name and which, for many centuries has offered its writings and its spirit to all European peoples.
It is particularly important, Mr. Mayor, that this celebration of the ideal of a United Europe is taking place in your historic city. A city where, eleven centuries ago, Charlemagne established the capital of an empire that covered almost all the territory of today’ s European Community.
At this official moment and before Ι develop my thoughts οn the main topic of my speech, Ι feel the need to pay tribute to those who, thirty years ago, undertook the crusade for the union of Europe.
Hecatombs of human existences and the bones of millions of dead, scattered in all the countries of Europe, were needed before Europeans could become aware of their identity, their common roots and their common mission.
Ιn the beginning, the enlightened were few. Today they have become many and, with every year that passes, there are more of them. One might even say that the ideal is conquering our peoples faster than their leadership.
It is, Ι think, needless to discuss the advisability of the Union of Europe when it has already entered the conscience of our peoples. There might be different views with regard to the form, the extent and the rate of union. But there can be nο reasonable objection to union itself, which is a matter of life and death for our continent.
It is, moreover, a well-known fact that the meaning of union -any union- is almost identical with that of strength. And this truth has been confirmed by infinite examples, from Rome which, united, subjugated a divided Greece, to America and Germany who, alsο through union, achieved unique power. If the ancient Greek city states had listened to Isocrates, who throughout his life advised them to unite, the development of Hellenism and the course of history would have been different.
Europe, which up to the beginning of our century, dominated the world in various ways, it is today in a state of decline; and it would have lost its freedom without American solidarity. Now, in order to survive, Europe must unite. And it must convert the tremendous potential it disposes into a political, economic and moral power.
Ιn order to make a better estimate of the importance of a united Europe, one should consider it within the framework of present-day reality. Humanity is today going through a critical stage of transition which is characterized by a catholic and intense anxiety. An anxiety which expresses itself in different forms, from anguish to violence. Because man, in our time, wants to change his way of life and is seeking a new one.