Kit Holden

If Tajani had hoped to deliver a rousing defence of Europe, he failed spectactularly. The content of his speech on the 9th November was most alarming.

By Kit Holden

The choir was delightful, but Ode to Joy was muted on Thursday, 9th November 2017. The audience stood upon recognising the opening bars, and dutifully chewed their lips through two verses.

Had it not been for Antonio Tajani’s speech, then perhaps the old tune would have blown the rafters off the Allianz Forum. If Tajani had hoped to deliver a rousing defence of Europe, he failed spectactularly.

Erratic, alarming, and ill-befitting

The speech was erratic, it seemed unprepared, but it was the content which was most alarming. Tajani delivered a closed, frightened vision of continent forced together by the threat of terrorism and the fear of migration. He spoke of a European identity defined overwhelmingly – or indeed exclusively – by Christianity. He characterised Europe as an old oak tree, whose roots and trunk were under attack by a swarm of “termites”.

It was a speech ill-befitting of the office of President of the European Parliament, both in its content and its lazy presentation. Yes, Tajani is a conservative. His speech, however, will have been as objectionable to many conservatives as it was to others. The failure to address the issue of right-wing populism when discussing threats to Europe was remarkable. The glaring ommission of the Holocaust in a speech on European history given in Berlin on the 9th November was simply shameful.

Yet one thing is certain: Tajani, unscripted, spoke from the heart. It may have been a negative and defensive vision of Europe that he presented, but a vision of Europe it was nonetheless. In his role as EP President, he has laid down the gauntlet. It is up to us to counter his vision.

Kit Holden works as a journalist in Berlin.

Photo: Jule Halsinger