"A cold January evening with prospects of a heated debate" was the forecast of Aart De Geus our Chairman Executive Board in his welcome speech before EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger's address on Europe on Monday evening in Berlin. He was proved right, too, as a number of controversial topics – including Brexit, or the possible election of an unprecedented number of nationalist-populist MEPs in May – were on the agenda. EU Commissioner Oettinger was also quick to state that the forthcoming elections were taking place in a "critical time" in history, in which we must all stand up for a free, strong Europe.
In his introduction, Aart De Geus explained the starting point for the European Parliament elections in May: "Many Western democracies are undergoing a stress test. Our system of values is being challenged", said the Executive Board Chairman, adding that many people preferred to withdraw into private life at times of rapid social and political change. According to Aart De Geus, this is dangerous for our democracy and Europe as a whole, which are dependent on its citizens' commitment and enthusiasm.