Speech at meeting on sustainable development

Prime minister Erna Solberg at The European Parliament in Brussel, 7 June 2017.

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President of the European Parliament, Parliamentarians, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you, President Tajani, for hosting this meeting on sustainable development.

The strong involvement of Parliamentarians all over the world is crucial in the global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

European Parliamentarians are in a position to leverage both national politics in their respective countries as well as the policies and actions of the EU institutions. This makes you extra important.

Mr President,

Soon after World War II, a global institutional architecture for peace, centred on the United Nations, started to take shape.

As former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld once put it, ‘The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell’.

In 1951, the nucleus of today’s European Union, the European Coal and Steel Community, was created. The main idea was to ensure multinational management of coal and steel, with a view to making war not only unthinkable but also impossible.

Since then, European integration has served our continent well. It has reinforced peace, democracy and prosperity within the EU and beyond.

Saving humanity from hell is a task that will never end. Democracy and peace must be defended every day – in Europe and elsewhere.

Cooperation through the UN and regional institutions is now more important than ever.

In our interconnected and globalised world, we face the same challenges wherever we live. Climate change, migration and violent extremism are a threat to us all.

The good news is that we have a universal political programme to guide our efforts.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by 193 state leaders at the UN General Assembly in September 2015, show us how we can achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability.

The SDGs are not primarily an aid agenda. All countries, including countries in Europe, have work to do at the national level in order to reach the goals.

However, aid is still necessary in the poorest areas of the world.

We particularly need to focus on areas affected by crisis and conflict. We cannot allow children and young people to grow up without education, jobs, or hope.

Migration poses huge challenges for Europe. We need to balance our efforts to control our borders with respect for humanitarian principles. And we must never lose sight of our international obligations. It is also in Europe’s interest to address the reasons why so many people are choosing to make the dangerous journey to our continent.

Mr President,

Europe and the world need more cooperation, more integration, more cross-border investments and more trade – not less.

Isolationist policies and economic protectionism are as futile as trying to turn back the clock. They simply won’t work. Not in Europe. Not anywhere.

In conclusion, Mr President, the SDGs are the roadmap to the future we want. A world without poverty and global warming. But we now need to do the work to implement the goals. We need to walk the talk. To quote the great European author, thinker and politician Václav Havel, ‘Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.’

I urge you as European parliamentarians to help your governments and other stakeholders to ‘step up the stairs’ – in your home countries, in Europe, in the world.

Thank you.