These were the toughest of days: Brussels under attack, and with it the whole of our Europe. I was in the Middle East, in Beirut and Amman, to strengthen our cooperation with Lebanon and Jordan on fighting terrorism and radicalisation, on managing the flows of Syrian refugees, on building peace in Syria through diplomacy, on a transition in Damascus. And I was there to meet Syrian refugees who only ask to go back home to their houses –which have been destroyed, but can be rebuilt. Those children have war in their eyes, together with the aspiration to a free and dignified future. Those women look at you and smile – they still do. In these hours I saw so much pain, and so much hope.
For me, these were days of difficult emotions and tough work. I felt the full responsibility Europe bears on its shoulders. I felt the expectations our European citizens and our Middle Eastern neighbours are putting on us. I felt one of the toughest and darkest moments in our history.
For the first time in my life, I showed my sorrow in public – in a press conference in Amman, a few minutes after receiving the terrible news of the attacks in Brussels. I am not used to sharing my feelings and emotions during official meetings: it is something I don’t like. But sometimes pain becomes evident, public. We are humans, first and foremost. Beyond sorrow, though, we hold responsibilities. And this is what really matters to me. Beyond tears – be they public or private – what really matters is every moment’s job to try and build solutions, pathways towards peace, alliances for our own security.
For this reason, faced with the pain for what happened in Brussels, I decided to stay in the Middle East a few hours more. It was to agree with the King of Jordan a stronger cooperation on counter-terrorism; to find the right words to prevent radicalisation of young Europeans, together with those who are passing the message of a peaceful Islam; to meet the Syrian kids who might give in to terror, if they are left with no education and hope. To build a future for them. To build our own present.
I am back in Brussels now. In a few hours I will be at the weekly meeting of the College of Commissioners. The work goes on – like before, more than before. And it goes on with one strong belief: we must find a solution to this war, in Syria and Europe. It is a war that is making us unable to live together in this world of ours.