At the UN, Trudeau praises European values ​​as a source of global strength in difficult times

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the European Commission and its formidable first female president on Friday when he presented Ursula von der Leyen with the judicial equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Trudeau made a special day trip to the United Nations for the last day of the World Law Congress, where legal scholars from around the world gather every two years to extol the democratic virtues of the rule of law.

Von der Leyen, chosen to head the commission in 2019, could not have come at a better time, Trudeau said, as the executive wing of the European Union faces new instability at home and around the world.

“Brexit left many wondering if the union would continue to hold its own. Euroscepticism was on the rise. And protectionism and authoritarianism were becoming more prevalent,” Trudeau said.

He gave no names, but drew an unequivocal parallel between the forces bent on liberating Britain from the European Union and the nationalist impulses of former US President Donald Trump.

“As chants like ‘America First’ grew louder, both Canada and Europe clung to our belief that growth doesn’t come from building walls and turning inward.”

Europe knows a thing or two about global instability, he added, having emerged from the bloody cauldron of World War II to forge a lasting peace, one now jeopardized by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

And he said that von der Leyen understands that other threats matter as well, including the consequences of climate change and authoritarian states that show little interest in curtailing their high-carbon ambitions.

It is up to the world’s democracies to uphold the rules-based international order by ending their reliance on “commodities armed by authoritarian states,” Trudeau said.

That means “standing up to the bullies” and protecting those who can’t protect themselves, ensuring the middle class stays strong and making it impossible for inequality to take hold.

“This is a momentous moment and it calls for thoughtful leadership and strong institutions,” he said.

“I cannot think of a better embodiment of that than Ursula von der Leyen and the European Commission. They show us how respect for the dignity of all leads to the strength to protect peace, come what may.”

Von der Leyen provided a similar history lesson, describing how his late father threw himself into the cause of forging a new, united and peaceful Europe, one that would include old antagonists like Germany and Italy.

Democratic values ​​and the rule of law are the pillars of that peace, he said, and they cannot be allowed to collapse.

“The story of our union is one of democracies, young and old, growing stronger together,” von der Leyen said.

“This is the promise of Europe: a united continent where all are equal before the law, with freedom and democracy for all.”

Trudeau then met von der Leyen in person for another of several bilateral meetings the two leaders have had since 2019, where he thanked the prime minister for his words and continued leadership.

He also ventured to the upper floors of the monolithic UN headquarters, perched majestically on the banks of the East River, to meet with UN Secretary General António Guterres and a phalanx of aides.

A reading from the meeting said Trudeau and Guterres discussed shared priorities for the upcoming UN General Assembly.

He said the leaders discussed a number of issues, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the crisis in Haiti and the war in Ukraine, with both expressing concern about “Russia’s decision to withdraw its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative and its potential impacts on global food security.”

Also present Friday was Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the UN, who honored former Supreme Court Justice Rosie Abella with the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Medal of Honor from the World Association of Jurists.

Named for the late US Supreme Court Justice who became a modern feminist icon, the award is given to women whose careers have advanced gender equality, democracy and the rule of law.

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