By Anna Diamantopoulou. Originally published on 2013/05/17
“Let Europe Arise”1
Southern Europe is burning. This crisis has turned out to be the great catalyst exposing national ills of prevailing political and banking systems. Conventions were overthrown and political establishments dismantled; yet, Europe seems to be on hold, or in slow motion at best, waiting the German elections. In the meantime, a toxic environment is breeding, European cohesion is eroding.
1. We are experiencing an intensifying crisis of orientation that may become a fertile ground for conflict. The EU, this unprecedented unique political formation succeeded to turn enemies to friends. The landscape, however, is rapidly getting distorted. If things go unabated, we may be witnessing a reversal with friends turning into enemies…again, nation vs. nation, north vs. south, the periphery vs. the center.
2. It is time for a “call to arms” for a renewed Europe. Staunch believers of the European ideal, that more Europe is the only solution for prosperity, safety and well being in the new world order, cannot afford to remain silent and passive. Urgently and with no delay, need to embark in a continental, across the board effort, transcending countries, political parties, civil society organizations, professionals, academics, and entrepreneurs creating a pan-European bottom up pressure and providing strong political legitimacy for change. But, to be able to rally, mobilize all powers and to rise to the challenge we need to go back to the roots: the EU is in vital need of a demos, a critical mass of popular support. A demos that would empower the EU leaders to proceed with solid and acceptable proposals towards genuine integration. Otherwise, Europe will inevitably dissolve under the pressure of a widespread social clash.
3. We owe to articulate a new vision, a “raison d’etre”, for our collective future. A new narrative, comprehensive, attractive, convincing, that collectively and individually, European citizens will embrace and adopt. Our collective cause needs form and shape with elements every citizen can identify and connect.
3.1 Eliminate war demons: our peace project. Unmistakably, EU’s greater achievement is peace. We lived six decades in peace; how certain are we that this is not the beginning of an armless “war”? Nothing should be taken for granted. A peace project is founded on the notion of mutual respect and a sense of belonging to a wider family with its own discreet identity and common rules. It is true that we have not done enough to build actively a common European Identity. A European identity not competing but complementing and strengthening further sovereign national identities. A European identity deeply rooted in our common inheritance and based on all those shared values and principles we all espouse: freedom, democracy, respect, justice, tolerance and solidarity as referred both in the Treaty and in our respective Constitutions.
3.2. Global strength in unity: a new geopolitical role for Europe. By 2050 Europe will be only 7% of the world population down from 20% in the 1950s. The largest EU countries will comprise a maximum 1%; Europe’s GDP will only be a 10% of world production, down from 30% in the 1950s. With changing demographics, energy needs and supply, and shifting world power from the west to the east, one can easily imagine how each European State will look like on its own a few decades from now. As Helmut Schmidt points out: “Every one of the European nations will make only a fraction of 1% out of world population”, or as J.C Junker put it, “A united Europe is our continents only chance to avoid falling off the world’s radar”.
3.3. From the elites to the people: the legitimacy of democracy. It is imperative that our emphasis should be on democratic legitimacy and accountability both at a European and at a national level. Three important issues: 1) More than half of Europeans (68%)2 feel that their voice does not count in Europe. Citizens feel that decisions that influence their lives are taken from a distant bureaucracy accountable to none. 2) Management of the crisis has revealed the feebleness of EU institutions by been de facto relegated to the sidelines. Ultimate decision-making at the EU level has bypassed institutions and landed in the hands of the most powerful EU countries, or more precisely, a single country. The model of Europe governed and dominated by a single central power is not viable to say the least. The approach, tactics and methods used are turning Germany into an isolated giant while at the same time tensions and conflicts among people, institutions and countries are rapidly growing. Finally, 3) Drastic changes are required to reform institutional structures making them accountable for implementing and monitoring policies and reforms; that is to go beyond the current practice of report- and recommendation- making for the EU Bureaucracy.
3.4. Fundamental values precede finances: economic justice for all. Europe is a global player and should set rules in the financial sector. Citizens rightly ask why “troubled” Banks should be bailed-out at the expense of European citizens, yet the prevailing punitive approach falls on those less responsible for the crisis. Why should Banks be financed by loans given to troubled EU countries by the ECB and the IMF with repayment of those loans transferred to the citizens of those countries? And why the EU institutions did not fulfill their constitutional oversight? A strong banking union especially deposits insurance, and the tax on financial transactions currently under discussion would be positive steps in this direction. A narrative including those policies can ally European citizens. Concerted action for growth, economic justice and hope along with political responsibility are needed instead of just finger pointing to presumed sinner countries, punishment, fear and austerity.
3.5. Fairness and opportunity to all: growth equitably shared. The European periphery has entered recession, core economies are slowing down and so does the European economy as a whole. A fiscal stimulus comprised of three principal pillars is needed to ignite a solid recovery: a) Investment in pan-European infrastructure networks, (transportation, energy, telecommunication), b) transformation of ECB to a real Central Bank (with all associated functions and powers) and c) a true EU Budget. A growth instrument based on european resources, not mere country contributions totaling 1% of the European GDP. A budget allocated according to real needs to smooth inequalities and promote cohesion. Europe has both the mechanisms and the stature to rise against global financial system’s unjust and hazardous practices. A well-defined economic justice agenda may be center’s left last existential opportunity.
4. The time is NOW to regenerate Europe with a unifying new narrative, make the leap towards real integration and transform into a real Community, a Federation of Nation States. The time is NOW to eliminate once and for all any risk of dismantling the most noble and genuine accomplishment of Europe’s political history. The time is NOW to advert the likelihood of twenty-seven populist and ultra-nationalist parties (promoting scapegoating and insisting to “no” to everything) dominating the upcoming 2014 European Parliament elections.
As we stand on the verge of greater integration or dissolution, is fitting to recall J. Monnet (incidentally, where is France?) ingenious statement: “crises are the big federators of history”. People tend to set aside their differences and work together when facing a grave, clear and present danger. Don’t we all see it by now?
1 W. Churchill: “Speech to the academic youth”, University of Zurich, 1946
Featured Picture: Anna Diamantopoulou, President of Diktyo Network. Picture right: Diktyo Network