However noble, intelligent, open and historically unique it may be, the European project is currently going through an unprecedented period of crisis.
This is an ideal moment for populists and other hate-mongers: it is an opportunity for them to deceive vulnerable people by promising them a better future, a "golden dawn", provided they seek refuge behind inviolable borders as in the good old days. After all, why deal with our problems together bravely, creatively and collectively, when we can put up multiple "iron curtains" wherever we need them and – while we're at it – build watchtowers and fit them with machine guns. That will certainly stop the influx of poor people, keep out dubious characters fleeing wars or dictatorships, preserve local mores and customs, boost our economy, benefit our businesses and prevent even the most fanatical criminals from causing harm.
The truth is that if the European Union breaks apart, it is Europe itself as a geographical entity that will become exposed, and to danger of the worst kind. Whatever its shortcomings, since the end of the Second World War the Union has clearly been a key factor in the preservation of peace between its Member States; Europe has also long been a place where the rule of law, democracy, social justice and prosperity have prevailed, whose appeal was such that its own peoples almost unanimously supported the European project, while those that were not already members were clamouring to join.
If the Union is in danger, this is precisely because it is not sufficiently united, integrated or cohesive. It is now divided into too many different subcomponents, for spheres such as the single currency or freedom of movement. Europe is now bereft of the various kinds of harmonisation and common policies that are nevertheless essential, for instance with regard to taxes, defence or even – and above all – social issues.
The aim of the European Union, according to the terms of its own Treaty, is "to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples", yet many, including decision-makers themselves, do not seem to think about this very much. It is as if it were not in everyone's interest to do everything possible, above all else, to ensure that the people of Europe continue to live in dignity and in peace.
We must read Articles 2 and 3 of this Treaty, tell others about them, champion them, and above all actually apply them. Many people probably think that the texts of these agreements between states must be fiendishly technical – even "technocratic" – and horribly heavy to wade through. But that is not the case at all, at least not for the broad principles set out at the beginning of the Treaties. Children should be reading this at school.
Immediately after the passage I have just quoted, the Treaty says: "The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers [...]". This shows that the European project was not intended for abstract entities, systems, administrations or automata: it was intended for men and women. This project makes a promise to them and it must fulfil that promise to them.
A third clause follows in which the word "social" appears five times in ten lines. For the European Union to recapture the prestige it used to have among its citizens, that clause does not have to be amended: it just needs to be implemented.
It is not too late for us to put things right, but we must not delay. Let us look carefully at the history of the European continent over the course of the last century and act quickly so as to ensure that mistakes are not repeated: our future, and that of our children, is in a united and cohesive Europe.