The Union: our only chance

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The European project was born through the courage of men and women, who, in the wake of a frightful war, accompanied by the most heinous crimes, have ensured that we would cease to resolve problems with cannons. The human being is capable of the best but also of the worst: the most noble gestures and the most horrific abominations.

Peace and solidarity are victories on jealousy and egoism. These two feelings are daemons so powerful that, against them, victories are not easy to obtain. To respect, to tolerate others and even to rejoice for someone else’s happiness as ours or share and relieve their suffering as ours is not innate. It’s a process that requires effort.

Even if it had only served to preserve peace, the European project, clever, noble and generous, deserved a Nobel prize. The stacks of forms over coal and steel, agricultural premiums and common custom rates, when we think about it, constituted the paperwork of peace. To those who tell me: “What you tell us is pretty but you really need to be courageous to pretend to be a European these days.” I always answer that German and French citizens as well as politicians needed more courage to do what they did, so shortly after the height of barbarity, of hatred and death.

Incidentally, besides moral aspects, there are economic realities: none of our States have the necessary scale to impose itself in this globalised world, and even the most powerful would be wrong to feel protected. It is sad to say but if the EU had immediately taken good collective measures against the crises and against speculation, instead of being hesitant and fragmented, it would have spared much suffering.

 

The European project is in danger. It has known such a wide success that it aroused the almost unanimous enthusiasm of the citizens of the Member States, the ardent desire of nations, which weren’t already part of it (such as mine), to participate in the project, and the feeling that it was an inalienable gain, which will always bring more peace, security, wellbeing, cohesion and solidarity.

Nothing is ever gained forever. It is probably even easier to destroy the edifice than to build it, or to maintain and consolidate it.

Brussels is quite little, in fact. But it is quite easy to tell people over there lies the permanent power: haughty, distant, mechanical, cruel and indifferent to their suffering, which is the cause of all their problems and that on the contrary, if they retreat behind well-sealed borders, they will have a better future.

In fact, meeting rooms in Brussels are empty because Ministers, Commissioners and Members of Parliament aren’t making the travel from their countries. The disastrous decisions of “Brussels” and the sad absence of decisions comes directly from the countries that signed the treaties. Things would probably be better for everyone if people would come to those meetings with a real European spirit. Europe is not the problem. It’s the solution. However, it cannot just be any Europe.

I believe it is urgent we change our discourse, but also act accordingly, in a tangible manner, otherwise it will end very badly. On the one hand we need a “new Europe”, but on the other hand, it would suffice for the EU to reread with care, articles 2 and 3 of its own treaty. Moreover, the Union should truly apply these articles to become grandiose, and, above all, to win the support of its own citizens.

We can hardly ask the people to know those two articles – and the Charter of Fundamental Rights – but we should cite them more often so that decision makers don’t forget them.

The EU would be perceived as “new” if it once again returned to “promote peace, its values and the wellbeing of its peoples”, to combat social exclusion, to promote a social economy (a market economy, of course), to promote social protection and social cohesion. There is enough social in those two essential articles of the treaty to stop making us believe that the EU shouldn’t be social. The EU has to become social, and quickly. 

If, instead of building itself the image of a merciless scourge on the poorest, the EU could follow the advice of the Economic and Social Committee, which recommends to put in place a system of minimum income under the European label – even if it would inevitably be a different amount depending on the regions, since the appalling lack of cohesion that characterizes the Union -, we would perhaps start to look at it differently.

Instead of giving the people a distressing spectacle of long and exhausting meetings at summits that result in failures and half-decisions, assembling distressed, falsely acclaimed leaders, incarnating like allegorical figures the peoples pushed to be jealous of one another, we would be better off to make a collective demonstration of courage, innovation and intelligent society.

In fact, the three qualities we must be met, are those of the three groups of organised civil society: the spirit of initiative and investment of our companies, the courage, the energy and the competence of our workers as well as the sense of solidarity which governs the formation of associative movements of all types.