Rarely has the traditional “this year’s Europe Day is special” opening phrase been more to the point than this 9 May 2017. As I wrote it in a newspaper article last December, 2017 is the year “of all crossroads” for Europe. Now, it would be rather tedious and not necessarily effective to draw a long list of each and every of these crossroads, I would rather limit myself to group them all in two groups: economic crossroads and political ones. With the obvious links between the two…
Events within the boundaries of the European Union as well as beyond the EU itself have combined to makes us press the “pause” button to reflect on what sort of European Union we want for our future and that of our children. Rather than remain seated in the train that is running at a steady pace on its established rail tracks, we have felt the need to ask ourselves questions about our common journey: what direction is the train heading for, via which stations, and with what sort of engine at its head.
Interestingly enough, this moment of reflection, characterised by President Jean-Claude Juncker’s White Paper on the future of Europe, coincides with other marking events: the 60th anniversary of the founding of the European Union via the Rome Treaty is one; the 10th anniversary of Romania’s accession to the EU is another, and the forthcoming negotiations for the next financial period (agreeing to future political priorities by allocating financial ceiling to every EU policy) is a third one.
On this 9 May 2017, as I keep reflecting on the current situation in Europe and in the world, I cannot help remembering what Winston Churchill allegedly said once: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”, and I feel tempted to paraphrase him by stating that the European Union is the worst way forward for us, except for all the others!
Let’s be clear: nobody in his or her right mind would ever argue that the EU is perfect; indeed nothing made by humans is perfect. Nothing in the public or the private sector can be seen as so perfect that it simply cannot be improved. So, yes, the EU and the way it works can be improved. Not less, not more than anything else on this planet.
But this does not mean that the European Union should be blamed for everything that seems to be going wrong in our Europe. I challenge every single populist to prove that any Member State would be better off fending for itself in a globalised world. On this 9 May, I want urge every European citizen to criticise what deserves to be criticised, this is healthy, but to reject those politicians whom claim that the solution to solve all the problems is to hide in one’s shell, to isolate itself, to reject.
You may check any history book: there is not one single example of a country having ever grown, succeeded, got stronger, through isolationism. Progress and improvements are made possible by exchanges of ideas, by working together. And as today’s world has shrunk and the pace of progress is fastening, choosing the solitary way is to condemn oneself to almost certain irrelevance.
Yet, on this Europe’s day, I am resolutely optimist: I believe that the political and economic crises that have befallen us will help Europe get stronger, because we will spend the coming months, all of us, checking this European train on which we are all sitting, to see if we can improve it, and how. This in itself is good news. From our reflection a stronger Europe will rise, a caring Europe, a healthy Europe.
Proud to celebrate Europe’s Day!