by Alessandra Silveira, Editor
What future do we want for ourselves, for our children and for our Union? (as for the 60 years landmark of the Treaty of Rome: please open the fridge!)
Two weeks ago I went to Rome at the European’s Commission invitation for the celebrations of the 60 years of the constitutive treaties of the current European Union. The Commission had decided to gather a group of Jean Monnet chairs from 34 nationalities for a seminar with the title “The future of Europe: a commitment for You(th)” and for a meeting with the EC Vice President, Federica Mogherini, and the (rotating) President of the Council of the EU, Joseph Muscat (Prime-Minister of Malta). It is my duty to share on this blog what I have heard there.
The EC is moving forward with a series of proposals about the management of globalisation and the future of the European finances, but also tending to develop the European social dimension. And, mostly, proposals tending to conclude the Economic and Monetary Union – that takes monetary and exchange sovereignty from the Member States whilst keeps their financial and fiscal sovereignty, what provokes clear imbalances between the more and the less robust economies of the euro zone. Moreover, the Commission presented on 1 March 2017 a White Paper on the future of Europe[i] – which prospects the changes we will be subject to over the course of the next 10 years and presents 5 scenarios to face the challenges.
After a large debate – that will take place at the European level in the next months and in which the European Parliament, national parliaments, local and regional authorities and the society in general will participate – President Jean-Claude Juncker will address his considerations on the occasion of the speech of the State of the Union, in September 2017, hence contributing with the European Council for reaching its first conclusions by the end of the year and deciding about the actions to take over the period that precedes the European Parliament’s elections, in June 2019.
Naturally, the outcome will also depend on the electoral results in France and Germany – it couldn’t be any different. Not exactly for the narrative of the “French-German axis”, but because 40% of everything that is built with European funds is money from the French or the German tax payer. Is it not of the most elementary coherence that who pays the most should have a word? Anyhow, the European citizens from the other Member States may not be unrelated to the definition of their future – that’s why they need to know the proposals and pressure political decision-makers towards better choices. The European Union is not made by aliens – it’s our representatives who are there: in the Parliament, in the Council, in the Commission.
Ulrich Beck explained that, in spite of its imperfections, the EU has several accomplishments to show – and the largest of them all was to convert enemies into neighbours. Many of the accomplishments of the European Union have become so obvious that we would only notice them if they ceased existing – and maybe that’s why some Europeans are renouncing the integration in such frivolous way, with nefarious consequences for themselves, for next generations and for the rest of the world.
I was born in Brazil because my Italian great-grandparents had to escape war, hunger and the squalor that devastated the European continent throughout the twentieth century. I know the sorrows of the refugees of war. It’s not for other reason that I have been dedicating myself to the study and the diffusion of the juridical culture of the European integration. But it’s also for my 17-years-old son to be able to choose studying Music, if so he pleases, in German universities (and costless) or to stay, as he prefers, in the Portugal where he was born. In other words, I’m pro the European integration because I believe in the freedom: of thought, of choice and of movement. Myself and more than two thirds of the Europeans who see the EU as a place of stability in a disturbed world, or the 70% of citizens of the euro zone who support the common currency.
Yet, that is not enough, because as the White Book explains, the trust of the citizens in the Union, as well as in the national authorities, have decreased. Thus the European and the national authorities must develop an affective communication with the European citizens – that speak with the people’s concerns, that creates empathy and promotes the European identity. Citizens ignore to what extent the Union affects their daily life – and that more than half of the norms that rule us in the different Member States come from the European institutions.
That’s the case perhaps because the national authorities tend to “Europeanise” the disgraces and to “nationalise” the successes. But if only the citizens would open the fridge – to the things that are more essential to their survival – and there it will be the Union: in the free movement of goods, in the food safety, in the control of chemicals… Therefore it’s urgent to carry out a sort of “alphabetisation campaign for the European citizenship” – and in it the Academia has a great insight to give.
That is the future I want for myself, for my son and for my Union.
Picture credits: Lego fridge (…) by Anthony SÉJOURNÉ.