There is nothing worse in the government of States than indifference, the final stage of laxness, and even laziness. This is indeed a weakness. It is this that has led to the rise of populism, extremism and the revival of nationalism in Europe over the last 20 years. After having made spectacular, constant achievements since 1950, the captains at the helm of the European ship have become somewhat complacent.
Whilst the world has been gathering speed and that our fellow citizens have become accustomed to increased prosperity, generating ever more comfort and protection, no one has really thought about what should come next. Then there have been external events like the financial economic crisis, which have shown what we already knew: that the European project is incomplete. Under pressure we have had to move towards greater economic integration – feebly, sometimes reluctantly, and sometimes without really assuming it - simultaneously criticising what was happening! Long term thought has been missing to the vital redesign of European integration and the way it operates. The time for this now seems to have come.
The UK referendum on 23rd June provides one opportunity, even though we have no doubt about the outcome. Never have we seen the British – unlike their Latin counterparts, vote against their own interests. The French Presidential election in April 2017 will provide another. Already all of the candidates in the primary on the right have expressed what their view of Europe is. Germany is now having contradictory feelings, caused by the monetary policy and the refugee crisis. Central Europe, a model pupil in the European class for a long time, seems to be in the grip of nationalist convulsions. Sixty-six years after the Schuman Declaration, the founding stone of European integration, 53 years after the Franco-German treaty which made it possible, it is time for political debate to consider the future of Europe.
This is what the citizens are expecting: a project – where are we going? – they want lucidity – what works and what doesn’t – a feeling of belonging, also a method and for some countries to lead the way, like Germany and France for example.
The Member States are fortunate in being able to count on the committed involvement of Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the Commission who wants to take a more political angle than produce rules. They now have to take the initiative.
100 years after the terrible battle of Verdun and its 750,000 victims, Europeans have broken with their internecine past. And the world is looking to them, but they must learn to fight together, to protect their model, to defend their identity and their interests. This is a new challenge. So much hard work and success deserves as much. Surely, we did not do all of this for nothing!
Rather than appearing to follow them, our leaders should understand the doubts expressed by public opinion: concrete initiatives and strong action is expected, giving value to the European project, to which the people are still attached. All of the sleeping extremist demons will only be calmed again if there is a real political project for Europe; one which respects identities and which offers real prospects for the future. To do this we have to share what we have to share, to protect what is vital to protect. Our diversity and all of those rich identities are uniquely complementary in the world. It would be good news indeed if we could debate this.