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60 years of Europe

Europe and its best enemy

On 9th May 1950 Robert Schuman offered Europe the means to peace and prosperity at the cost of what we might call today "a strategic break."

Uniting "the warring continent" seemed impossible. Offering the possibility of uniting it was an audacious dream.

60 years later thanks to the careful management of this legacy the results have surpassed all former hopes. The European Union is indeed a tangible reality, unique in the world, guiding 27 Member States with its own institutions and a specific legal regime.

Of course it is greatly critised and we can understand why: the 27 represent the leading area in the production of wealth in the world, it is the leading foreign investor, the greatest consumer market; in 10 years its currency has risen to become the second most important tender in the world. Its living standards are the envy of all, its model is copied. Europe therefore has many rivals it recognises that it has no enemies.

In fact it has only one: itself. It suffers doubt as it faces the last stage of its long journey, that of political union, which requires further transfer of sovereignty over to areas which are the greatest reserve of the State.

At one time it believed it could spare itself this step and continue as before since its security has longtime been guarantee by its American ally, its new currency protected it from the outside and enabled it to avoid true internal discipline. In this manner the great market has almost been completed but the States do not want to give up their control of taxation, social rights and their specific legal systems to institutions which are not directly elected and for whom the norm is the only sword; the euro is alive and kicking but the States do not want to share the governance of their economies. This is called doing things by half.

Moreover when all of a sudden there was a crisis born of unforeseeable developments across every continent the first move was to shelter beneath the cover of the States, easy lenders of vital loans, jealous guardians of national identity. Extremists enter parliament, opinions shudder under the cloak of identity, immigrants are suddenly suspect ...

This is the time for a true political leap, that offers a quicker integration of our economies - a "bold" step as Schuman qualified it.


However necessity often dictates the law. Greece was not to be saved, but it has been. And other steps forward will soon be governed by circumstances: our soldiers, our policemen, our judges want to cooperate more together to counter new threats. Our citizens want the same civil, heritage, marriage and child custody rights. The European army will exist one day; we might be allowed to dream that in the distant future we shall be judged in the same way in all of the Member States, we might also one day be able to study in the European country of our choice and the fantastic potential for creativity in Europe, together with the support of centuries of experience will lead us one day to recovering long term growth and full employment.

However Europe, which is still more heterogenous in appearance, but in fact so unique and so united in the face of the world, has to wake up and shake itself.

It has the choice: either circumstances will force the way, in pain and protest, and even with repeated disruption and political crises or someone will show the way, audaciously, courageously and will put forward a new start for European integration, a new break from the heavy sleep into which the Union has slipped, by taking steps that are no longer the product of legacy but of invention.

Europe will then be able to do many things.

Maybe it will suffice to appease the present threats, accept the composition of our national budgets together before putting them up for approval by our parliaments, to publish a timetable laying out the convergence of our taxation systems, to have a common representative within the international economic bodies, to increase the prerogatives of the European Central Bank?

But in order to be convincing with regard to our determination to accomplish the final unification of Europe we shall probably have to establish more ambitious goals and to implement them with the same modesty employed by the Founder Fathers of Europe to change the course of history with coal and steel. 

Accomplishing for example the vital Common European Defence system, by creating as quickly as possible joint operational military groups which have the support of an industry protected by preference would open the way to real European diplomacy, that is responsible for the defence and promotion of our model with the same tools of those enjoyed by the Continent-States which dominate the 21st century.

Not all of the States of Europe will agree: as usual - but who cares! Those who take these initiatives will soon be joined by the others - as usual. They will have the support of their populations as usual because Europeans are on the quest for new reasons to hope - and even new reasons for enthusiasm. The determination of a few will be enough to wake Europe up. Here we mean France and Germany ...

Because no one can imagine that the construction of the Community be destroyed and that 60 years of hard work reduced to nothing due to a few cross-winds. This would be such a great step backwards that after defying history Europe would finally be divided into States that could no longer have any individual influence in the world.

Hence Europe needs new energy. 60 years after the Schuman Declaration Europe has changed enormously, the world too. But at the end of the day inspiration and method are still the same: voluntarily sharing sovereignty so that all is not lost via constraint, protecting identity by adding them together rather than against each other, rising to the status of world players amongst whom the Union will always represent strength.

We now have to show great courage and abnegation. This is the constant definition of political will.