The complaints made by the populations of Europe are becoming increasingly loud and strong against the European Union. On top of economic difficulties we are now fearful, nationalism has returned, fed by old historic bitterness, we are now anxious about the instability of our borders. The movement to unify Europe is being challenged from within.
In an exceptional speech in Hanover on 25th April, Barack Obama declared “I have come today – to the heart of Europe to say that the USA and the entire world needs a strong, prosperous, democratic, united Europe,” “Perhaps you need an outsider, somebody who is not European, to remind you of the magnitude of what you have achieved”. Pope Francis will receive the Charlemagne Prize on 6th May “for his work to promote European values of peace, tolerance, compassion and solidarity.” From the outside Europe is the source of inspiration. It is an envied example.
In spite of its difficulties and the progress still to achieve, the world would miss the European Union if it did not exist.
Its Member States still enjoy significant influence in the world and their cooperation together strengthens Europe, its joint institutions enjoy a profile in the international arena, its example is still a democratic light of freedom, of rights, of prosperity, as there exist nowhere else in the world, except perhaps in North America. Its peaceful unification process is truly unique in the history of human kind.
The European Union is powerful as long as it remains united. The contributions made by its members are complementary. France and the UK retain a diplomatic and military capacity for action at the top of the hierarchy of world powers, Germany and many others have helped develop an unrivalled power of influence. Europe is now reaching the point at which its voice is starting to count. But are Europeans aware of this?
Because, at the same time, whole continents are rearming beyond the bounds of democracy or on its side-lines. The emergence of these newcomers will always be lacking and fragile if there is no democratic freedom as we perceive it. Everywhere people rise up one day or another against autocracy or dictatorship.
As Europeans we are obliged to reject self-chastisement and to stop the sterile criticism of an entity to which we belong and rather find in it, legitimate pride, and do everything we can to complete a still incomplete edifice. We know what we have to do to make it stronger, more effective and to give it greater identity. But do we understand that it also means fulfilling a challenge that we owe to the world?