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"A united Europe was not achieved and we had war"

By choosing to quote Robert Schuman’s historic declaration of 9th May 1950, Emmanuel Macron hoped to give his speech on Europe delivered at the Sorbonne on 26th September a historic, dramatic, solemn dimension. We would be wrong to laugh, since it has come at a truly opportune moment.

International competition in a changing world looks increasingly more like a lottery. Surprise after surprise follows unexpected instability. Rivalries are growing. The dangerous nature of the time in which we are living is now evident to all. Each is playing his own game, without really foreseeing the impact that this might have on the other.

China continues its ascension, the USA is losing its way the fog of protectionism and possibly soon isolationism. Russian and Turkish revisionists are edging forward, frustration and inequality between continents are all enough to trigger an explosion, the nuclear issue has risen to the surface again with North Korea in its propensity to proliferate. The world is re-arming and the low level of open warfare should not mask the potential outbursts of violence, drama and misery.

Europe would be wrong not to heed the historic moment which we are now experiencing. It cannot lie back on the laurels of its prosperity, its way of life and its generous social model. In the long term and possibly sooner than we might imagine, peace and stability will depend on this. Europe has its word to say in the upheavals ongoing in the world and this we might say, is its duty.

European integration was born in France, and the latter is playing its role when it calls to take note of the urgency of the situation. The French president is quite right as he detects in the competition now occurring between continents and developments in the international arena, that Europe could lose its place and further bloodshed and tears that it so often suffered in the past could happen again.

It is now crucial to imagine Europe’s place in the world, giving it the means to assert itself in the face of others, whilst to date it has simply focused on its internal challenges. This view is spot on. Mr Macron has made more than 70 proposals or real examples that could potentially be more than just a realisation, a wake-up call. Not every one of these will meet with success, but they are in line with the duty of any leader: to make proposals to act whilst there is still time.

As he advocated breaking the infernal spiral of rivalry, Robert Schuman took a successful risk during his time. History proved him right. Today Europe really does need to break with its habits, procedures and comfort. After this speech no one can say that there is nothing to debate, to build on or develop in order to guarantee Europeans a future that corresponds with their expectations.