With each European election national political debates prefer abstraction to simple reality. The electoral campaign now underway is no exception to that. The proof, Europe’s successes and hopes are cruelly lacking.
The proof is simple. It is are geographic, demographic and democratic. The European Union is the smallest continent in the world with its 4 million km2, in comparison with the 17 million in Russia, 8 million in Brazil and 9 million in America, Canada or China. Two-thirds of the world’s population live in Asia and 83% of the planet’s inhabitants are not European. Our 512 million citizens will soon be a minority on Earth, which in the future will have 11 billion souls living on it. In history, demography has often explained the balance of power, the emergence or end of a civilisation. Increasingly the balance between the democratic States and authoritarian regimes is tending daily to lean to the latter. Will they soon be in the majority, challenging our individual and collective freedom?
These truths plead simply for the association and union of European peoples. Now under challenge, it is their survival that is at stake, as well as what they represent: Europe means the rule of law, non-discrimination, freedom and democracy in an inclusive society. A world without Europe would be sad and without hope.
The nations of Europe organised in the wake of the Second World War and joined forces to be stronger together. This wager launched just five years after the end of fighting has succeeded beyond all hope. The continent has found peace, stability and prosperity again, which at the time seemed highly unlikely. Europe’s founding father, Robert Schuman could never have dreamt of such an achievement. But the national political leaders who acknowledge this are rare in number. It is quite the contrary, the candidates prefer rather negative discourse regarding Europe. Each of them vies against the other in their proposals to change it, to criticise it and to denigrate it to the extreme. But although this clearly means that Europe has to work hard to rise to new challenges, it is a very different matter when we build on success from when we have to rise again after failure! European integration, when measured on the scale of world history, is an immense success – it is copied, envied and lauded – but its leading beneficiaries spend their time denigrating it, whilst they should be proud of what has been done.
Indeed, it is the framework which allows us to hold the most ambitious of hopes. United, the people of Europe are still brilliant examples of society in which culture, personal fulfilment, the respect of differences and rights, power and strength, and not just in money are the foundation our collective spirit. United, the States of Europe can guarantee their citizens that they will still be in the top three major powers by the end of the century. United, they have the economic, financial, technological and political means to count in the race for hegemony launched under our nose by the major Continent-States.
To do this we can no longer consider protectionism an option. Europe protects us already. It must now project itself in the world and not just focus on its internal goals. It must project itself into the future through innovation and the taste of risk taking. To do this, rather than allow permanent sad self-criticism, it must now hold ambitious, constructive, positive discourse, which is the only way to establish a real feeling of pride in belonging.