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The European Union’s second chance

[This editorial is also available in Ukrainian.]

The first half of the twentieth century was one of war and disaster for Europeans. The second half was one of reconstruction through peace and stability.

The construction of Europe has given the member states the prosperity that their mistakes could have prevented. The continent is peaceful and rich, and its democratic, solidarity-based model is envied. The founding fathers had never imagined such a success of their intuitions. The internal task has been successful.

New challenges have been thrown in its path; they are external, vital and existential.

At stake is its security, which it has neglected and entrusted, for the most part, to its allies. It now has enemies and rivals. A neighbouring power has declared war on its model and values. Others are challenging it elsewhere in the world.

Digital and ecological revolutions are disrupting all production, marketing and communication processes, and the consequences they are causing are likely to destabilise all our societies. Pandemics are now global and interdependencies between continents require us to choose our dependencies so as to preserve our decision-making autonomy.

Size matters, and the European Union, with its shortcomings and promises, has acquired this. But it is not a unified power at a time when the State is making a comeback. The EU is not a state and is therefore handicapped in its response to new challenges because of their scale.

Rather than trying to respond to measures taken by others, such as the American support plan for ecological conversion, it must reflect on the way it acts, which must be more global and more forward-looking.

Imposing strong and exemplary constraints in terms of the environment, duty of care and respect for values is the subject of a political consensus supported by public opinion. However, the resulting measures, taxonomy, bans and constraints must be offset, adapted and progressive, otherwise there is a risk that the European economy will be tied down by chains that will ultimately cause it to regress and be rejected by the people. We know how inventive we are in laying down rules and prohibitions, but we must improve our imagination to be more effective in encouraging progress.

This is what is on the table for the extraordinary European Council of Heads of State and Government on 9 February 2023.

Reconciling the response to all these challenges with renewed and innovative proactive policies is not easy because it is the subject of divergences between the States.

This represents as many traditional common policies to be reviewed: Competition, state aid, debts, deficits. Their adaptation has begun, but is too slow.

Guaranteeing security requires powerful military capabilities to impose the choice of peace. This is a revolution for Europeans, which will be costly. They must be helped to do so.

A monetary and fiscal policy for growth cannot be satisfied with national disciplines alone; it must give priority to investment and try to boost it through generous and open common policies.

Using public money to support the economy by means of a Buy European Act is quite simply deciding that European public money should go first and foremost into modernising its economy, something that all the states in the world do.

To succeed in discovering and mastering the technologies that will make the difference between nations in the future, opportunities must be multiplied, risk-taking must be facilitated by incentivising regulations and financial support must be increased.

Meeting the requirement for efficiency means doing so together in common policies and not each on its own. To succeed in pooling European potential means going beyond the simple framework of national responses. It means agreeing to borrow and spend together for the future and not to protect habits.

Seventy-three years ago, Europeans agreed to seize the opportunity to do this together. It was a gamble that the people validated. Nothing resembles the context of that time. A new phase has begun which requires a leap of faith, that is to say, boldness.

To seize this second chance to remain in the geopolitical, technological, economic and social race, the European Union must agree to adapt its policies, which have been successful in the past but which are unable to respond to the present situation as they stand.

It has all the assets. It must have the will to do so. Citizens will support it.