Europe is my home and the European Union is destroying it.
I have never thought I would even imagine those words. I am writing from my tiny room in Thessaloniki – north of Greece – where people don’t talk about the European Union that much, but they do know it well. From this room, I’m looking for the meaning of being European. Daughter of the Erasmus generation, I was not yet walking on this world when Schengen took its first steps. I haven’t seen the construction of the Community, but I can experience all its benefits.
From this town, where I’m still living, I witness the destruction of the Coronavirus. In quarantine, I have enough time to keep up with what’s happening in Brussels. What I can see the European Union is being challenged, as always, by national egoisms in which solidarity is a distant and meaningless word. Although the European Union is the only one able to react, intergovernmental mechanisms still prevail genuinely.
In a speech of 1950 Alcide De Gasperi, founding father of Europe, said: “We must overcome the barriers of the past in the name of the European future, in the name of common salvation”. Seventy years later, the same words should resound.
The Coronavirus has shown the weaknesses of the European Union. It opened the can of worms. It triggered a bomb. And no one was ready to contain its effects. The truth is, we all knew how vulnerable and precarious the European balance was, but no one took action. Nobody is ready to put on the table the countless differences that pervade the continent and make them a strong point. We are afraid of being weak. And we do not want to appear feeble and insecure at a time when national economies are slowly dying.
Where we are
The EU suspended Schengen. The nations locked into themselves. The European Union is fighting against itself to preserve any hope for its future. What will Europe await us once the emergency is over? Cause yes, we remain Europeans, as we always have been. What the European Union shows today in its intergovernmental version is not what we are. The idea of Community born decades ago was different, without personalism and an innate propensity for freedom. That’s what we should be.
We found ourselves choosing respect for the budget over-sharing European democratic principles. That can describe ourselves as in moral decline. Nowadays, the European Union appears as a mere economic machine, moving with difficulty in a political and social context that is already under severe strain. The criticism over the European stability mechanism implemented by individual countries is just the latest signal of how the Union we want to build is taking the wrong path.
It will certainly not be the coronabonds who will improve the European stagnation. However, they indeed represent the economical solution – and among those proposed the only practicable one – but they do not affect the decadence of values in a part of the world that is still its guide. We cannot allow internal divisions to represent fertile ground for a new confrontation between great powers. That is not what the European Union represents.
Future. What does the future plan for us Europeans (Europeanists)? Despite the setback – obvious – the growth path of the European Union remains our future. Europe remains the home of democracy and freedom. That is why we cannot tolerate internal tremors. The Union must make its voice heard, not only for what it stands for but above all for its citizens. This emergency has made it clear how damaging it is to isolate oneself as a country and as a population and how fallible our institutions are at the same time, in approach and communication.
Europe needs to grow and can only do so through a unity of purpose. That does not mean flattening and homologation, but trying to make their differences a vital force. Although federalism is the dream of many, it is understandable that it is not the best way forward for everyone. Nevertheless, collaboration and sincere cooperation are the only keys to turning the corner. And a good result can be achieved.
Word of a Europeanist