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A Europe in question
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-05-09 09:12:40
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Only weeks before the European Elections, when European citizens elect their representatives into the common parliament, Europe celebrates Europe Day. This is a day that reminds all Europeans of the fundamental principles of the European Union, of peace and solidarity. The European principles guarantee a decent standard of living for all European citizens; they promote economic and social development. The principles also embrace environmental and regional differences. At least that is the theory, or perhaps what Schuman thought on May 9th 1950, when he deposited his declaration of a united Europe.

In May 1950, Schuman’s declaration seemed the next natural step for a Europe that was in ruins after an exhausting world war. The war had turned Europe into a battlefield for over five years, and left it without a youth only two decades after WWI.  Financial competition was the new world reality, and the only way to deal with this was to unite forces. The European countries had the necessary industrial power to stand between the two giants and perhaps make a third pole in this game. A pole that could guarantee democracy and freedom – after all, the continent had learned the hard way what it meant to be without both. But yet again that was all in theory and the problems started very early.

First was the French veto against UK membership, because of its name – something which by the way should apparently be the same case now with FYROM. Later the competition between Britain and France caused more problems, with additional in and outs from the third major European player, Germany. Still, the EU continued to expand, including Greece and later Spain, Portugal and the Scandinavian countries. In 2009 we have 27 member states, with more waiting in the hallway for their full membership.

The aims of the EU were also questioned. For a long time Britain wanted a relaxed financial and commercial cooperation, with independent foreign and defence policies, while France, Italy and Germany wanted a more tightly knit relationship, like in the case of the United States of America. The unity has often been tested over the years, and one of the worst moments was during the last decade, when Iraq was invaded. Later the union expansion created tension, with ten new member states being added to an EU which was not prepared for such a massive expansion so quickly. This is an obvious crisis. There are other crises, which aren’t that apparent, such as the competition between the USA and Europe, the currency wars, and most importantly the industry wars, which have caused a lot of casualties on both sides.

The European Constitution remains another thorny issue, with only the top of the iceberg showing. Behind it are a series of other issues, mainly made up by the lack of coordination between the major players; a lack of EU leadership; and members with strong agendas that often conflict with the aim of a united Europe. Of course the general economic crisis and the dramatic unemployment rise don’t help much either. And yes, individuals form part of the problem as well, and in this case I’m not talking about Europe’s clown, Silvio and his family dramas.

First there is the European official leadership, Mr. Barroso, who often confuses his loyalties between the American administration and his real bosses – the European citizens. His Commission has become a bureaucratic monster that ignores the needs of the European citizens. Secondly there is a European Parliament that adds an unbelievable amount of meaningless legislations to the lives of people who have no clue why. This is part of the reality, but having said that, I don’t mean that there is no real work going on, especially in the Parliament. But everything they do is ruined by the executive parts of the Union taking over, such as the Commission President or the Council of Prime Ministers.

The European Parliament has voted on a series of laws aimed at protecting and defending democracy and human rights, but unfortunately politics, national agendas and geopolitical interests have often put an end to these. Euro-bureaucracy has become the worst enemy of euro-unity.

And the European Elections show exactly what the European governments think about a united Europe: for most of the European governments, the election is a good chance to promote their own work and on the same time measure their popularity.

What’s next? Well, Europe is suffering from an identity crisis, and it has to rebuild – or better rediscover – the aims of the union. Perhaps the European citizens need reassurance that the principals are still there. The citizens need to know that the European values still exist to protect and defend their interests and prosperity. Instead of having a Europe full of questions, we need a United Europe inspiring confidence and security.

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Emanuel Paparella2009-05-09 15:12:40
A modest question and proposal: what if the Euro-bureaucracy, whom you correctly identify as the worst enemy of Euro-unity, were to be given to understanding that the human rights which the EU proclaims and defends are inalienable, they are not given nor can they be taken away from any state or hyper-state bureaucracy? If that was understood by the bureaucrats, woudl anything change. Just a question and some food for thought.

I write a weekly column on Europe titles deconstructing Europe for the Metanexus Institute's Global Spiral and if there is one overarching issue that has surfaced our the crisis of the EU it is indeed that of inalienable rights which have nothing to do with Machiavellian quest for power obsessively and constantly comparing itself with the US

Emanuel Paparella2009-05-09 15:17:04

The above link is for the curious reader who may wish to check the column "Deconstructing Europe."

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