Just like every other year, since I was about 16 years old, the days leading to Europe Day make me think about the European integration, how we’re doing as Europeans, what I wish for the future, and how this fits with what I see happening around me. I re-read the Shuman declaration this year.
And more than ever, this quote seems appropriate for the occasion of 9 May 2020: “World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.”
This year is special (no shit!). And feels like a utopia. And a bit scary. In particular if you’re living in a country, where 10k people were just protesting against the right-wing government whose role model is Viktor Orban. This crisis situation is unlike any other. And so it needs a response without historic precedent.
The Schuman declaration is a historic milestone because this was the first time in history, when a European top diplomat dared to propose a new, unique and daring solution to centuries long threats. Imagining and theorising about a supranational authority is one thing, applying the concept to concrete sectors and having a vision to build a de facto solidarity between people of nations that have just come out from a bloody war… well, that takes creativity and courage.
Now, 70 years later, Europeans are proud to have been able to keep relative peace on our continent. We are proud to have built a community of 27 nations that can sit at the same table and talk about trade, environment, to some point even workers rights and abortion. We pat ourselves on the backs for being the most welcoming and liberal continent, where people respect each other despite differences.
And we are right to be proud of all those things.
But should we be content with driving the same narrative into a linear direction for 70 years now? Shouldn’t we try to rethink what is it that we are really working to achieve? Do we want a Europe of nations or a Europe that works? Should we allow the current situation to make Member States feel like they can’t be held accountable for breaching human rights?
It’s time for Europeans and Europe to re-discover the creativity. Both, citizens and politicians. Let’s just stop hating for a second and think what we could do better. Being creative means being disruptive. Let’s re-imagine a new integration. One that brings the current EU to a whole new level. And this might mean many things: more or less countries, more or less policy fields, an army, no army, open or closed borders, new institutional setup, new balance of powers…
Every true EU-freak will admit that the beauty of the European Union is that in principle it can be just whatever we wish it to be.It can be whatever the Member States define it to be. But let’s not forget that Member States are also a construct, a product of history, and they can also be re-thought. No modern nation is here since always and nor should we expect it to stay here forever intact. At the end, the power is with the people and with what they believe in.
We all hold responsibility to imagine alternative worlds we wish to live in. Whatever the EU turns out to be on the 71st birthday of the Schuman declaration, I wish that me and my family are still a part of it. Because all in all, the European Union represents something extremely unique in the world: a message of peace, cooperation, tolerance and compassion.