Europe – dreams, needs, possibilities #1




Saturday, 25 March 2017, will mark the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome by 6 countries, which countries, in fact, started the history of the European Union. The history covering the period of those 60 years is the history of a dream about Europe bringing peace and guaranteeing development. It is the history of a dream confronted with the political realities of the changing continent and the world. It is the history of a project which has skilfully effected self-corrections. It is the history of a project which, with all its past, present and forthcoming problems, is a success. I would like to share with you my reflections on that project. I will present to you four parts of an essay about Europe, every day adding each subsequent fragment.

A POST-WAR DREAM

It is believed that before the signing of the Treaty of Rome, when the British diplomats had received invitations to a working meeting on Sicily regarding the future of the most important countries in Europe, according to how the continent was perceived at that time, they expressed their lack of interest in those “archaeological” works on Sicily. The British distance was the British distance based on the sense of their own mission, still an imperial one. In the paroxysm of history it returned as Brexit in 2016. However, in the course of events, the British distance was changed by 3 French vetoes of general de Gaulle into the French distance, supported by the restraint of the European Community of that time. And as late as in 1973 Great Britain became the formal member of the EEC.

The impulse to start works on the Treaty of Rome was the feeling of hope mixed with fear. It was, to some extent, similar to many today’s political processes. The two world wars of the XX century, Hitler elected democratically yet violating all the democratic obligations, totalitarianism and the Holocaust, death and destruction – brought about the sense of long-remembered suffering, tragedy and fear to the post-war generation. Still, such memories also gave people strength to dream. It was the strength to create a vision of peace in Europe and to dream about stable development, based on the co-operation between nations, countries and economies.

The historical paradox consisted in the fact that Europe, as the original Coal and Steel Community, in a group of 6 countries was to supervise the sustainable development and competitiveness among business entities and not among national entities. Simultaneously, however, it was supposed to keep an eye, just in case, on the development of Germany and to restrain that country, so that what happened at the and of 1920s and at the beginning of 1930s in Germany and with Germany would not repeat itself. And what happened in the past was the re-militarization of Germany, contrary to the arrangements of the Treaty of Versailles, which started with the great expansion of industry.

For Germany after World War II the participation in a European project was a test of credibility, which, by the way, with time, succeeded and gave Germany the position of a leader.

The Treaty of Rome brought about the first version of the model of politics of the new European project. Never before in history has the catalogue of the principles of reaching agreements on positions and of co-operating in order to find common solutions been applied on such a large scale, and the principles in question were based on the respect for the identity of the particular states and on the compromise, which compromise curbed the importance of seeing exclusively the interests of the given nation. In that journey the principles, such as the principle of subsidiarity and the rule of searching for the common economic interest, became more precise. And the same regarded even the rules of competitive advantages of what is European with respect to the rest of the continent and the world, including the United States. In Europe it was well known that the post-war beginning and the restoration were possible thanks to the US. And all the more so, the Europeans wanted to repay that debt symbolically, by showing the strength of the European economy.

The Treaty of Rome was a living document and it built living institutions. In practice – it became clear that the genuine defence of peace must lead through the defence of democracy. And in the contemporary world the defence of democracy consists in protecting the freedom of a citizen against the potential designs of the state. Namely, of each state which might feel the temptation of authoritarianism. So that the police would not be able to enter people’s homes without a warrant and keep people under arrest. So that we would have the efficiently functioning separation of powers: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – guaranteed by the Constitutional Tribunals. So that the impartiality of the public media would be the obligation of the democratic governance. So that nobody would be discriminated against because of his or her different political views, religion, skin colour, origin or disability. With time, other characteristics, important for an individual, were added, such as gender and sexual orientation.

Today, after many years, it is clear that the motifs connected with the canons of the European values, focusing on the defence of freedom and liberties, have been present in the concept of the European project since the very beginning.

They are not and they have never been a mere decoration added in the recent years – which nationalists and populists attempt to persuade today the disorientated part of the Europeans. Since the beginning of the debate about the common Europe two sets of political views have been constantly clashing with one another: the views of the Christian Democracy (a key fundament of the new Europe) with the socialist views, sensitive to social matters.

In this European dream there was space for the market economy, which built its competitive advantages thanks to the common international framework, and which framework, step by step, led to the single market – a concept elaborated as early as in the 1990s of the XX century. There had to be some space for the guarantees for democracy. That is why at first there was no place in that project for the Francoist Spain or for Salazar’s Portugal. And in this dream there was space for a development model which assumed that the well-being of an individual was the central point of the development-oriented efforts. Here, the experiences of the German Christian Democrats, with their concept of the social market economy, met those of the European Socialists, liberating themselves more and more from the Soviet pressure, who ceased to talk about the prosperity of the masses and started to talk, with greater precision, about the good living conditions of individuals.

Today, a question may arise: may the idea of Europe dating back to the time of the Treaty of Rome and to the sixties of the XX century still be valid? And – in what manner did it respond then and has it responded for the last 60 years to the needs of the inhabitants of the European countries?

Michał Boni
March 2017
On the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome