Europe – Dreams, Needs, Possibilities #4

For some time it has been visible that it is more and more difficult to maintain the efficiency of action of the European Union. Generally, not so much in the area of the responsibility of the European Commission or of the European Parliament, but in that of the responsibility of the Council of Europe, that is, in the domain of the co-operation among the member states. And such cooperation is crucial.


For some countries the European Union has become something “tagged along” with them. The languages of the domestic politics and of the European politics have become separated. Some heads of governments use a kind of “double talk”: for the sake of peace and quiet they accept the common decisions of the EU, but in their own countries they oppose to them in their discourse on returning from summit talks.

On the one hand, the European Union is treated as a “milch cow” and, on the other hand, as a scapegoat, on which it is easy to put all the blame. That gives rise to the paralysis of decision-making. Its paradoxical essence is that of adopting decisions and then delaying implementing them.

Simultaneously, the list of subjects and matters about which it is known that it would be difficult to reach an agreement on is growing longer and longer. The openness to addressing difficult problems has diminished. The principles of solidarity have been weakened by the stronger emphasis placed by the particular member states on their own interests. The refugees seeking asylum in Europe have become a threat to religion and to national identity – in the language of some leaders opposing to the loyal actions of the member states in the face of that problem. In this manner the arguments and values are subordinated to the national political game, political marketing and potential election results. In many national communities there is a conviction that it is fitting to “take for oneself” from the European Union what is there to be taken in terms of ideas and the European practices, for instance, the financial support and the solutions meant to facilitate the lives of the Europeans. The rule that it would also be fitting to “give something from oneself” has died in the historic annals of the Treaty of Rome and all the subsequent treaties.

Is that maybe a sign of another generation crisis? And perhaps today the fourth generation of the Europeans after World War II has to cope with the problems of identity, vision, dreams, needs and the possibilities of fulfilling them?

And maybe it is that generation that has to exert pressure on the rulers? Will the young people be able to rescue Europe from disintegration, as they feel the European identity more strongly and more internally? Will they manage to stop being silent and uninvolved? In Austria and in the Netherlands the young have already defended democracy and Europe. In Great Britain – unfortunately not.

Additionally, however, the idea of Europe in the model of the European Union is being undermined by the contemporary populism and nationalism.

The followers of those ideas are the real opponents of the spirit of the Treaty of Rome.

Their visions, propaganda, “fake information” and lies about the European Union’s interference in what should be ascribed only to the national governance wreak havoc and question the credibility of the European mission, which stems from the spirit of the Treaty of Rome. And that mission is: the co-operation of nations, states and economies. And that mission is: the rationality of the single European market, operating for the benefit of its citizens. And that mission is: the developing and cherishing the common values which protect the democracy and the citizens against the omnipotence of power, through the indisputability of the rule of law. It is the rule of law that protects the certainty of the conditions of governance.

That mission is: the orientation towards development and not towards slowing down and delaying. Towards development, which is understood as the European leap forward, which takes advantage of all the possible opportunities, the immense and variegated potential and the persuasion that “together” means “safer, more efficiently, faster”.

Such an approach, in order to lead to the real development, must assume the use of the appropriate tools and – metaphorically speaking – the optimum speeds. Europe has always been a multi-speed Europe. And it is like that also at the moment. It would be absurd if, contrary to the tradition of sixty years standing, dating back to the Treaty of Rome, we wanted to eliminate those whose today’s possibilities of obtaining the same pace of development are smaller than the possibilities of the current leaders. Those who walk more slowly should be helped. However, with one condition: that they want to go in the same direction as the leaders and that they want to talk about how to catch up with the leaders. The debate about the future of the euro should be attended. The discussion about the European Monetary Fund and about the new models of the financial assistance in different forms of economic crises – should be participated in.

Instead of turning one’s back on the new development goals set before the European Union, one should work honestly on them and build one’s own (i.e. of the particular countries) roadmap towards accomplishing them: be that with regard to the strengthening of the economic governance and developing the stability of the euro, or in the digital matters, or with regard to the European Defence Fund, or in the environmental matters, or on the safe modernization of the energy sector, or in the task of helping the refugees, or in the co-operation on counteracting terrorism, or in the defence of the democratic governance and civil rights.

The multi-speed Europe may be tamed if it becomes clear which trajectories are used by the particular partners. But the partners have to still want to remain partners.

What awareness do we have to acquire at these European crossroads? What is fundamental for the living stability of the European project?

The answer is both complicated and simple.

Populism and nationalism dictate a narrow, often stunted, understanding of the national interest. That cannot be reconciled with the tradition of the Treaty of Rome and with the future of the Common Europe. And only the Common Europe brings opportunities for Europe.

One should therefore understand the opportunities which are in front of Europe, all the more so, in the times of great uncertainties and threats. And those opportunities should be brought to the attention of all the Europeans. As should be the risks which losing the European project could bring. Then, we will return to the point of departure (although in a different form) with regard to the European emotions which accompanied the signing of the Treaty of Rome. To hope and fear.

Europe has not wasted the hopes of the year 1957. Let us not waste them now.

Michał Boni

March 2017

On the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome