Can Europe Make It?

I wish to see more Europe, a more participative Europe

Maximilien von Berg
17 January 2014

Raised and educated in Belgium (12years), France (5years), and the United Kingdom (4years). I also spent time in Switzerland (6months) and Italy (3months). I hold a French baccalaureate, a BA in International Relations and an MPhil in Politics from British universities. I have grown to know each culture well and have found integrating into a new European culture almost effortless.

Amid notable differences even across regions within European countries, similarities amongst Europeans abound. Our histories share key similarities, our present concerns are mutual, and our futures are likely to tie us together. The old dream of a united Europe was repeatedly pursued as much from reasons of shared interest as shared culture.

Europe's diversity and multiculturalism are an inspiration to many citizens of the world. But in today’s Europe, countries seem to be caving inwards due to internal and external societal and financial challenges. Instead of finding solutions in European institutions, politicians are increasingly using Europe and its workings as a scapegoat. In addition, Europeans are increasingly growing disenfranchised by a system in which they do not feel represented.  While we remain attractive to outsiders – Europe is a club of advanced countries where the quality of life is high (human rights, security, welfare, research, technology, etc.) – Europeans seem to have fallen out of love with what our fathers built. Personally, I am located somewhere between Belgian European unconditional love and the French will to shape Europe more than to be shaped by it. I find myself at odds with current British repulsion for Europe.

The consequences of the American subprime mortgage crisis sparked a financial crisis in Europe, which gave way to a liquidity crisis in banks, forcing governments to spend massively to save banks and ensure the survival of the financial system. The problem is that most European states are now operating with heavy debt burdens that weigh on their people and will do so for an extended period. The crisis has shed light on how interlinked the European financial markets have become.

Logically, we now need to work hard to have a future as a Union and this comes across as unfair to many. But we seem to have come to a standstill in European construction. The financial crisis has affected countless financial institutions and bankrupted states – it has eroded the old dream. Europe seems to be a burden when it should be a shield. The debt crisis currently affecting most European nations is set to remain an issue for much of my generation's active life (at least). Moreover, a number of MEPs represent anti-European parties who want to pull out of the Euro, see their country leave the Union, and reintroduce tariffs and protectionism.

But the solution to today's problems must be found in a more participative Europe. I wish to see more Europe, but more of a different Europe. States must abide by more stringent regulatory standards, which a more powerful European executive must be able to monitor. We need to slow down the legislative agenda, make decision-making more transparent in the institutions, and ask for more leadership from the executive. 

In other words, the Europe I hope to see develop is one where member states do not surrender sovereignty but abide by rigorous standards in terms of finances (mainly) but also food, education, transport, immigration and border control. In addition, the progress of new members cannot be detrimental to that of more developed members: more discipline orchestrated by the EU leadership and mechanisms to monitor all members should pave the way to a peaceful and prosperous collective future. We should not let present concerns obscure past achievements.

Finally, I think the field of foreign policy should remain largely state specific and off the European agenda. We need an inspiring set of leaders to give impulse to what is too often perceived as an amorphous and expensive monolith that only complicates the opportunity of being European. I think we owe it to those who have given their lives for the chance for, as of now, twenty-eight countries to cooperate, live peacefully and prosper together. This reality is unheard of in time and space. Let's not forget it.

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