May 9 2012, once again marks Europe day and as we, the citizens of the European Union, find ourselves exactly 62 years ahead of Robert Schuman’s public pronouncement calling for the founding of a united federal Europe, it is more than fitting, especially given recent developments, to pause, look back on his words, constructively reflect on what we have accomplished for the uniting of Europe in the lapse of time between then and now, judge what has gone awry and come up with a new, if need be, plan to go forward.
Schuman’s idea for the building of a united European front, as he himself had forecast, became a living vibrant reality, gradually bringing into existence, through successive spillovers of one policy area into another, that which is today known to us as the European Union. A union by far complete, yet characterized by truly outstanding and admirable founding principles. A union comprised of equal yet diverse European member states and a supranational authority actively created in accord by its very member states. A union that holds as equals all of its member states while at the same time respects each one’s individual diversities. A union that created an internal single market for its members based on four fundamental freedoms: of goods, of persons, of capital, of services. A union that supports research, growth and development. A union that, despite all odds, created and sustained, thus far, a single currency. A union that respects the rule of law and possesses for this purpose appropriate legal mechanisms to uphold it. A union that actively respects democracy and human rights. A union that has come to play a very important role, political and financial, in the international community. What other union do you know of that can boast all of these attributes put together? Few, in their right mind, if given the opportunity, would not want to be part of this union.
Yet, sadly, and as we speak, this union today finds itself in a very tight spot. Some of its members are either turning against it or shying away from it. The financial crisis at hand and the inequalities and dire conditions that have ensued as a direct consequence of the crisis have made certain of the union’s member states, albeit unfairly so, extremely mistrustful of it. Made them lose their faith in its partly overshadowing authority. Made them lose confidence in its founding principles. Made them doubtful whether the equal footing of all member states, guaranteed by union membership, can still be upheld. Made them reject the significance of remaining in the Eurozone. Made them snub the concept of the Single Market and the four fundamental freedoms that the concept upholds. Greece seems, to some extent, to be one of these member states if the results of its recent national elections are anything to go by. The cross-fire of political statements being transmitted the past two days over the media suggests that the leftist government that means to be formed in Greece, if it does finally manage to be formed that is, will be a government that harbours not so friendly an attitude towards the EU, risking thus the standing of Greece both in the eurozone and by extension in the union itself and furthermore potentially signifying the state’s exit from the European community.
Nonetheless, there are those of us in Greece, call us broadminded, call us liberals, who have not in the least lost our faith in Robert Schumann’s idea, which, lest it be forgotten, became a reality partly through our own state’s contribution also. Who still firmly believe in the supremacy and power of Europe, of the European Union, to uphold the principles it was founded upon and to equally support all its member states whether they be in need or not. Who do not blame other external factors or attempt to find scapegoats for the financial situation our state has succumbed to. Who do not renege on our obligations. Who wish to stand united on the European front and with the union’s aid move forward. Who believe that were we to be ousted from the eurozone and perhaps even the union itself, not only would we as a state take ten steps back, but would also cause detrimental damage to the union itself. This is something that must be avoided. To the best of our abilities we must strive, with new plans and new strategies, to keep the idea of a united Europe, which was successfully made flesh, alive and kicking. The EU for us and we for the Union.
Sandy S.M. Tsagas – MA European Politics Business & Law (University of Surrey) – Founding member of Drassi