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Mar 22

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Tough times for the Europeans….

This is not necessarily the best time to declare oneself a European. Probably at no other time has the idea of European integration been more heavily discussed and the notion of the European solidarity put more in doubt. Unfortunately the current discussion concentrates mostly on money and who should give how much under what conditions to whom.

There is no doubt: money is important and the situation in Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and some other EU countries became dramatic partly in result of the drastic budget cuts. The situation was further worsened by the lack of a long-term vision that would convince the peoples of Europe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But even if there was such a vision, at present there is no European leader that would be able to present it in a convincing way. Currently one can only choose between lackluster Manuel Barosso, efficient but lacking any trait of a leader Herman van Rompuy and the loved in German and largely hated in the majority of other European countries Angela Merkel, the most influential woman since Margaret Thatcher. But what we need instead is a “European Obama”, someone like the fathers of the EU, who just a few years after the most brutal of all wars, at the time when Europe still lay in ruins, presented a brave proposal to cooperate with the former enemies instead of repeating the old mistakes of building walls between them. What we need now more than at any other time over the last seven decades is another Schumann, Monet or Delors, who would push the process of the European integration forward.

With the news from Cyprus and Greece dominating the media it’s easy to forget where we have been just 70 years ago. There are struggles and arguments between different member countries, but now these disputes are solved during lunches and dinners of the leaders of these countries and not during bloody conflicts between their citizens. A quick look at the European history shows, that this is not self-evident. Also the fact that one can travel from Lisbon to Tallin without having to show his passport shows how far we had gone over the last two decades.

But this is not a one way street. Europe is not doomed to succeed. And if European integration will be reduced to merely discussing who is going to get how much money from the European budget or different bail-out funds, it is doomed to fail. The European idea cannot be misused to make some countries pay for decades old mistakes and malpractices of governments focused merely on winning the next elections. At the same time members of the EU cannot compete between each other by lowering the wages of its citizens and further increasing the discrepancy between the richest and the poorest. A common European economic policy has to be developed, one that would on one hand allow European economy to remain competitive while at the same time take full advantage of the various economic models existing on our continent.

Somewhere along the way we forgot how and why we got here. The horrors of the past faded away and in the minds of the large majority of the Europeans the European Union has become limited  to the Brussels’ bureaucracy and European leaders seemingly less and less able to reach an agreement on anything. Are we doomed to repeat our mistakes to fully appreciate what we have achieved over the last decades?

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