Five days after Star Wars celebrated their World Day – May the Fourth be with you – the “fandom” of the European Union celebrated the 65th anniversary of one of its greatest symbols: The sexagenarian Schuman declaration. On May 9, 1950, the French foreign minister Robert Schuman (alongside Jean Monnet) proposed a plan to pool the production of steel and coal in France and Germany under the control of a common high authority in order to end the hostilities that had previously ravaged Europe. This was the ancestor of what we know nowadays as the European Commission. Officially, it meant a first step in the path towards peace, unity and prosperity in Europe. Unofficially it was a pretext for a more unified and federal Europe. There was no mention of democracy. Today, we try to discern if the ECSC was solely for the pooling of these materials, or perhaps via the memory and horrors of World War II, just a trade orientated peace accord following centuries of war.
Back in yesteryear, oh how we frolicked and prospered!
The absence of open conflict does not mean peace. While the EU is busy telling war stories (VE70 – the 70th anniversary of victory in Europe), the EU neglects what is happening in today’s European society: economic and political instability; a rampant unemployment and social rights crisis; a rapid rise of nationalist movements, including extreme right groups and xenophobia; the deadliest migration route in the world – the Mediterranean; suspicious relations with the US (TTIP and the German case of espionage) and even member states, including Greece, facing a disruptive future due to decisions of organisations of dubious democratic value.
But outwardly across its borders, the EU is besieged by war. Some ignited by irresponsible European foreign policy (Ukraine); others, failed states caused by EU inaction (Syria and Libya). The self-awarded Nobel Peace Prize seems like a pizzeria advertisement legitimising the insignificance of petty EU foreign policy. Other milestones in the history of the EU (see the European Common Market) were built in a top-to-bottom elitist way, led by the United States of America, multinationals and oligopolies. If you are interested in the subject, please google “European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT)”. You are welcome.
Being critical with the EU does not necessarily mean being a bitter eurosceptic. I am very grateful for an EU without war. However, the European Union and its fans should escape from bigotry. The EU should, and must, look to the future in a practical way, by addressing the problems of modern society by being self-critical, with reference and respect for the past. Secret high political tricks are no longer needed. Perhaps what is needed is to adapt the existing structures to these new times in which conflict has returned
The Europeans of today are demanding that the EU represents democracy, justice and equality once and for all, not whenever its suits them for just a select few, within Europe or not. Driven by the true will of the people with pan-European elections giving a clear and genuine mandate to the European executive. To point the way to a peaceful, modern and contemporary society, where the differences are being attenuated, whilst setting an example for the world to follow.
Maybe, in 1950, the European Day would have represented all of that, but not any more. Today, symbols are needed to confront different realities:
- Common migration policy and joint management of migration and asylum crises. We cannot uphold a system of common borders only to goods and not to people.
- A fair system of transfers and compensations that would allow, for example, that the social contributions that generate expatriate workers could be returned to the source regions that invested in their nurturing, training, and health. Otherwise, it is called stealing, is wrong, and I will not point fingers on anyone… Merkel!
- Common fiscal policy and a common minimum wage to complete a genuine Single European Market. In the current way, it only fosters unfair competition between countries and social dumping. A race to the bottom in wages and social rights in favour of business competitiveness.
Renewal or death!
Old leaders, old symbols, old Europe. The European Union needs to mature and be re-founded. The current path is no longer valid. We must learn to solve problems amongst all and for all, without neglecting any citizens – EU or not. We must abandon old structures and walk the path towards a pan-European political system that would prevent national interests competing for their piece of cake in the lunch-room of an asylum.
We must retire the Schuman declaration. After 65 years, the European Union is starting to look too much like a storytelling grandfather who always repeats the same refrain of Nazi victories and medals stale of dusty days. Pretending to draw the attention of some grandchildren, disenchanted by the struggle of the daily battles of everyday, who are threatening to not visit him again. The grandchildren do not want to listen to more stories of turmoil. We want the European Union to have renewed symbols, that would represent them, that would speak about the real problems. We, the Europeans of today, do not want a future as black as coal and as hard as steel of which Schuman spoke.
This article first appeared in The Huffington Post.