Source: Republic of Greece – Foreign Affairs
Europe needs to speak in a unified, powerful voiceToday, 9 May, Europe celebrates its birthday.Seventy years ago, when – following the horrors of World War II – Robert Schuman envisioned the common space of peace, security and cooperation among peoples, he may not have believed that, over the course of the next 70 years, the European Union would become the only Creation of its kind in political history.During these seven decades, it created a single market with a population of over 500 million – the second-largest economy in the world – launched its own powerful currency and unified a continent of considerable political, economic and cultural differences.However, the ‘Fathers of the Union’ would no doubt have serious concerns about the handling of the successive crises of past decade (financial, refugee, Brexit, populism). And they would perhaps be even more disappointed by the response to the coronavirus pandemic, which is on the verge of becoming a crisis of identity and solidarity.Clearly, the current crisis is like none that came before it – in terms of neither magnitude nor intensity nor the breadth of its looming impact. Millions of people will feel this impact, and most national economies, including the strongest, will be weakened and vulnerable, with no recovery visible on the horizon.And the usual conventional and more or less conservative tools brought to bear so far will not be able to meet this enormous collective threat. We need innovative thinking, bold initiative and a powerful political decision. For the time being, Europe appears to be wasting time and resources on endless disagreements and short-sighted internal divisions. The destructive trenches of the ‘North’ and ‘South’, ‘East’ and ‘West’, ‘planners’ and ‘slackers’, ‘frugal’ and ‘ambitious’ should have no place in the European dialogue.It has to be made clear, in the heart of every European, that we are stronger within the Union than without. Upward revision of the European budget will be in everyone’s interest.Europe must apply the lessons of the euro crisis and strengthen itself as a supranational actor. It has to ask itself the question Konstantinos Karamanlis put to the European Parliament in 1983: “Do we or do we not want the Union of Europe?”Because if we don’t secure this essential cohesion, the ‘unification experiment’ will fail. If not now, then in the next crisis. In the future, ever more complex and unforeseeable problems will test Europe’s collective reflexes.Climate change and increasing migration flows are already here, as are breakneck revolutions in advanced technology and artificial intelligence. How will Europe react? With what tools, what policies? How will it fund solutions? How many different institutional voices will we hear? How will it fortify itself to become a Union that is sustainable and resilient in the face of crises?Years ago, Dimitris Tsatsos called our union a “European Confederacy.” Perhaps now is the time for this description to be borne out through common cause, cooperation and co-creation among the member states.Happy birthday, Europe!