Opinion Democracy, budget, solidarity, climate

What Europe after Covid-19 ?

In light of the Covid-19 crisis, what path for Europe seventy-five years after the end of the Second World War? A sleeping beauty towed by the great powers after centuries of domination or a source of inspiration for humanity?

Published on 6 July 2020 at 09:00

In the long run, Europe has greatly contributed to the process of globalization that has been underway since the time of the great explorations. In a short time, Europe has been hit very hard by the pandemic and a historic recession is on the way.

Nothing prevents from reviving the plans of the European Community for Health  proposed in 1952. In economics, on the other hand, it is pointless to expect a new Marshall plan from the United States of America. 

This continent is not starting from scratch, Europe’s architects built a shared European house where peace, freedom, democracy, prosperity, the rule of law and a certain solidarity prevail. Determined, drawing their convictions from a shared trauma, that of the horrors of war, they were resistors and death camp survivors  and their ideals and values formed the backbone of the European Union. “Nothing is possible without men, nothing lasts without institutions” explained Jean Monnet who had imagined this organisation: a European Commission seeks the common European general interest and makes its proposals to the Ministers of States (Council) and citizens’ representatives (European Parliament) under the supervision of a Court of Justice. This revolutionary architecture – of shared sovereignty – has allowed to peacefully unite 27 countries, to conduct common policies (agriculture, Erasmus, trade, common currency, European GPS Galileo, research …) and to form regulations that inspire the whole world (data protection, energy efficiency, etc.).

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Today the European Union needs progress to ensure autonomy and power to Europe. The time has come for new generations to live up to the European heritage. Taxation, budget, external or social action, the EU must decide more by (qualified) majority as unanimity is not democratic and does paralyze it. To move forward, energize industry and materialize a solidarity felt by everyone, its common economic capacity must be increased tenfold (the European budget weighs 1% of its wealth, against 24% for the American federal state) and the EU must be able to borrow.

A helping hand from Europe must definitively supplement the invisible hand – with shared unemployment insurance or a real supranational European reserve of citizens who can be mobilised during crises (doctors, firefighters, etc.) for example – to keep European peoples hopes up. The EU motto “United in diversity” could then be supplemented as follows: “United in diversity and solidarity”. Europeans have the means to be united without being uniform, in solidarity rather than solitary, democrats rather than vetocrats, but there is still an additional meaningful role to be found, an universal ambition to meet its historical greatness.

The Covid-19 has revealed Europe’s vulnerability. It should be better prepared for the crises on which scientists alert us, and climate change is the most frightening: collapse of ecosystems, inhabitable regions, fall in agricultural yields if we continue the current trajectory. Therefore the EU must urgently mobilise all its tools for economic recovery and debt to fight global warming through a decarbonised and fair transition. The EU has an historic opportunity to do so and a duty to the younger generations from whom budgets will be borrowed. The “never again” united its oldest ones, the “everything but not that” linked to an uncontrollable climate change unites all Europeans today (93% according to a survey).

Just seventy years ago, six European countries gathered around the shared management of coal to maintain peace between states, Europe must now clearly unite towards full decarbonisation in 2050 to save ecosystems, but also and above all convince and inspire the world to take action. There will be no prosperity, no resilience of humanity without protected ecosystems. Like Ulysses after a long journey, the European civilisation will only have a lasting existence by completing this last test which will bring it the recognition of all.

This generation is the last to be in capacity to act, so let’s be bold, ambitious and inspiring, keeping in mind the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children”.

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