Michael Holz talks about what Europe means to him.
In the course of the upcoming European week, I was asked to describe what Europe means to me. For me, Europe, and especially the European project, is first and foremost a geopolitical necessity, an incredible opportunity and a huge challenge. For me, Europe is also a systemic question. How do we want to shape our Europe for the future? How do we want to live together? What is important for us? What is our interest? These are the questions that we have to ask ourselves permanently. I ask myself these questions very often and the answers are not always clear. Maybe it helps to capture what the current state of affairs is:
Well, we obviously have innumerable problems of many kinds. For example, we have mad heads of state who lead propaganda and trade wars, incarcerate oppositions and manipulate elections, make constitutional changes to undermine democracy and legal systems, and governments, who – based on populist sentiment – forfeit the future of probably several generations of their countrymen in order to break away from our European community. But these are just the problems that we get for free.
We also have self-made problems, which should not be necessary. And we Europeans have them in our own hands. I write down my thoughts as they appear in my head:
We have introduced a common currency, which however, is not based on a common economic and fiscal policy. This is now blowing up into our faces. But we are not capable of reforming the currency zone through catching up with the necessary political integration. Why?
We have no common foreign policy. The Syria intervention by the UK, France and the US has shown that there is no common European Union position on foreign policy issues. High Representative of the EU – Federica Mogherini – cannot take a stand because she has to wait for 28 different opinions. As a result, the EU is sinking into geopolitical insignificance. In times, where geopolitical mediation is of utmost importance, we have no common foreign policy. Why?
We have a refugee crisis but no common asylum system. While some countries really do everything to keep refugees away, a few countries generously take then in. Nevertheless, without a common asylum system, Italy and Greece will collapse under pressure, left alone by us, a community on which they thought they could count on. We are unable to see the refugee crisis as a common problem that needs a common solution. Why?
Our leaders are arguing over the European budget for the years to come. It is about whether it should be 1% or 1.1% of the overall European GDP. Do you have a screw loose? More and more tasks are to be delegated to the EU by its member states, including outer border control, defense, development aid and climate protection. Do you, our leaders, seriously think that you get everything for free? 1% of GDP is a joke. We should talk about 5%. At least. But we do not have the courage to do that. Why?
We still have a democratic deficit in the EU. Our Parliament has no right of initiative. We have no clear separation between the executive and legislative branches. We elect the Parliament and get good proposals from the Commission which are in the pan-European interest. Nevertheless, we are being led astray by the Heads of State and Government of our nations through nontransparent summits and backroom deals. We do not have the courage to demand a true European democracy. A democracy, in which the Parliament has all the necessary rights, the government is formed by a parliamentary majority, and a European Council, which represents the interest of the Member States, but does not have the leading role that leads to today’s unbearable stagnation and lack of transparency. We do not have the courage. Why?
The thoughts are turning in my head now. This is enough for now. I feel that if you – the reader – take an hour in the afternoon sun, thinking about these issues, you have already made a significant contribution and I wish you the strength to self-empowerment in shaping our future.