What went wrong? This was the basic question that was discussed in a three day conference in Brussels at the initiative of the French Magazine 'Nouvel Observateur' and the 'Notre Europe' Institute. The conference gathered more than 100 policy makers and experts with one message - let's reinvent Europe'
Europe is not popular nowadays. In most countries, less than one national citizen supports the European project. There is a serious risk that an anti-European coalition could win the next European elections. Only in Germany there is political stability; elsewhere, the turnout of political elections was unpredictable like in Italy with the surprising victory of the M5S or resulted in the defeat of the governmental party.
When governance fails, can Europe re-invent itself ? J. Delors, the most admired European Commission president expressed his disappointment and distress by the EU's failure to restore leadership by creating a job creating growth model instead of an austerity minded policy. France’s former president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, and author of the constitutional Treaty said that Europe has worked but it " has no more objectives.”
The rise of populism is today the main European social and political issue. Recently, we have experienced the absence of Europe in the tragedy of Lampedusa where earlier this month hundreds of migrants boarded in Tunisia died after their boat capsized. But instead of agreeing on common policy to arrest growing, uncontrolled immigration of Africans seeking refuge in most EU member States , EU leaders prefer national solutions. The result is an increasing appeal of Europe’s extreme-right political parties, ever-stronger notably in Italy, France, Greece, Hungary, Belgium and most Nordic countries, hostile to their governments while using as scapegoats growing income inequality, foreigners, the euro or EU institutions.
The solution to these complex economic, social and political issues is not less Europe. Some prefer the 'federalist' approach, but may underestimate the fact that Europe is not the United States, since its is fundamentally polycentric, with a huge diversity of traditions, cultures, languages. But at the same time they share values, social norms and a 'State of Law'. J.Habermas is right to put at the heart of a renewed European project the issue of democracy and citizens' participation.
We need a vision and concrete action to mobilize Europeans. A true political Union... Our only hope is audacity. But discussing ideas about Europe and its future is already a good start.
P.S: Last week has been quite rich in debates in Italy with the excellent initiative of the newspaper 'La Repubblica' in Venice. A journalist and writer, Barbara Spinelli, (Spinelli's daughter) presented an interesting paper on the Europe we need. An intense debate on European democracy also took place with Massimo Cacciari, the Italian philosopher and former mayor of Venice and Eugenio Scalfari, writer and founder of the newspaper 'la Repubblica'.