Speech by John Bruton to IIEA in Brussels on 27th April
The European Union will only survive the dramatic changes that the twenty first century will bring if the citizens of all EU states develop a common sense of European patriotism, alongside their national patriotisms. Appeals to monetary self interest and rational calculation alone will not be enough to keep the Union together in face of a new world dominated by Asian economic power.
European patriotism, like national patriotism, is not something that will arise spontaneously. It has to be fostered by the use of symbols,and appeals to people’s emotions, by political leaders who make a conscious decision to do so. This is not merely a matter for information campaigns and advertising. It is a matter for political leadership.
The 9th May 2010 will be the 60th anniversary of the Schumann Declaration that launched the project that has become the European Union, and it is also the date of an important election in the German state of Nord Rhine Westphalia.
How stands the European Union sixty years on,
- after an unprecedented enlargement to 27 members?
- after agreeing a new constitutional arrangement approved by all 27 countries democratically?
- after 10 years of its own currency-the euro?
Are the electors of Europe proud of what they have achieved? Do they even think about it at all or do they just take it for granted
Are they proud of the fact that, despite being told from the very beginning by the Anglo Saxon press that the project of democratically pooling sovereignty was hopelessly naive, and despite being told by others that Europe was suffering a problem called “euro sclerosis”, are they proud of the fact that, against all those odds, the EU has grown to 350 million people, has a new Treaty is in place, and the euro is holding its own?
EUROPEANS SHOULD BE PROUD OF HAVING BUILT HISTORY’S ONLY VOLUNTARY UNION OF STATES
Are they proud that we in Europe have created the only truly voluntary and democratic union of states in human history?
I am afraid the answer to all those questions is NO, no they are not particularly proud of it, because they are but rarely told by their timorous political leaders that they should be proud of it. So we should not be surprised if electorates in important election like that in Westphalia think only of their own country’s interests.
But unless the European Union’s citizens come to be proud of their Union, the Union will not survive the twenty first century. A Union, whose base is solely in its technocratic achievements, and not in the hearts of its citizens, will not be capable of withstanding any existential challenge that the twenty first century might throw at it.
INDECISION ON EURO A SYMPTOM OF A DEEPER LACK OF POPULAR BELIEF
That is why so many countries ,that are net contributors to the EU budget, focus on ways to get their money back, and why one country even has a special rebate .
That is why we have not had clear and prompt decision making on a loan to the new Greek Government to help it clean up the mess it inherited. Instead of seeing this as a European problem to which a European solution must be found, we have had a series of national political calculations which ignore the mutual interest we all have in overcoming the Greek problem. We have to wait until after an election in North Rhine Westphalia because an insufficient effort has been made to explain to the intelligent electors of that large German state that sorting out the Greek problem quickly before the election is in their interests for three reasons.
In their interests, first, because the euro has been vitally helpful to Germany in increasing its exports by keeping its exchange rate at a more competitive level than it would have been if Germany was still using the mark.
In their interests, second, because it protects German banks who have bought a lot of Greek bonds.
In their interests, third, because the euro is at the heart of EU integration and a failure of the euro would deprive Germany of economic influence over its key markets .
Europe needs a political leadership in every member state that is willing to explain that Europe’s mutual interests are superior to the separate interests of individual states, and that we will all gain both materially and morally by staying together , and building the “ever closer union” sought in the Treaty of Rome so long ago.