Thursday, June 02, 2005

Solidarity as the Foundation of a New European Project

Fair enough, I say. Dutch people have rejected the EuConst making it a dead text walking. Realism commands the following: let's forget about that text, and vote a new treaty that encapsulates the basic institutional improvements (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Long Presidency of the European Council etc..).

The European project, however, does not, and should not, end here. To the contrary, it should begin now. We should learn from defeats, especially from bad defeats as those coming from France and Holland. We should not fear failure for the future, we should launch new ideas for a better Europe.

The reason for doing this should not be found within our polity only, as it has commonly been the case for other project of constitutionalism. In the European case, the constitutionalist project is victim of its own success. Stability, prosperity and peace have been secured to a reasonable extent in Europe. It is only foreseeable, and desirable, that stability, prosperity, and peace within Europe will remain a stable foundation of our continent. From this point of view, we do not need a strong constitution, we only need to reassert old principles. Hence, it would seem at first sight that a constitutional project is only an unnecessary extra.

The truth, however, is that Europe should take greater responsibilities vis-a-vis its neighbours and more generally vis-a-vis the world, which does not have the same level of wealth and opportunities. We do not need internal wars to create a community. Nor need we imagination for building a strong responsible Europe. We merely have to face the reality of the rest of the world: poverty, famine, struggles for liberty and democracy, genocides, wars. Europeans cannot sleep on their comfortable pillows, and limit themselves to the complaint of "camemberre and baguette for all."

Solidarity should be the sovereign values that unites us all. Firstly, solidarity towards our fellow citizens. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that our small privileges curtail the opportunities of other people. For example, a strong and static welfare state may create protection for few, but it also rigidifies the entrance level to the job market for many (see the growing unemployment in Europe).

Secondly, solidarity towards new member states. The fall of the Berlin wall disenfranchised many people. As soon as that happened they turned to Europe asking for help and integration. On what basis could we meaningfully refuse that help? I find no good reasons to reject it. They have already made sacrifices to join our family, and in the mid run they will bring more advantages to us than anything else. Why then should we be afraid to help them making their way into the European Union?

Thirdly, solidarity towards the poorest all over the world. Again the question is, can we really act as if nothing is happening, and enjoy our golden babel tower without taking steps to redress injustices all around us? I do not think we can, and I believe we stil do too little in this direction. We should be unite in order to bring around us a strong message of hope and a substantive help towards reconstruction.

All this is necessary not only on the basis of pure "good samaritan" feelings. It is necessary because in our present world the distinction between internal and external problems has collapsed. We should not be capable of resolving our own problems without thinking of someone else's issues too. After all, how good would it be to be the healthiest person ever, when everyone else around you is weak and ill? To be honest, the necessity of solidarity has always existed, but borders and misinformation have always prevented us from fully grasping the reality. This is not possible anymore.

The European project, therefore, should be based on a strong value of solidarity. Moreover, it should reflect on all the issues stemming from it. This is only a preliminary word, but I hope that our discussion will bring us far in the direction of a stronger, more responsible, Europe.

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