The European integration has always had two faces. The first one based on the institutional, economic and legal convergence, and the other being more social, being expressed in the motions of European identity and European citizenship.
Part of the first pillar – the Eurozone – is now at stake as a result of the financial crisis and years of negligence of mutual control within the European Union itself. Luckily so far the other aspect of the institutional integration in Europe is not being questioned. But we do not know what is yet to come. Several months ago we wouldn’t believe in many of ideas that are now in the mainstream.
Unfortunately, the other element of the European construct – the European consciousness – unnoticeably jumped out of the window the moment crisis knocked at the door. Within days we observed most of the European political elites forgetting about their Europeanness. A vision of a financial crisis possibly messing with the unstable monetary union caused the politicians to step back into their comfort zone of the national arena. Instead of seeing acts suited for the times, as the times of trouble require people of a bigger format and actions of a bigger vision and a higher meaning, we ended up with leaders not courageous enough to be true statesmen of the united Europe.
The sad truth is that no one of them is really interested in acting as European. Each and every EU Member State entrenched in their national rhetoric. Everyone is happy to have same one to complain about, everybody has a scapegoat. The Germans and French has the Greek and Italian to blame for living beyond their means, the Greeks and Italian political elites has the Germans and French to act as the bad guy that forces the painful cuts and reforms. The grey middle zone – countries not big enough or not financially weak enough to be spotted – use their chance not to be in the center of the events. No one wants to jump in as the new ‘problem’ but also no one is interested in sharing the responsibility of rescuing and bailing out the unfortunate ones. But there is no European thinking behind it.
We do not think as Europeans, we think as Germans, Greek, Italians, Poles and so on. Somewhere on the way we lost our ability to act together. It is very convenient for state political elites, because it makes the internal discourse easier – you get the external power that forces you to do things you would otherwise not have done, you have a dog to blame all the non popular decision on.
But on a long term it is detrimental for both the European integration as well as the condition of the economy. Due to the crisis the European project is already pretty fragile, as even a dissolution entered the mainstream debate as a possible solution. If we do not act as a collective, if we do not have and according to a sense of belonging together (or, so as to quote the favorite German expression of Sylvie Goulard, the ‘Wir-Gefühl’). On the other hand, if the markets snd international financial institutions saw a solidary, unanimous Europe not afraid of facing problems and oriented on finding solutions, the search for the latter would be possible in a less chaotic and unpredictable environment.
Maybe it is time for us to have the courage of standing up as Europeans. Europeans caring for and taking care of their co-citizens. Europeans living up to their values.