Belgium- Brussels : 1. The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values, which are set out in Article I-2 of the Treaty, are common to the Member States. Moreover, the societies of the Member States are characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men. These values play an important role, especially in two specific cases. Firstly, under the procedure for accession set out in Article I-58, any European State wishing to become a member of the Union must respect these values in order to be considered eligible for admission. Secondly, failure by a Member State to respect these values may lead to the suspension of that Member State’s rights deriving from membership of the Union (Article I-59).
But the problem is when the Union itself as an organic unity seems to violate or ignore those principles.
In other words, the European Union is founded on the main values of Enlightenment and Humanism. The man should be in the centre of policy-making and his fundamental rights.
2. The big economic crisis should be seen under the light of these fundamental principles. European leaders faced the big financial crisis in a conservative way of austerity. Concerns that imposing such austerity in already depressed economies would deepen their depression and delay recovery were airily dismissed; fiscal probity, we were assured, would inspire business-boosting confidence, and all would be well. Unfortunately, these fears were proven true and all of the economic research that allegedly supported the austerity push has been discredited.
On the other hand, the United States, after Lehman Brothers’ collapse, faced the problem from another point of view, giving money to growth. In fact, this way was proven more effective.
For the scope of this text there is not much use to mention the numbers and indicators showing the failure of this policy. But I should notice that when the IMF laboriously put together a new database of austerity measures derived from actual changes in spending and tax rates, it found that austerity has a consistently negative effect on growth. Yet even the IMF’s analysis fell short – as the institution itself eventually acknowledged.
After all, the thing is that people are becoming poorer and poorer and austerity led to rapid decrease of unemployment. By financial means, it is totally understandable that production cost in Europe is much higher than in China, in Southern Asia or in Africa. So, there is a matter of competitiveness in all this.
At this very moment Europe should make the big decision to balance between budgetary discipline, development and the human factor, the European citizen, as subject of fundamental rights – as described in the Treaties and in the ECHR. Europe of poverty is not a Europe we dreamed of. It is not a Europe near the fundamental principles of Enlightenment and Humanism.
3. On the other hand, the ghost of fear flies all over Europe. After recent terrorist attacks, there is a big argument about effectiveness of Schengen Agreement. Free movement under Schengen – “a unique symbol of European integration”, according to President Juncker – is in dispute. The current crisis demanded “better joint management of our external borders and more solidarity in coping” with the influx. Schengen has drawn intense criticism from nationalists and Eurosceptics EU-wide.
The so-called “collision of civilisations” seems to set in jeopardy the European attitude of Humanism and fraternity. Moreover, the prospect of unity under a European Federation seems to be removed. The Union must succeed to balance effectively between security measures and fundamental rights. The Institutions and the citizens must be very careful against the possibility of religious and national discriminations between humans. We, as Europeans, have a huge duty: to save the main values of the Union, not to allow setbacks to the European acquis, to prevent possible widening of euroscepticism and of hate between religions, but simultaneously to ensure peace and security within the European territory and, if possible, worldwide.
4. In 2016 Europe will have to face these really huge problems, which could prove an atomic bomb. On contrary, they may prove a real chance to discuss about Europe’s next day. We must discuss frankly and in depth about our Europe. We must define our new vision. We really have to speak about our dreams and the life of our dreams in Europe. The policy of austerity failed and poverty bares poverty. We all dream a Europe of productivity, of progress, of employment. So, we need to be more open to policies of development, investments, and social welfare.
We, also, need a policy for peace and security. A common policy for terrorism and refugees must be immediately concluded. I deeply doubt if the right approach is war and attacks against terrorists. We should firs take care of our citizens by talking and offering them another point of view: of peaceful coexistence between people of different origins and religions; every European citizen should be an ambassador of the European values of Enlightenment. Schengen Agreement must not be de facto cancelled. As mentioned above, 2016 will be a milestone year for the Union. We all must rise before our responsibilities as Europeans. We bring a new vision for Europe or else Europe will expire in our hands. I am optimistic that Europe will succeed, because it has tradition, culture, willingness, and excellent human resources. I am very optimistic that we all Europeans will succeed building our new Europe together!