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What does it mean to be European in 2021?

An opinion of Adrien de Merode, doctor of law.

To what extent is there a Europe, which did not yet exist a short time ago in an acceptance other than geographic? The old attempts to unify Europe failed because the differences between the various European peoples were then more important than their commonalities: except for a certain aristocracy and a cultural and scientific elite which were always cosmopolitan.

Today, Europe seeks to unify on behalf of all European nationals. It is because their common interests and the resulting rapprochement have made it possible to change mentalities since the end of the Second World War and, more recently, since the appearance of new modes of transport and communication. These changes are part of the collective consciousness as the ongoing journey towards future reality is accomplished. Now, what sort of reality can this be? It comes in the form of a generalized observation that better than any particular nation or region, Europe is far more qualified, given its continental size and the multiplicity of its skills, to face the world of tomorrow.

Membership in balance

But the theory that justifies the implementation of the European project according to utilitarian parameters, such as the defense of our economic and geopolitical interests or the fight against health insecurity (Covid-19) and climate change, are not sufficient to create a strong feeling of belonging to Europe: although progressing, step by step, it is an opportunity to strengthen ties between the member countries of the Union. In truth, it is rather our ethical values ​​and our conception of democracy that prove to be the foundations of European uniqueness within the international community. However, it is regrettable that the impact of the EU in the world today is far below its potential compared to the United States, Russia or China. In addition, the prospect of further fragmentation of an already divided Europe, notably because of Brexit, does not offer any clear vision of our future. This is why Europe, if it remains disunited, will be at the mercy of its adversaries and reduced to insignificance on the global political scene.

One of the most appropriate measures to counter such a drift would be for the EU and its member states to finally agree to make up for the lack of a comprehensive education policy for European history and culture, instead of the cultural fragmentation that young people face today. It is a question of arousing in them a collective impetus of adhesion to the European ideal: provided that one shows them that their country of origin is only one segment firmly integrated in a whole which is called the Europe; and then explain to them that European citizenship and the particular identity of each people are not mutually exclusive.

God, relegated to the private sphere

On the contrary, a considerable multiplier effect could be obtained by acting together rather than separately in the interest of each and everyone. In the absence of an education that is inspired by this model, the youngest among us will not have the opportunity to learn, during their school career, either of the value or the extent of cultural, artistic and religious heritage bequeathed by the generations which preceded them. What to think of it? Despite the fabulous progress that the technoscientific revolution offers to mankind, it also bears its shadow and abandonment of this unifying form of transcendence, at the societal level, represented by the omnipresence of Christianity in the Europe of yesteryear. . God having since been relegated to the private sphere, due to a long movement of secularization and aspiration to modernity, it was necessary to reconstitute a secular religion for civil society before it could be built solidly in politics. Indeed, a free and democratic society cannot stand up, that is to say in cohesion, without a common morality and a specific culture open to pluralism.

This is why the European Union professes the universal commitment of individuals to a key system of secular values ​​inherited, whatever may be said, from Christian ideas. This is the case with human rights as well as other fundamental precepts such as the protection of individual freedoms, social security and the doctrine of liberalism. At the present time, populist and regional movements are opposed to the notion of the rule of law which leads, according to them, to deprive political power of the prerogative to legislate as it sees fit. In doing so, these currents of right-wing or far-right opinions work for the deconstruction of Europe and flatter ultra-partisan authoritarian conceptions, and sometimes racist, liable to seriously disrupt collective life, like the storming of the Capitol in the United States.

Two different ideologies

In this way, a major conflict arises between two different constitutional ideologies: on the one hand, popular sovereignty at all costs advocated by the Eurosceptic parties in question, which is equivalent to the implementation of a nationalism hostile to the institutional organization. of Europe: on the other hand, the EU which favors the primacy of human rights as well as the separation of powers as superior principles of government of all European peoples. Let us understand, however, that it is not enough for Europe to take advantage of formal values, both in terms of internal public affairs and in terms of its international commitments. It is still necessary that it is really prepared to make them respect and, above all, that it has the means to do so. Otherwise the gap between the apparent firmness of its diplomatic posture and the real inability to assume its ethical policy will only become more evident. Let us therefore take our destiny in hand by freeing ourselves from our dependence on the United States. In this way, we will achieve our strategic, industrial, technological and military autonomy: which will allow us to ensure our own security by ourselves, while raising ourselves to the level of the other great world powers.

May the construction of Europe continue on the basis of this essential truth: the peoples of Europe must consider themselves not as the center, but as part of a whole whose life is conditioned by intra-European solidarity and the new patriotism that ‘she calls.

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