We have built the European Union through courage, wisdom and hard labor. It is through renewed courage, greater wisdom and harder labor that we must strengthen it.
Through courage, we, Europeans, together with our allies and friends, have brilliantly overcome the twentieth-century mortal threats to our civilization: Fascism and Communism. No words can better sum up the courage needed to fight against Nazism than Winston Churchill’s chilling call on the eve of the great battles of the Second World War:
“In this crisis […] I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
The resilience of Londoners under the bombs, the heroism of the Stalingrad defenders, the sacrifices on the beaches of Normandy and the bloody war in the Pacific, tragically delivered exactly what Churchill foretold.
Courage was at work in the streets of Budapest, Prague, Gdansk, Timișoara when the call of freedom from criminal communist regimes was frantically claimed from the chests of millions of Europeans on the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain. Their courage made possible Reagan’s historic Berlin call
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Which is exactly what he did, a gesture that eventually led to a free and reunited Europe.
Through wisdom, the great European leaders of the post-war Europe, inspired our nations to adhere to a common political ethos and transform the swords that yesterday killed our parents into the ploughshares that today feed our children. It was wisdom that inspired Adenauer in his 1951 vision that:
“the age of nationalism is drawing to its close and (…the European construction…) is rather a creative impulse which is worthy of the magnitude of European tradition, and therefore it is bound to survive beyond the hour of acute peril”.
It was, indeed, wisdom that inspired de Gaulle to provide an equally poignant answer, 12 years later:
“Yesterday it was our duty to be enemies, today it is our right to be brothers.”
It was through wisdom that the dominant USA decided to fuel the newly found European peace as well as the reconstruction of Japan by the Marshall plan, so that we, Europeans, could
“break the vicious circle and restore the confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole.”
It is, indeed, common sense that, in order to achieve peace, it is wise to achieve economic prosperity! It was wisdom that made de Gasperi claim that the European construction
“can only be done by infusing new life into the separate national forces, through the common ideals of our history.”
It was the wisdom to seize the historical moment of the post-war expectations that inspired Schuman to make European leaders face their responsibility with his famous ultimate call:
“if we do not make up our minds in time we shall run the risk of letting slip the last chance of salvation for Europe and for our countries, and which of us would be prepared to take such a responsibility?”.
It was wisdom guided by courage to allow Germany to its historical reunification and it was wisdom to invite into the European Union those who had been held hostages behind the Iron Curtain for too long. It was, again, wisdom that guided the European Union to look beyond its frontiers and establish the Eastern Partnership with those that have the vocation to enlarge our family one day.
By courage and wisdom, not paralysis caused by fright, these historical figures chose to listen to the lucid call of history, instead of following the chimeras of narrow-minded self-centred nationalism, the temptations of illiberalism, the comfort of the status-quo, the vain quest of utopia or the selfishness of petty electoral gains. These reasons, and no other, generated the level of enthusiasm that made European citizens stand firmly by their leaders’ side, trust their leadership and together -courageous and wise leaders with hard-working Europeans- made history! They (in fact we!) built the most forward-looking political construction humankind has ever achieved: the European Union.
Today after a gruelling worldwide sanitary crisis, unprecedented in the past 100 years, we are at the eve of an existential crisis triggered by the ruthless Russian aggression on the Ukrainian people and land. Exposing our weaknesses –in particular the energy crisis triggered by decades of ideologically-based decisions– it is our duty to act decisively: we shall never allow fear to guide our actions, never allow the haunting ghosts of a dark past to derail our long-lasting European destiny, cemented by our unique brotherhood.
Facing the current crisis, we shall yield neither to fear, nor to anarchy, illiberal or theocratic temptations, nor shall we be fouled by utopia. Through our own merits, we have reached the fortunate moment when no rallying call must embed the dramatic words of Churchill from 80 years ago. Indeed, we do possess, intellectually and materially, all it takes to face this crisis from a position of strength, due to the 75 years of European construction from the Atlantic to the Black Sea and from the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle.
We are strong today because, during the times of prosperous peace and unity, we have deciphered many of the mysteries of science, harnessed the power of the atom, cured mortal diseases, provided unequaled levels of education, brought high technologies in every house, refurbished previously destroyed environment. We have built institutions; we have fought the ghosts of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. It is through all these advances that by far have surpassed the most optimistic dreams of our founding fathers, that we have reached freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of movement and unmatched human rights and life-quality and, as such, we are far better today than ever before.
Today, on the footsteps of our brilliant predecessors, is the time of strong political action. Together by strength, and not by fear, it is today that we have the duty to act because, as much as this crisis reminds us all how fragile all that we have built can be, the energies of European talent, determination, confidence and generosity are ready to express themselves.
They must be unleashed through courageous and wise leadership and, therefore, in the spirit of courage and wisdom of the founding fathers of the European Union we believe it is the right time to call upon the current EU leaders to urgent action in order to:
- provide safety and security to European citizens in all aspects of life. Our Union must be present at the forefront of our common response to emergencies, rather than an addition to national responses, as well as the forefront of prevention. In achieving this goal, we recognize and cherish the privileged trans-Atlantic relations, and strengthen our defence based on a strong NATO;
- reconnect, collectively, with the citizens of Europe and the relevant points on their agenda. Democracy is kept alive by the bond of trust among people –demos– and the leadership –kratos–, therefore the public agenda must reflect the concerns of the many, not the petty interests of the vocal few. Peripheral debates fuel the distrust of the Euro-demos in the Euro-kratos and, therefore, should be swiftly replaced by substantial deliberations;
- re-establish the primacy of strong, political leadership based on democratic options, over the technical decisions based on the lowest common denominator;
- reclaim Europe’s proud historical assets: the European Union must reclaim its educational, scientific, economic, political and moral primacy. All these aims must be achieved by a decisively forward-looking Union, while acknowledging that, being proud of our roots, we are “drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law”, as the Treaty of the European Union states;
- recognize and reward the quest for excellence of our youth and citizens, while strengthening the social nature of our Union by ensuring that each citizen is offered the best available conditions to get to high standards of prosperity that every European citizen deserves through his/her efforts. Equity, as a fundamental quest of our Union, shall be achieved by encouraging the less favoured and hence raising the level of the whole;
- cultivate leadership through the power of the example and disavow leadership that is based on arrogance: our solidarity stems from our resemblances and it is nourished by the deep respect for our cultural differences. No European is more European than another and solidarity is the bond that makes our common strength;
- provide European institutions (existing or reformed ones) that are exemplary in their ethics, efficient in their action and, as a consequence of their actions, favourably represented in the collective conscience of all European citizens. This requires inexhaustible energies, it involves durable engagements and long-term political commitment;
- recognize that the European Union is our future as well as our centre of gravity, and promote strong cooperation with those good-willing from Africa, Americas, Asia and Australia. We shall respect the cultures of all nations while displaying firm stances regarding the option for our societal model. We shall be open and tolerant to the others yet uncompromising to those that menace our peaceful way of life from inside or outside. Taking the highest moral stance, we shall constantly fight for the inalienable human rights of all human beings;
- assume the historical role of actively transferring knowledge and through it exporting prosperity to the less advanced areas of the globe and, thus, reduce polarization and the potential for conflict. Recognizing that in order to reach afar we need solid foundations at home, we single out education in the traditional fields of science and the humanities as the focal point of our future investments at home;
- constantly base the decisions that orient our Union on the truth of science and the depth of our cultures rather than the false prophecies of ideologies, misleading utopic ”solutions” to real issues, or the ephemeral electoral interest.
We do recognize that courageous and wise leadership is the expression of citizens’ will to fully participate in the further and stronger construction of the European Union. It is, therefore, also time to call upon the courage and wisdom of our fellow Europeans!
We call upon them to trust the advances of the mind and not to fall in the trap of ignorance, shrewdly promoted through today’s hyper-connectivity, by those that envy our common home!
We call upon our fellow European citizens to wisely identify the able leaders of tomorrow and reject empty populism, toxic nationalism as well as adventurers that capitalize on fear and mistrust. It is our duty to remind us all that such unwise choices forever scarred Europe during the twentieth century.
We call upon our fellow European citizens to be proud of their cultural heritage that each enrich our common Union, to cultivate –in the spirit of our Union– our own cultures so that to conjugate them all in the service of a better European Union, that irradiates its generosity and prosperity far beyond our geographic borders.
We call upon our fellow European citizens to be proud of our common home, the European Union, and perceive it in the spirit of a visionary Vaclav Havel:
“After all, the fact that I feel myself to be a European doesn’t mean that I stop being a Czech. On the contrary: as a Czech I am also a European. I tend to say somewhat poetically that Europe is the «homeland of our homelands».”
Finally, we call our fellow European citizens to act with courage, wisdom and resilience, to stand strong so that we, together, can start over again and continue the great achievements accomplished by those that we lost in this difficult but surmountable crisis.
In varietate concordia!
Daniel Funeriu este chimist, având doctoratul obținut la Universitatea din Strasbourg sub îndrumarea lui Jean-Marie Lehn, laureat al Premiului Nobel. A fost ministru al Educației (2009 – 2012), consilier prezidențial pe probleme de educație și europarlamentar. Anterior, a fost cercetător științific în Franța, SUA, Japonia și Germania.