Anna Diamantopoulou

Europe Needs Leadership With Vision

Social Europe Journal

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European leaders opt for unification; citizens do not

Three years into the crisis European leaders seem to be convinced of the necessityof European unification. They consider that Europe’s dissolution would be a disaster. According to analysts of Prognos, a European think tank, the extreme scenario of an exit from the Euro of 4 countries – Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy – would cost the global economy a loss of growth of €17.2 trillion ($22.3 trillion) by 2020!

Closer economic and political unification, however, presupposes immediate agreement on major pressing issues such as the banking union and finally a new treaty. This presupposes above all, that European politicians present clearly, sincerely and convincingly to their citizens a major implication: that there will be a further transfer of national sovereignty to the European level. Are European citizens ready to accept such a solution? I do not think so.

The prolonged austerity imposed on the citizens of ailing economies and the burden put upon taxpayers of richer countries for the aid for weaker ones generate anti- European sentiment. Income and living conditions of Member States keep diverging dangerously. From North to South, nationalistic tendencies are on the rise and so are secessionist, extremist, populist and neo-Nazi forces. All this, if left unchallenged, can gain overwhelming influence and could lead to the disintegration of the European Union.

The European leadership has the responsibility to speak not only of a banking union and other incomprehensible institutions but also to persuade European citizens that more integration means more prosperity, more jobs, and more stability. A disintegration of the EU would lead to tough competition, protectionism and instability on the European continent and in the worst case scenario, the failure of the European peace project could even lead to war. Without their Union, European countries will have a difficult and insignificant role in the global economy. By 2050 the world population will be 9bn and Europe will only represent 7% of that, down from 20% in the 1950s. The largest EU countries will represent a maximum of 1% of the world population. In 2050 Europe‘s GDP will only be 10% of world GDP, down from 30% of in the 1950s.

A leadership that inspires and builds consensus

Who will assume Europe’s leadership? No EU member, not even Germany, can unilaterally dictate the rules. Germany is the most probable, the de facto candidate, but the EU’s largest and strongest Member State with its political stance managed to be an isolated giant today.

Germany should use its leading position, based on its strong economy and its size, to build political consensus and convince the governments and people of Europe. This means a new approach to its role: a paradigm of solidarity, discipline and vision. Instead of dictating the rules or finger pointing and beyond being the inspector of others’ compliance, Germany needs to become a builder of consensus and thus gain respect.

The current German stance produces solutions that can be characterised as ‘too little, too late’. Germany seems to be guided more by internal electoral considerations than by a long-term European vision, which is essential for Germany herself.

Hope, trust and solidarity against fear, hate, mistrust and enmity

A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of discord and fear, the spectre of hate and mistrust, the spectre of reborn stereotypes of enmity. To face rising poverty and extremism we need hope, trust and solidarity. A new narrative is needed. The European leadership should propose a new project and a new narrative to the citizens of Europe that consists of:

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