Sunday, November 9, 2014

1989-2014 and beyond: from the fall of the Berlin Wall to a federal Europe

25 years ago the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the fragmented Europe that was inherited from the second world war. It is a simplification to say that the fall ended the Cold War. It was that, but it was also a great step toward a truly unified Europe. Our continent had been a divided force since the end of the Roman Empire, it was a collection of fighting polities. The territorial division had some positive aspects such as institutional competition and innovation. But these were more than compensated by terrible wars and conflicts that culminated in the enormous tragedies of the XXth century. The fall of the wall did not end the tragedies, because we still had to endure the shame of the Balkans war, after which many still celebrate the birth of new nation-states on the ashes of the death of 300.000 people. Most of these small Balkan nation-states are still scarred by tragic ethnic rivalries. The unification of Germany and the integration of the former communist countries in the European Union show the way of progress in the opposite direction: federation and union in diversity. This horizon has many enemies, most notably the nationalist and populist movements of leaders such as Nigel Farage in the UK or Marine Le Pen in France, or the nationalisms fuelled by Vladimir Putin in the East, or the dangerous games played with democracy by Mr. Orban in Hungary. But Europe has made a lot of progress despite their enemies. Today we have common institutions, a common elected Parliament, a common currency for most countries, and free movement across basically virtual borders. We are making progress towards a banking union and a fiscal union. But a federal Europe is more than this. It should be about a true European government directly accountable to the citizenry, in charge of common policies, in the same way as local and regional governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve this, we need a European demos, with people sharing experiences and truly establishing a European political conversation. The European Union is still a factor of attraction: countries want to join and only minorities in member states want to leave. We have to build on this and pay tribute to those that made the fall of the Berlin wall possible, to work now for a truly federal and integrated Europe.

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