Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Europe urgently needs a stronger narrative

There is a growing consensus among intellectual and political elites that Europe, and especially the euro zone, should make progress towards a more federal structure. The European Union has already many federal features, like a common currency for most of the countries and an elected European Parliament. But progress to a fiscal and political union is slow, and some specific social policies badly need a European dimension, non the least a common asylum-refugees-immigration policy. As a consequence, a number of policy and institutional proposals are being circulated to accelerate the federalization of Europe. I welcome all this. However, this is not enough on the ground to fight the forces of populism and nationalism that threaten to divert our energies towards a further fragmentation of sovereignty, instead of working towards a better democratic organization with reasonable transfers of powers to a democratic European government. We need more than policy and institutional proposals. We need a narrative. We need to win the battle not only of the minds but also of the hearts. At the end of the day, people have to vote, and if they are only mobilized by nationalism we will see how Europe becomes a struggle between those that want to create new sovereign-states and those that want to save the current ones. Instead, we should reinvigorate the ideas of peace, solidarity and tolerance, the idea of strength in the unity and diversity that are at the core of the founding fathers of the European Union. We need to go beyond a Europe made only of strong sovereign states, and accept a Europe of institutional diversity. Before 1500, Europe was characterized by institutional diversity: there were city-states, leagues of cities, empires, monarchies, chrurches. Then the sovereign state won the battle for supremacy, because it was functional to the new world of increasing market economies. But nation states have ceased to be functional. We should go back to a world of institutional diversity, with peaceful diversity below a united Europe, this time in a democratic context (which is much more than voting). When most people are asked to think about this, they agree, it is just that they are not even asked to do so. If they were, perhaps the battle against nationalism would be less uphill.

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