EU flags in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg
© picture alliance / dpa
The European project is going through a severe crisis of confidence. It is therefore all the more important for us to remind ourselves of Europe’s value. Europe has brought us peace and prosperity. Above all else, it is – now more than ever – a project to shape our future. We can master the tremendous challenges of our age only if we turn Europe into a truly global player. That will enable us to safeguard our community of values, assert our interests as an economic powerhouse and bring a European slant to the future global order.
We are living in a time of fundamental global change. In the emerging economies with their fast-growing societies, new centres of economic and political power are evolving. Thirty years ago Germany exported ten times more goods than China; in 2009 China replaced us as “export world champion”. The relative influence of Europe’s individual countries will continue to decline in the years ahead.
The Treaty of Lisbon
At the same time, however, globalization forces all countries to come to grips with matters they’ve never had to address before. The huge challenges of our times do not respect borders. A functioning global order which can cope with these challenges has yet to emerge. This applies as much to the regulation of the financial markets as it does to combating climate change. We can only respond to these pressing issues by forging partnerships with other major players.
No European country acting alone is equal to these challenges. The united Europe, by contrast, does have the capacity to be a global player. Those advocating a re-nationalization of policy in the face of the debt crisis are ignoring that. They fail to recognize what price such isolation would have. If we turn our backs on Europe, we will be condemning ourselves to insignificance in tomorrow’s world. We will assert our common values and interests as Europeans, or not at all.
A test for Europe
That is the larger picture we must bear in mind in the current crisis. This is not the first test for the European project. The story of integration is one of successive crises that were finally overcome. The founding fathers conceived of this Europe after the catastrophe of the Second World War. The single market and the Schengen Agreement on visa-free travel have their roots in the years of crisis and the infamous “Eurosclerosis”.
This experience must inspire us to overcome the current crisis by making Europe a global player. This Europe has its price. But, most importantly, it has its value, too.
Last updated 21.03.2012