The Europe in which we live in today was imagined and then created by some “visionary” political men at the end of the Second World War. These men were: Jean MONNET, Robert SCHUMAN, Paul-Henri SPAAK, Altiero SPINELLI.
Their first objective: put in place peace and economic stability, in short realise a European Union.
The six founding countries of this community were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. In 1957, twelve years after the hostilities, they signed the Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) usually called the “Common market”.
Seventy years later, what has become of this first great idea?
It is now obvious that Europe is criticised, even by some of its members who benefit from, or have benefited in the past, of its subsidies.
The economic crisis we are going through since 2008, that affects the members of the EU at different levels, has made Europe responsible for our problems.
The Europe we know today is certainly not perfect. It grew too fast, by admitting countries which were economically too different. Its way to work that was based for too long on unanimity, has reached its limits with 28 countries. Competitive distortions, caused by the huge differences between the social and tax legislations of the different member states, has led to a negative feeling and hostile for some.
The recent example of the British referendum, in favour of the “Brexit”, is seen as a warning for the other member states.
Is the future of the European idea at stake?
In my opinion, we need to be careful not to yield to certain popular ideas like the national decline, the closing down of borders, the return to trade protectionism, giving up the single currency, …!
We probably need to change Europe, to make it more simple and to explain it more by reminding the young generations what Europe has given, in terms of agricultural, industrial, infrastructural development to the countries which one after the other joined this community of interests and ideas.
The free movement of people and goods, the “Erasmus” university exchange for our students, are some of the situations that seem to be obvious today but who would have never existed without the European desire of the founding fathers.
Michel PAGEAULT FNRCE (France)