‘This crisis will be followed by a European Renaissance’

The United State of Europe is going full steam ahead as planned, regardless of EU failures and how it seems on the surface now.

More than 130 years ago, on March 11, 1882, the French philosopher and polemist Ernest Renan gave a speech at the Sorbonne that was to have a long lasting impact. It was entitled, Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?, or “What is a nation?”. “A nation is […] a great solidarity constituted by the feeling of sacrifices made and those that one is still disposed to make”.

There are still European philosophers and politicians, especially in Brussels, who would prefer to brush away the nation state as an obsolete and even dangerous 19th Century myth. They see the crisis as a means to now finally making a great leap forwards; they still dream of a European federation. If you apply Renan’s clear account to our continent, however, then – even half a century later after laying the foundations of the EU – there is still little to be seen of such a European nation. If anything has been damaged by the crisis and the subsequent extreme austerity drive, then it is that very solidarity and willingness to continue a common life that Renan stressed.

Introduction of a European senate

Whether we like it or not, we have to find specific, democratically-controlled forms of that omnipresent European “space”. It will be difficult and fraught with problems, but there is no way we can go back to 1956.

Where the nation state could acquire a new place is within European democracy. You can therefore justifiably plead for the introduction of a European senate, which, as in the US, reinforces that national element within the European Parliament and European democracy. At least as important is the change in the national ideal from the 19th Century “blood, language and soil ideal” to the more political ideal, as the Americans have. That process is now in full swing in Europe, too.

European Renaissance

This crisis will be followed by a European Renaissance. Of one form or another. From the sorely tried European Union, we will have to recover a European space in which every European feels, in some way, at home. Driven less by dreams and idealism, I fear, and more by bitter necessity. Not triumphant, but realistic and modest.

Parallel economies of local networks

Secondly, that balance can be restored by devoting far more attention to what local elements can contribute to Europe. Everywhere, but especially in the south, we are seeing how, driven by necessity, parallel economies are springing up, based on local knowledge and productslocal networks – that is to say, without any distributive trade – local credit extension, local confidence.

Full article: ‘This crisis will be followed by a European Renaissance’ (Presseurop)

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