On 25 March, the European Union celebrated the 60th anniversary of the signing of its foundational treaties, known as the Treaty of Rome. We don’t need to waste any time examining the many differences between that continent, little more than a decade after the Second World War, and the Europe of today. A large number of those differences probably wouldn’t have settled in their current forms without the European construction project whose first steps we commemorate today.
Indeed, the European construction process has always been one which the immense majority of Catalans have made our own, as it has been based from the start on the values that we all share. Historically, well before Spain joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1986, Catalonia saw Europe as an aspiration and as an opportunity: a place of freedom, democracy, respect for fundamental rights and cooperation. A place where the profound social and geopolitical changes that this continent has experienced have been able to come together and where conciliatory, pragmatic answers that respect the people’s will have always prevailed.
However, the European Union is currently facing a deep identity crisis which requires all the citizens who make it up and who feel part of it to reflect on our shared future. This malaise, unfortunately, is as much structural as it is ideological.
On the one hand, nowadays the structure of the current Union is too dependent on its bureaucratic machinery, which makes it seem distant from the people’s interests and demands. Obviously, that means that, in turn, citizens do not identify with institutions which they often perceive as being alien and inaccessible.
On the other hand, in terms of ideology, it is time to redefine the concepts that form the European conversation. Facts like the responses to the situations of humanitarian emergencies such as that in the eastern Mediterranean, of Brexit, or even of rising social inequality throughout the continent make it essential to turn nice words into actions. As such, we need to give effective content to words like freedom, democracy, dignity, respect for social and human rights and solidarity between the peoples and citizens of Europe. Evidently, in this context, citizens’ claims to democratically decide their futures within Europe also become central, as in the cases of Catalonia or Scotland, for example.
Aware of the need to redefine the key parameters of the European project, the European Commission recently published its White paper on the future of Europe. This document aims to encourage debate throughout the Union until the next European elections in June 2019. As a starting point, it sketches out five possible scenarios for future relationships between the European peoples, with different levels of commitment.
As an example, one of these scenarios suggests the possibility of a multi-speed Europe in which some member states may advance faster than the rest and initiate collaborations in specific areas, even if other members do not wish to join them. Catalonia, as a fiercely pro-European country, would benefit from this possibility, which would allow the overcoming of vetoes, accelerate decision-making and make joint projects a reality.
In any case, on the subject of the EU’s future, there exists a broad consensus within Catalonia that the best option is to push for more Europe, not less. At the same time, in this new era, Europe has to build stronger links between the Union’s government and European citizens, who should feel that their opinions are taken into account. Only in this way can the disaffection that feeds some Eurosceptic voices be adequately countered, those voices which often also bring up some of the worst memories of Europe’s past and which we cannot allow to come back into our societies.
As a confirmed pro-European, I have no doubt that the EU’s citizens will know how to build this joint project, steering it definitively towards prosperity, liberty, solidarity, diversity and the deepening of democracy. We will become the dream Europe, the place where we have always imagined, and still imagine, progress for our people, especially now that Catalonia is spying new horizons as a nation.