A united Europe was long the unattainable dream of European peoples tired of bloody rivalry, fratricidal conflicts and ambitions of domination.
It took centuries of war and unspeakable suffering for this dream to materialize. People and ideas had to evolve and mature in order to structure this new political space, to give it life and to make it prosper.
The fruit of these years of toil, perseverance and faith in the future is a territory of twenty-seven countries with a political and social system that is unique in the world, based on the protection of the citizen, on peace, on universal values and on free trade. Thanks to the commitment of some remarkable men and women – Robert Schuman, Paul-Henri Spaak, Jacques Delors, Simone Veil and Michel Rocard to name but a few – Europe has become “Europe”: a mosaic of nations that have chosen to come together to form a Union of 500 million citizens. This choice, unprecedented in human history, has made the European Union the world’s second largest democracy and transformed it into an inspiring model. With the exception of the conflicts in former Yugoslavia, the peace that has prevailed on our continent for sixty years is the most concrete, if often overlooked, success of European construction.
Today, the European Union is entering a new stage with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. This is neither a final outcome nor a crowning achievement. It is a step, but an important and even vital one, given the global challenges we now face. After years of working to improve coherence and satisfy the aspirations of its member countries, Europe is better structured and prepared to turn outwards and to play an effective and important role on the international scene. The Union’s new institutional architecture, which is supported by a solid foundation, prepares it to enter a new phase in its history. Indeed, the Treaty of Lisbon has finally given Europe the voice and the leadership it needs to address the economic, social and political problems that it faces in a united and resolute manner. Without a united Europe, without a Europe of defence and security, the Union cannot hope to play a role in the world.
Two key figures will represent the European Union and ensure that it is heard and respected: a stable President of the Council, Herman Van Rompuy, appointed for two and a half years, and a High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission, Catherine Ashton, appointed for five years. We have suffered too long from a lack of identifiable leadership not to welcome these appointments. They come at a time when Europe must fully assume its place and its role on the international scene. As President of the Council of Foreign Affairs, the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will reorient the responsibilities of the national Foreign Affairs Ministries in this direction. The Georgian crisis, tensions with Iran, the G7 and then G20 summit in Pittsburgh, the Copenhagen climate conference, European aid to Haiti following the earthquake, and more recently the unanimous support of one of its Member States, have all demonstrated that Europe is now capable of speaking with a single voice and that this voice matters.
We needed this. Gone are the days when, by sheer virtue of its existence and its exemplary nature, Europe could content itself with being an interested spectator. In barely a decade, the world has undergone a spectacular metamorphosis. Giants have emerged – China, India and Brazil –, nations the size of continents with billions of inhabitants, driven by their economic growth, political weight and legitimate ambition to be recognized as major powers. These continent countries are as much partners as they are competitors. They are pushing Europe to become a global player by making the most of its unity and its new institutions. Europe can no longer sit and wait for the future to unfold. It needs to show its character, to assume its responsibilities and take control of its destiny, in a world that no longer resembles it and is not going to wait for it. In short, this Europe, whose large corporations have made it the world’s greatest economic power, must embrace its global role and assert its political will. The time has come for Europe to convert its commercial and social energy into a political dynamic that will allow it to take into account geopolitical realities and make its presence known. If not, it will lose its place and its influence in a world that is increasingly prepared to act without it.
No one can say at this point whether Europe will fulfil Montesquieu’s prediction and become “a single state made up of several provinces”. However, irrespective of the configuration it ends up adopting, intergovernmental or federal, we all know that it needs to become one of the major political “poles” on the planet. We also know that we have made Europe but now we must make Europeans. Europe’s construction was smooth but dispassionate. In order for Europe to succeed, the people must embrace its ambitions. We must therefore continue to explain to them who we are and what we want to become. And this why in this issue of “Mondes”, we have focused on Europe’s new horizons./.
¹ A new quarterly bilingual English/French magazine published by the French Foreign and European Affairs Ministry, in partnership with Editions Grasset.