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Greek crisis/future of Europe

Greek crisis/future of Europe

Published on May 11, 2010
Article by Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, published in the “Libération” newspaper

Paris, May 10, 2010
For Greece, for Europe

With the Greek crisis, which is ours too, Europe is at a watershed moment for its history and future, 60 years almost to the day after the Schuman declaration. Let’s not take the easy way out with anxiety-provoking and defeatist speeches, let’s face facts. This crisis shows just one thing: that we need more Europe. Europe was born out of a crisis, it will emerge stronger from this new ordeal. I am certain of this and am working for it with the whole government and all our European partners.

We are driven by a very simple, very strong conviction: helping Greece today means not only safeguarding our common currency, but also defending the incomes and jobs of the French of tomorrow. Aside from the normal discussions you would expect between 27 States, solidarity between the Europeans is total. It is also exigent. The measures decided on are painful, Greek society is being called on to radically modify its balances. This requires time and courage. I want to pay tribute to the Greek Prime Minister and people. Europe will not abandon them.

We can’t allow ourselves to wait for the next crisis. We have to anticipate: “not to anticipate is already to moan” (1). It is urgent to complete the edifice of the single currency and develop the regulation of the financial markets. In their joint letter of 6 May, President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel made concrete proposals for strengthening the Euro Area’s economic governance and regulating the financial markets. We have to win the day. I don’t know if it will be necessary to change the treaties, but I am sure we will have to change our vision of Europe.

The Greek crisis is highlighting this obvious fact: Europe has reached a critical moment. We have done enough to make our continent an area of prosperity and peace. But the edifice will soon be threatened. If we want to be instrumental in forging our own history, we must give ourselves the means to carry weight in the face of the new players who, before our eyes, are shaping the organization of the world. Or it will be they who will impose their values, model of society and economic choice on us and we will be at the mercy of events.

We need to find something to take over from the impetus which drove the founders, in order once again to find direction and meaning for Europe. It no longer speaks in the same way to the young generations. The word “peace” does not awaken the same dreams if you have or haven’t had to fight for it. The context, above all, has changed: the Cold War has given way to the ferment of a globalization which has to be organized. And Europe once again has to take its own decisions.

The obstacles are first of all political. On one side, those no longer seeking to build the enterprise, but just to put the finishing touches to it and “have some peace”. On the other, those whose ambitions remain fanciful. We run the risk of no longer seeing what we have to gain together. The solutions too are first of all political.

We have the Lisbon Treaty; we have to devise policies commensurate with our institutions. And for this, sweeping pessimism aside, find once again the spirit of compromise on projects for the future; an ambitious European plan for emerging from the crisis; concerted management of energy; and a genuine crisis management capability thanks to the pooling of our resources.

Compromises are always painful. They have an immediate cost, particularly for those sections of the general public in our countries who prefer to seek shelter behind the reassuring framework of national certainties and habits. Agreeing to pay the price was perhaps easier for our elders, because they saw at close hand the moment when Europe was going to be crushed by unforgettable violence. The danger we are running is less visible and more insidious. It is all the more formidable. It is that of abandonment, and first of all abandonment of the European idea itself.

We need a firm, resolute generation of politicians, entrepreneurs and thinkers, whose conscience and especially ambition swell to embrace Europe in its diversity, wealth and the scale of its journey. It is through the development of universities and movement of ideas that, for nearly ten centuries, the first outlines of the European adventure have been shaped. Today again, making the processes more European is the way to spawn the revival.

We are going through the gravest economic crisis in Europe’s existence. The world is already deeply changed by it. On 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman said: we are going to make war between France and Germany impossible. Today we must make it possible for Europe to contribute to organizing the world – the only way for the Europeans to remain masters of their destiny./.

(1) Leonardo da Vinci.

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