by Francesco Paolo Sgarlata |
Europe is being asked for actions that it cannot take because it has not been given the power to take them. And then it is criticized for not adopting them.
This is today’s Europe, the great unfinished.
The only sector where a high level of integration has been achieved is the economic and monetary one.
But it has been the national governments themselves that have held back and hindered the path towards an effective European federation for myopia, political calculation and reluctance to yield some of their national power.
Some may say that economic-monetary integration is a very important field nevertheless.
This is true, but it is not enough.
In times of economic crisis – the financial one of 2008 and the one that will be brought now by the coronavirus – having to comply with rigid financial parameters and rules is, for the governments of the weaker European states, extremely difficult.
On the other hand, it is easy to point out to the public the odiousness of these cold rules, the remoteness and estrangement of a power presented as distant and adverse.
And it is just as easy to denounce the absence of actions and interventions by Europe also in other crucial sectors such as immigration or public health: actions and interventions that Europe cannot undertake because the national governments have not allowed them.
Except for the financial sector, the European Union can, in most cases, only suggest, recommend.
The prevalence of the intergovernmental method has emptied the Commission and the European Parliament of power, representation and legitimacy; this clearly does not foster any integration process, no large-scale project, no action conceived as “European”, but only bargaining among national governments, which are concerned only with securing the greatest amount of advantages for their countries to obtain more votes.
We have seen this in two crucial moments such as the immigration and the coronavirus issues: two gargantuan macro-problems that should have been solved jointly at the European level, but that have instead been tackled by governments in a scattered order and often late or inadequately.
The European Union has given an important sign of its presence on the coronavirus issue, this is true, with the only tool at its disposal, that being, as always, the economic-financial one.
But in the other sectors it has done nothing else because it has no power to do it.
And now some call it “the great absentee”, as if its absence were its fault and not the national governments’, which have not allowed it to operate.
That is why today the European Union is perceived by everyone as a financial giant but as a political dwarf; that is why when any non-European head of state comes to our continent to talk to those who make the decisions, they do not go to Brussels, but to Berlin or Paris.
How many fundamental opportunities are being missed! Let’s try, for instance, to imagine whether to help the states most affected by the coronavirus, in addition to the necessary financial aid, the European Union enlisted and set up a task force of volunteer doctors and nurses who went to the places most affected by the pandemic. Just imagine what an incredible effect seeing these people helping in the hospitals would have.
Why aren’t projects like this being carried out? If the European Union did not have the power to take such simple kind of initiatives, it would be a very serious matter; if it had the power but there were no one at the top who could devise indispensable actions to relaunch the image and the very concept of Europe, it would be even more serious; but if it were the selfishness itself of national governments that prevents this from happening, this would be extremely serious.
It is not easy today to be pro-Europe: after the great excitement we experienced when the borders between our nations fell and we adopted the single currency, there has been a growing disillusionment from the public opinion, often fueled by some governments, political parties and unfortunately by many media outlets. We expected a Europe that would make us live a better life, and that has definitely happened in part, but now that same Europe is being presented as if it were the origin of several problems.
But we must not lose sight of what it should and still can be.
We live in difficult times. Great challenges are awaiting us: climate change, demographic explosions in poor countries and consequent epoch-making migratory phenomena, the advent of unknown viruses, the predominance of new superpowers, which, in addition to their economic power, already have the productive one, in the sense that without their products – that are no longer produced locally in the name of globalization and greater profit – the world stops.
Situations that until recently seemed science fiction can suddenly become dramatically real.
We have huge challenges ahead. Either our nations will face them together as Europeans – and they will all win – or they will do it on their own. And history will swipe them away.
Francesco Paolo Sgarlata – Editorial Director