For 70 years there has been relative peace in Europe. Step by step we have brought down the barriers that keep people apart, got rid of the Cold War, unified under a single currency, and built a more just society based on the rule of law. Every individual has personal freedoms and rights are guaranteed at all levels of society. No one has to fear oppression from government, and Fascisms and Communism were made irrelevant ideologies. Unfortunately, over the last few years, peace in Europe has been under attack from all sides. Russia is chipping away at Europe by financing far right parties and increasing de facto occupying Russian-speaking areas on its borders, hooligans continue their unrelenting attacks on foreigners, banks take advantage of vulnerable states, and national leaders blame the EU for their own failures. It seems that the only people defending the rule of law, freedom, and democracy seem to be the very people under attack, namely the European Institute.
Well, what would a Europe without the EU look like and would you like to live in it? How would your life change? My life would change dramatically, and I do not know if I could live in Europe without the EU. I would not trust national governments to protect my rights, as they have not really done a great job without the EU.
If it weren’t for the EU, there would be no social and economic rights, gay marriage, gender equality, or anti-discrimination laws. Without the EU there would be more borders, more currencies, more anti-foreigner policies and more protectionism. We might even see the return of the death penalty and a resurgence of xenophobia, especially against the Muslim community. Without the EU, Eastern European countries will be more susceptible to Russian domination; and most likely, we will go back to the balance of power model which led to two world wars.
Does my post sound crazy, outrageous and farfetched. I hope it does but who says there has to be peace in Europe forever, and who says that the past will not repeat itself? What guarantees do we have that the old nationalist tendencies that plague Europe for centuries will not return? I for one thought these ideas were impossible until just a few years ago, now I am not so sure.
It wasn’t too long ago that the EU was criticized for being only looking inward. Its critics dubbed it Fortress Europe. They argued that the EU needed to do more let new members in, help refugees, and combat modern global crises. The EU responded by building its capacities, working to be a modern global player, and adopting much more inclusive policies. It created a truly European space for peace transforming fortress Europe into the European Camelot. Unfortunately, an ever deeper union has also made Europe more vulnerable to global pressures. People have lost their sense of belonging and their feeling of control over their own lives. Local communities are having a difficult time with the global transition to the digital age. The easy answer is to blame “Brussels” for all that ails us. The hard answer is that national leaders need to lead and show that the EU is the best guarantee for peace in Europe. Ir reforms in the EU are needed it is the responsibility of the national leaders to lead those reforms. If we want peace we need to protect the European space for peace by actively supporting conflict transformation, dialogue, and mediation both in the EU but also in the European neighborhood.
Unstable borders lead to internal instability which in turn is a direct threat to our personal liberties and freedoms.