The European Democratic Party held the first European Renewal Forum on Saturday, June 22, in Paris. Europe is undergoing an addition of crises: economic, social, political, institutional. The peoples who compose it, in the grip of doubt and mistrust, turn away from the very idea of Europe. For all those who share the European ideal, it is a huge challenge that requires a decisive strategy to rebuild a sustainable and competitive economy. This is why the EDP, around François Bayrou, Francesco Rutelli and Marielle de Sarnez, brought together leading European personalities as Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier and the President of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt, intellectuals as Krzysztof Pomian or journalists as Clementine Forissier, all deeply concerned about the future of our continent.
Work began with the presentation of a survey on the relationship of the French toward the European Union. Jérôme Fourquet (see his presentation), from the Ifop institute, emphasized the growing detachment of the French, including those traditionally pro-European, from the European idea. There is among them a fading European dream, a sense of waste" because of the importance given to economic integration at the expense of social harmonization and highlighting common values of Europe. The other reason is the sense of an unprepared and too rapid expansion, "cause of imbalance and deadlock" and where solidarity is absent. Contrary to what they were promised, the French feel that Europe does not protect them anymore: it appears unable to provide solutions to protect peoples from the economic crisis that affects its members, when it does the not worse. There is a risk of bursting of the Union between the north and south, between the good and bad students. Greek or Cypriot examples confuse the issue and muddy the waters. Europe is outweighed by world’s major powers, including the emerging markets. It appears blocked and frozen, because of its "disembodied” and "unreadable institutions". It does not seem to serve the peoples but the world of money. The study notes the concern raised by the failure of the Franco-German couple, still seen as the central axis and the historical motor of European integration. France has not done enough to keep up-to-date. Thus that's what she needs to do become again the "European reintegration” engine. This overhaul must be done "from the basis, with more solidarity."
According to Michel Barnier (see his speech), this idea of overhaul and renewal of the European integration is a matter "so demanding, exciting, serious as it should be a matter of national intelligence." One year from the European elections, he believed it is "really the time for a new European commitment". Why do we always have to "wait for the dramatic moments to talk about Europe?” Yet, while Europe has never had to face so many crises, it has never been so challenged as a scapegoat. The commissioner for the internal market regretted this vision of "a shameful Europe". According to him, "lucid citizens" must see the world as it is "for themselves and their children". In 2050, any European country will be part of the G8. "Is what it is that we want? That we accept? That we resign ourselves to no longer be at the table of those who decide the order or disorder of the world? ". The correct answer, the vital answer is the continental response. Europe accounts for 50% of the social spending in the world, but 7% of its population. Without major reforms, it will not last. Given the mistrust of people, Michel Barnier proposed to "provide evidence that Europe works" and took the example of its efforts in favour of a banking union, which make the banks more responsible instead of the taxpayer having to foot the bill. For the last three years, he has submitted 28 regulatory laws. But this is not enough and he saw European renewal as a "duty." He returned Commissioner in order to "participate in the change" in Europe, to break with the ultra-liberal line that has characterized the recent years, "to replace the human person at the heart of the European project" and to “serve the consumers and SMEs rather than always serve the large and big ones”. This implies, according to him, by an industrial policy, social security and tax base and a common industrial policy, that is to say by an implementation of a real European governance.
During the discussions of the roundtable, all participants shared the idea that Europe is at a turning point, "an incredibly important moment of its construction, but incredibly difficult," as said Clementine Forissier, editor of EurActiv.fr. The historian Krzysztof Pomian explained that, in some way, Europe is in its third building after the medieval West, which broke with the religious wars, and the ideological integration of the Enlightenment that collapsed in 1914. These previous integrations were followed by long periods of war and confrontation; we must absolutely avoid this type of crisis. He noted a "loss of language" between the elite and the people. For the journalist Alberto Toscano, it must not be forgotten that Europe, although today in difficulty, has been a "guarantee for 60 years a tremendous growth." Iñaki Goikoetxeta, representing the Basque Country, said he grew up in Franco's Spain, and at that time, "Europe was a dream" that was associated with "democracy, freedom and modernization ". Today, as it became an "area of nightmare," it is necessary that the de facto solidarity that binds Europeans has to be accompanied by a feeling of solidarity. Clementine Forissier thought we should stop lying to say that Europe protects, which ultimately is a "withdrawal." According to her, the hard part is to be done. Krzysztof Pomian adds that this kind of speech could be valid until Maastricht but has no power today because we're building something "that engages in all aspects: symbolic, political and mental”. It was a Europe without people but today people must “dictate the tempo” of the European construction, even if it means slowing down. We need a "radically new" speech because recalling into minds what Europe does is not enough and is not effective in convincing anymore. Alberto Toscano wanted the emphasis to be placed on the concrete, on which affects the everyday lives of Europeans, that Clementine Forissier pointed out, adding that, according to her, the concrete dimension can not be dissociated from the objective; we must speak of a concrete Europe while offering a dream and ultimate goal.
According to Guy Verhofstadt (see his speech), if there is not anymore public support for Europe, it is because there are not anymore politicians in favour of Europe. He blamed the failure of the European leaders, more concerned to ensure that they believe to be their national interest, their popularity, to support the interest of the European citizens, and European interest. It "gave reason to Eurosceptics" when they say that the crisis has been badly governed by elites at the national level and at the European level. Because the real crisis of the European Union is its mode of operation: making a parallel with the U.S., Guy Verhofstadt denounced the decision-making process endorsed by the Lisbon Treaty, which prevents the speed, flexibility and thus the effectiveness of the decisions. It therefore requires a "leap forward" toward "democratic supranational institutions, a European government, European Parliament, European Senate who represents the nation-states of Europe." Unlike Krzysztof Pomian, the former Belgian prime minister thought that we need to go harder and faster, because "this is how it can work or then it will never work" and the economic crisis will last another 10 or 20 years. It is possible and necessary because we belong to the same civilization, "from the Atlantic to the Volga." Europe must then get involved in education and European culture, to make the European citizens understanding they belong to the same civilization.
EDP co-president Francesco Rutelli (see his speech) emphasized the vital role of Europe in the defence of the world's cultural heritage and diversity, in Europe as well in the world where this heritage is threatened, as in Syria. It is not a matter of pride but a strong ambition for Europe. The defence of the cultural exception is an "economic battle" that can be gained through protective measures and investment but also by the "creativity, the identity, the ability to have a mission, an idea, a vision”. This requires an ambitious Europe on these issues. It also requires a democratic Europe, "neither elitist nor populist." Finally, we need a renewed Europe, with more integration, more dynamic, with "solutions for growth and jobs."
In his closing speech, François Bayrou (see his speech) denounced the "challenge of the European debate", which has been deliberately evaded since 2005. The Lisbon Treaty, imposed after the rejection of the first text, was a mistake, because "this mistake let a great resentment among our citizens, giving the impression that this great historical enterprise that is Europe, was an imposed undertaking, whatever the peoples want to say and think about it”. Reconciliation between the French and Europe can only be done by telling them the truth, "face to face, eye to eye, raising the question of their future."
"Citizens should have a say. The tragedy in our public opinion is that the vast majority feel that decisions are taken without the possibility of having an influence on them. If we do not listen to the peoples on the decisions taken by the European Union, we are going to a disaster", he warned. "European citizens must regain their sovereignty over decisions taken in Europe. This is the vision that we defend”, has announced the co-president of the European Democratic Party.
"The European idea needs to be defended with momentum. It needs the Europeans proud of what they are, who are aware that what they are is essential for the future. And we have a process of gathering and openness to all those who feel this way. Because we will be stronger if we are gathered and opened", he conclude with conviction.