On the 1st October 2015, the Freiblickinstitut hosted a debate on the current status of European solidarity.
In July, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, described the Eurogroup negotiations as having been comprised of days whose drama it would be barely possible to surpass. And, when the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, threatened Greece with expulsion from the eurozone, tensions appeared to escalate, with the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi making his position clear in a statement to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero: “Italy does not want Greece to leave the euro and to Germany I say: enough is enough“. And, Renzi was not alone, with, for example, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, also feeling moved to warn that a Grexit would be “fatal” for Germany’s international reputation.
Frictions have also emerged on other issues, such as how to organise the current influx of refugees. While thousands of migrants are left stranded on the small islands of Lampedusa, Kos and Lesbos, the German interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, has accused southern European nations of not fulfilling their obligations according to the EU’s Dublin III Regulation. And, in October 2014, Italy’s Mare Nostrum rescue operation was abandoned due to the unwillingness of other EU nations to support the programme. Yet, as rescue operations in the Mediterranean are reduced, countries are not calling for more Europe-wide support, but are instead temporarily suspending the Schengen Agreement and reinstating border controls. In an extreme case, Hungary even appears to be preparing to build a fence between itself and its EU neighbour Romania.
So, is solidarity in Europe fading or have these tensions, which have suddenly become so apparent, been quietly present since the EU’s very foundation? After all, the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl once said that, if he had held a national referendum about the introduction of a common currency, the euro would never have come into existence. Are we therefore witnessing a diplomatic crisis or a deeper political one? And, what does solidarity mean? Is it perhaps the case, that true solidarity was never part of the EU’s project since this would have presupposed a much closer political union?
Furthermore, how much should we differentiate between solidarity for causes and people and for that for legislation, the different formal classifications of Europe and the roles of member states and their populations within the EU’s institutional structures? After all, while many Germans feel that financial solidarity should be limited in relation to Greece, there have recently been impressive shows of support for refugees arriving in the country. Similarly, while French farmers protest at the import of foreign produce and a referendum on EU membership is proposed in the UK, a great many people clearly continue to appreciate the ability to travel and work abroad which the Schengen agreement grants them. And, contrary to the current sense of crisis, recent opinion polls show that a majority of British, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish citizens all view the European project positively.
How then can we make sense of these seeming contradictions? Do we really need to give up the positive vision of a united, peaceful Europe or can we still work together to resolve our problems?
Christian Moos, General Secretary of Europa-Union Deutschland and Business Division Head within the German Civil Service Federation.
Weronika Priesmeyer-Tkocz, Director of Studies, European Academy Berlin
Funda Tekin, Senior Researcher, Institute for European Politics and Centre international de formation européenne
Georgios Varouxakis, Professor of the History of Political Thought, Queen Mary’s College, University of London
Bruno Waterfield, Brussels Correspondent, The Times
About the debate series:
This debate took place with the support of the European Commission’s Europe for Citizens Programme and is one debate of many taking place as part of an international series of debates on the same theme in cities around Europe, including Barcelona, Bratislava, Brussels, London, Sofia und Warsaw.
Am 1. Oktober 2015 um 19:00 CET veranstaltete das Freiblickinstitut eine Debatte über den jetzigen Stand der Solidarität in Europa.
Die Kanzlerin spricht von Dramatik, die nicht zu überbieten sei, wenn es um die Situation in Europa geht. Die Spannungen innerhalb des Kontinents sind so groß wie nie zuvor seit Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs. Viel zu einfach wäre es, dies allein auf die Situation Griechenlands zurückzuführen oder mit dem Finger auf einzelne Länder zu zeigen, wie es Mode geworden ist.
Was ist aus der positiven Vision eines geeinten, friedlichen Europas geworden? Müssen wir zwischen der EU und Europa unterscheiden? Was eint und was trennt uns in diesem wunderbaren Kontinent mit seinen 500 Millionen Einwohnern?
Christian Moos, Generalsekretär, Europa-Union Deutschland und Geschäftsbereichsleiter beim Deutschen Beamtenbund.
Dr. Weronika Priesmeyer-Tkocz, Studienleiterin, European Academy Berlin
Dr. Funda Tekin, wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin, Institute for European Politics and Centre international de formation européenne
Professor Georgios Varouxakis, Professor of the History of Political Thought, Queen Mary’s College, University of London
Bruno Waterfield, Brüssel-Korrespondent, The Times
Information zum Programm:
Diese Veranstaltung fand mit Unterstützung durch das Programm Europa für Bürgerinnen und Bürger der Europäischen Union statt und bildet einen Teil einer internationalen Diskussionsreihe mit Paralleldebatten zum gleichen Thema in anderen europäischen Städten (u.a. Barcelona, Bratislava, Brüssel, London, Sofia und Warschau).