Flying to Berlin to celebrate the EU – what to be excited about?

I just got stuck in the Brussels aiport, something I admit hasn’t happened as often as it could have. The Virgin Express airline is about to merge with SN Brussels this weekend and probably they do not mind to let their last passengers wait a while longer…So a modest delay of 3 hours gave me plenty of time to catch up with some emails resting in my Inbox and with a deserved blog.

The reason for my second flight to Berlin in 2 weeks is the topic that has been hitting the headlines for a while now. The EU is celebrating its 50 years of existence and the major part of the celebration will take place in Berlin and Rome. Since I have another meeting in Berlin, I decided to go for that, plus I love Berlin and I always like to come back to the city where I spent a very nice period in 2003.

So what should I expect from Berlin and the celebration, or what should I even celebrate, you might ask? First, I certainly do not go there to read the Berlin Declaration, which now appears will be signed only by 3 people (Merkel, Barroso and Poettering). I could read it off the screen from Thailand if I so wished. I also do not go there to join the Euroclubs night, when 27 clubs will be presenting national music cultures…

I go there to see how international the celebration will actually be and what will be the spirit. The informal summit will end sometime in early afternoon on Sunday, just in time for me to get out of the meeting and see the Press Conference with Merkel. Will she manage to strike the deal in the last moment and get all 27 countries behind the Declaration? Not that it really matters, since it might well be forgotten by the time Bayrou surpasses Segolene Royal in the polls.

What should I be excited about then? Certainly there is a lot that the EU has done in the past 50 years. This is nicely summarised in the cartoon “What has Europe ever done for us?� cartoon produced by the European Movement. So, cheaper flights, freedom of movement, regional funds…Yes, sounds like there is something for everyone! Even ERASMUS.

But more major is the fact that the EU has managed to change so deeply the notion of nation state in Europe. It has changed its national political and judicial process, it has of course had a major impact on national policies. It has united by now 27 states and put them into the same regulatory framework. This would be the optimistic assesment.

On the negative side, it perhaps didn’t manage to change national politicians and electorates enough. It still is a source of major disagreements (see Spain over Endesa) when national interests are at stake. It still is taken as a secondary political platform, although it is immensely important for most of the challenges of governance in this Century. Let’s face it, the challenge is not how to build more roads or railways, how to satisfy European peasants, or how to provide electricty to villages. The challenge is how to provide to European citizens an economically sound, safe and promising area of freedom, where 500+ million people can develop their ideas and compete with the rest of the world population. This is not something Lithuania or Italy could solve alone.

This is why I passionately believe the EU is the right tool for the 21st Century governance. Up to us to make the best out of it.

If this weekend touches a bit on this, I will be amazed.

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