Europe needs to have a European dialogue rather than national responses if it wants to prove successful in solving European crises.
Recently, if there was one thing Europe was not lacking, it was crises: the economic and social crisis, intensified by the politics of austerity; the Ukraine crisis and new hazards at the Eastern border of the EU; the refugee crisis with its thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean; the climate crisis, which grows more dangerous every year and finally the crisis of fear in the face of terrorist attacks in Brussels, Istanbul and Paris. They all have consequences for the continent and yet we insist on solving them on a national level.
But national responses to European crisis simply do not work. If we try to accumulate European responses by the sum of national responses, we are compromising the discussion on the base of national sensitivities, playing countries against each other, provoking political turmoils, increasing xenophobia – and above all do not solve the problems at all. During the Euro Crisis, the narrative in politics and the media suggested that Germany forced austerity upon other European states – even though the Portuguese and Greek governments themselves supported austerity measures.
Also, the notion, as Merkel claimed during the election, that Portuguese and Greeks are lazy, even though workers in these countries over the year have more working hours than Germans. The lack of understanding and dialogue brought the EU closer to a breaking point and unintentionally encouraged anti-European and xenophobic groups – also in Austria.
It does not look good for the EU
The EU of diversity and solidarity, so many have fought for, needs rebuilding. Rebuild by us, the European citizens. The only way to make this work is by a dialogue on Europe that involves everyone. The German government understood this. After the crisis created an atmosphere of hostility towards Berlin in the South of Europe, the German minister of state for Europe went to Athens, Lisbon, Rome, Madrid and Marseille to speak at Town-Hall-Meetings directly with the citizens. That is the right way. National politicians need to be responsible to the people that elected them, but nonetheless speak with the collective of our community.
The only way to really represent the voters’ interest, is to find allies across the whole of Europe. The civil societies of our countries need to put more emphasis on a pan-European participation. Greeks need to explain in German television, why austerity is harmful and inefficient. Germans need to emphasize in Hungarian newspapers why we need to receive refugees in Europe. Hungarians need to talk in Portuguese radio why our democracy is once again endangered in 2016. And yes, Portuguese need to elaborate in Austrian newspapers why we need a pan-European dialogue.
Additionally, to a communal civil society we need reformation of the European institutions. Instead of having a debate on decisions in the council between different nation states, we should debate and decide in the European parliament instead. We need more border-crossing discussion. This has to start with each and every one of us. With you.
This article has originally been published in German in the Austrian newspaper “Der Standard”. You can access the original article here.