Osvrt Predsjednika Hollandea na temu Europe [fr]
Osvrt naslovljen "Europa kakvu želim" objavljen je 8. svibnja 2014. godine u francuskoj dnevnoj novini Le Mondeu (prijevod na engleski jezik).
European Union – Article by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, in the daily newspaper Le Monde
Paris, 9 May 2014
The Europe I want
On 8 May 1945, after six years of a bloody and barbaric conflict, peace was declared.
It was a victory for freedom. It averted one of the greatest dangers ever to have threatened humanity. Because of the terrible losses linked to the fighting, the bombings and the suffering of civilians, culminating in the Holocaust, the European countries emerged from the war decimated, their youth sacrificed and their economies in ruins.
And yet, the same continent, the same peoples, the same nations picked themselves up and have, since then, experienced the longest period of peace ever seen in their history. Cities have been rebuilt, living standards have increased many times over, the disappearance of borders has ensured the free movement of people, and the growth in trade has encouraged a return to prosperity.
Europe has been enlarged. It has become the largest group of democratic states and the largest economy in the world.
To what do we owe this unprecedented resurrection, this extraordinary rebirth? To union! To the union of citizens, the union of economies, the union of nations.
This project – is any reminder needed? – was desired by a large majority of French people and of our political parties. It was encouraged, developed and strengthened by several generations of statesmen, who managed to reconcile France and Germany around a project that could be greater than themselves. This friendship is still the foundation of our future. And all the presidents of the Fifth Republic have been fully devoted to it.
We French must remember what we owe Europe. We must remind ourselves of François Mitterrand’s solemn warning, in his last speech to the European Parliament: “Nationalism means war!” We saw it 70 years ago, when civilization almost succumbed. We saw it again, unfortunately, in the former Yugoslavia, torn apart by an ethnic war. We are seeing the threat of it again today, on the fringes of Ukraine and Russia. So let us repeat this obvious, fundamental truth: Europe means peace!
However, this union is threatened today. Owing to the economic crisis, in several countries and in France itself, forces are trying to unravel it by speculating on disappointment, banking on despondency and resurrecting fears. By singling out the foreigner as a scapegoat. By counting on religious discord. By pitting national identities against commitment to Europe. These insidious tactics are thriving in a fertile breeding ground.
The EU is proving to be a disappointment. It is showing its impotence faced with rampant unemployment for so many years, the first casualties of which are young people. It is struggling with its institutions and its complicated rules. It is out of touch when its orders demand sacrifices instead of affording greater protection. People are moving away from it, if not rejecting it altogether. Doubt is fuelling indifference. Incomprehension is stoking rejection.
So should we throw in the towel? Give up? Destroy the work of three generations? Disown those who have shaped it? And undo the progress made in the past 70 years?
Do we, French, want to go back to trade wars, currency clashes and nationalist withdrawal? I respect choices. Rejecting the EU is not prohibited. But if this is the case, people have to do so in full knowledge of the facts, say what they are agreeing to and what they are returning to.
Some people want to leave the euro. They think the currency’s downward slide will easily make us competitive. But devaluation first means price hikes on all imported products, the return of inflation and lower purchasing power for the least well-off. The end of the euro also means harsh austerity. The end of the euro means the disappearance of financial solidarity and a currency given over to the mercy of speculators. Do people believe that greater strength lies in being isolated? It is more than an illusion, it is a trap. One of national decline.
Others want quite simply to dismantle Europe; to break all or some of the commitments, tear up the treaties, bring back customs duties and border police sentry boxes; to cut themselves off not from Europe, but the world. These people, who claim to be patriotic, no longer believe in France. Leaving Europe means leaving history.
Sheltered behind these barriers, they say, we shall be protected from storms, far removed from globalization. Who believes them? How could a country that exports more than a quarter of its production run the risk of isolation? If we refuse others’ products, why would they accept ours? If we no longer want to buy, how will we be able to sell?
Yes, we must regulate world trade. Yes, we must defend our industries. Yes, we must combat social dumping. But slapping new taxes on the products we consume every day at the lowest prices would mean disengagement and, soon, impoverishment.
Today’s world is changing dramatically to the south and the east. New powers are emerging without the old powers reducing their claims. So the future belongs to continents – in other words, to the unity of nations which, while losing none of their uniqueness, join forces to uphold their vision.
Europe is the world’s leading economic bloc. It is far from being its leading political bloc. It is paying the price for this. Our country is able to shoulder its responsibilities – even if it means sometimes being alone. This is why France needs Europe, just as Europe needs France. In the short or long term, everything – political realism, the democratic ideal and our self-interest! – requires us to unite, in order to influence the world’s destiny.
Once again, they will tell us, you are denying people the opportunity to choose. We must accept everything or reject everything; it is Europe or chaos.
Well, no! The French people can decide and see their sovereign preference prevail, because not only one Europe is possible. The EU is not an obligation. It leaves nations free. Free to choose Europe or leave it. And above all, free to choose a timid Europe or a proactive Europe.
Indeed, there is a minimalist, commercial, “apolitical” vision of Europe which sees it only as a market, a monetary area with no governance, just a sum of rules, and which portrays the EU as a soulless entity whose only project is to welcome in whatever candidates knock on its door. Its champions are keen on Europe provided it breaks down walls, reduces its budget and lowers its political ambitions. Complicating its institutions by dint of restraining them, they make the EU opaque and distant. For them, abstention on the part of citizens is not a problem: it will even be a solution, ensuring that nothing changes!
Set against this diluted Europe, I offer a determined Europe. One which acts where it is expected, clarifies its decision-making methods, simplifies its procedures, moves forward faster with those countries that want to, and concentrates on future challenges.
This is the Europe which, on the basis of the Euro Area, is restoring strength to the economy, putting an end to blind austerity, controlling finance through the supervision of banks, making its large market an asset in globalization, and defending its currency against irrational movements. It is a Europe that is investing in major projects thanks to new financial instruments. It is a Europe that is putting a stop to social and fiscal competition.
It is a Europe that is protecting its borders, while preserving freedom of movement and guaranteeing respect for the right of asylum.
It is also a Europe that is beginning the energy transition. The Ukraine crisis must give Energy Europe even greater velocity in order to secure our supplies, maintain competitive prices and fight climate change.
I am making this a major priority for the coming years.
We began to realize this Europe two years ago. The speculation that was threatening the Euro Area’s unity has been driven back; interest rates are at their lowest level in history.
Banking union has been introduced, preventing any risk for savers and taxpayers. The financial transaction tax has just been decided on by 10 volunteer countries. The vital objective of growth has been reaffirmed, with youth employment as a priority. The Common Agricultural Policy has been protected. The digital sector and the cultural exception are now shared goals. France has played its part in this reordering of priorities. But I am aware that Europe must go much further in order to regain confidence.
On 25 May, everyone will be called upon to decide which path to follow. The result of the election will determine which direction Europe will take in the next five years, and which leaders will embody it. For the first time, through their ballot, voters will choose the future president of the European Commission. How many people today know this?
It is about nothing more or less than deciding the fate of our continent, its role in the world, and the model of society we want to promote. France wants more than Europe’s progress. It wants a Europe of progress./.