United Europe - an integrated spirit -
Can the civil society lay out a Central-Eastern European Vision to address
the Future United Europe?
Motto: " . The salvation of this human world lies
nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect,
in the human meekness and in human responsibility" (Vaclah Havel on
Seven maps of South-Eastern Europe are juxtaposed. Internationally,
our region bears at least seven labels: CEEC - Central Eastern European
Countries, South-Eastern Europe (SEE), The Balkans, CE - Central Europe,
PAC - The Pre-Accession Countries, the Black Sea Countries and lately,
the Carpathian/ Danubian zone. Whatever its accepted label, our identity
has often been questioned. Nonetheless, our nations are deeply rooted
in a common Europe.
Often perceived as a nation “placed where Europe begins and
ends” Romania is a very interesting example of what makes
a European blend. A Latin country in the midst of a “Slavic ocean”
very close to Russia, Greece and Turkey, Romania has a clear European
vocation and a lot to bring to United Europe.
Integration into the Union will only round up Europe’s proven
strength for reconstruction. 58 years ago, the Second World War ended
with the defeat of the worst evil our European soil has ever seen. Five
years later, Robert Schuman presented a plan we still consider the founding
stone of European integration. Three years ago, Minister Joska Fischer
laid before us his personal blueprint for a federal European Union.
Placing those three events side-by-side will convince the most hardened
sceptic how far we have travelled during these 58 years.
But it is not only those who remember the apocalyptic days of the World
War whom will have little doubt about this distance. Most of us, younger
than fifties, feel these fifty -eight years of European construction
in our bones.
And yet, euro-enthusiasm is not the order of the day.
East and West, North and South of the European Union, the integration
project is up for critical debate.
There are positive reasons for encouraging this creative ferment. A
year has already gone by since the Euro notes have been used for the
first time in the Euro-zone. A historic moment put a closure on December
16th in Copenhagen, to long and pain staking negotiations with the ten
most advanced future new members. Only four years to go before Romania
and Bulgaria are likely to join the Union. Just a few months to go before
the European Union will have at its disposal a sixty thousand-strong
rapid reaction force.
All these represent momentuous developments which would make the founding
fathers most proud of their heritage. At the same time, the European
Union has been better at forging ahead with new projects, rather then
at selling them to the public. It is difficult to put the blame on the
shortcuts of political marketing alone.
The European Union is not and will not be an easily sellable product.
And this, for several reasons. The most obvious one, European integration,
is a constant search for middle ground. It does not go beyond what some
members see as a red light. A good example of that is the Niece treaty.
As a result, we are still searching for a magic formula to make our
citizens embrace the European Union the way they once embraced the nation-state,
that is, as a normal arena of political debate.
The post-Niece discussion began before ink dried under the new Treaty.
The scale of the debate is a new phenomenon, and one that we should welcome
very strongly. What is also new is that the discussion is solely devoted
to governance. We are not talking about new projects. The ones on the
agenda, such as:
- enlargement or
- security and defence policy are challenging enough.
- We are discussing the way the European Union is governed
and the way citizens can make an impact.
We, at the Ithaka Foundation are confident that our action
will lead to a better understanding and better function within a United
Europe. Our on-going programmes: “EU Awareness”, “Corporate
Responsibility”, “Branding Romania” and “Youth
2007” are all synergistically designed to promote an active dialogue
within the EU.
What do our programmes specifically represent for Romania, for United
Europe and for the rest of the South Eastern European part of our continent?
First: Accompany what is today a fact, that Romania
and Bulgaria will be able to continue their progress, as the doors of
the EU will definitely not be closed after the first accessions.
Second: Lay out a blue print to later cooperate with
those countries in the region at varying stages in the SAA process,
who will also continue to make progress with the perspective of eventual
Through our programmes, we believe that in the next five years we
will inspire and contribute to the dialogue between the civil society
in “the more advanced candidate countries” and the ones lagging
The enlargement process offers the chance to heal forever the artificial
division of Europe, and the Europeanisation of the Balkans offers the
chance to show how reconciliation and cooperation can be mutually reinforcing.
Peace and prosperity lie at the heart of the benefits which enlargement
- it will help improve security the SPSSE is already tackling common
European problems such as cross-border crime, drug-smuggling, human
trafficking and illegal immigration.
- it will bring new jobs: academic research suggests enlargement will
create 300,000 new jobs in the current Member States and up to 2 million
in the candidate countries;
- it will ultimately give consumers of an enlarged EU access to a wider
range of products at competitive prices, as we create the largest market
in the world with a population of nearly 500 million.
Positioning ourselves as an actor responding to the challenge for a
United Europe, we can righteously look into ways of envisaging the future
and make plans for a yet unborn Europe, with a good half of the continent
comprising new members, mostly Eastern European, who have very different
identities. Our vision of the future of Europe is yet to be defined.
One way of looking at an enlarged Europe is to also consider the spiritual
and cultural heritage of the East Central Part of the continent as a
source of inspiration.
The Romanian, Constantin Noica and the Czech, Jan Patocka, view the soul as a core philosophical concern to redefine our continent’s identity.
The Ithaka Foundation, launching an active dialogue
of the civil society aims to identify through practical exercise and
response for 2007 existing potential aimed at inspiring the spiritual
reinvention of Europe, a possible solution for the crisis of its modernity,
and to foster cooperation with the EU and with our neighbours.
Co-operation is a two-way street. Or, as a Bulgarian colleague has
once stated “integration begins at home”.
In the perspective of European integration, this statement ought to
represent a call to both Romania, Bulgaria and non-candidate countries
with a European vocation to work harder at harmonising their standards
to European ones. It should be a plea to the ten newly invited countries
to share their experience with their neighbors, which are behind, in
terms of promoting more regional projects as a common cause. For us,
at Ithaka it represents a call for action to play a part in what on
December 16th 2002 already became “The United Europe”.