The European Union (EU) has come under fire from the less informed citizens in the old continent, manipulated by demagogues and populists of various kinds committed to convincing them that their problems (unemployment, economic stagnation, loss of social rights, etc.) are attributable to the Community institutions. When the truth is that the EU is not the problem but the way to the solution: to face the current crisis and try to reformulate our model of life with intelligence and wisdom – for the sake of environmental and territorial balance, social welfare and peace – it is necessary to act at Community level. We must make a leap in the European construction to move towards a full political union, a federation with legislative and executive powers comparable to those of any democratic state. Then, the Union will be what its dwellers want it to be, expressing themselves not only at the polls but also at the time of consuming or protesting: we cannot pretend that its quality, like in any other human institution, be better than that of the citizens from which is composed.
The EU is not only, as the more traditional left insists to emphasize, the “Europe of the merchants”. Its creation was mainly due to a very clear political objective: to finally bury the hatchet in Europe, to prevent the economic rivalry between the European great powers from leading to a new massive bloodshed. Obviously, the project was endorsed by the United States for being a firewall to the expansion of Soviet communism. And, of course, it was not incompatible with the market economy and the maintenance of a system in which the economically most powerful always exert more influence than the least strong (is there any other human realm where this is different?). A system that, on the other hand, provides instruments to favor the integration of the most vulnerable sectors of the population and the least developed countries within and outside the EU -has not been the membership to EU a blessing for Spain?- in order to correct both personal and regional inequalities.
The trick of European integration, the key for its success (until now), was to create a strong community of interests, a friendship forged with economic ties that has proved to be the most effective – far more than the useless appeals to peace from the Pope – to conjure up the war. For who throws stones at his own roof? It was the concept of “perpetual peace” through trade that Kant had already pointed out two centuries earlier. Six decades later we can attest to that. And one has to be very blind to deny, despite all the defects and vices of the EU (bureaucracy, inaction in foreign policy, shady deals, compromising with satraps, revolving doors between public and private …), that Europe has advanced economically and socially a lot since the end of World War II. There are also other things that often go unnoticed, such as the role of the EU as a counterweight to the abuses of large companies and as a guarantor of stability in its immediate geographical environment.
In short, if we want to change the world and try to overcome this casino capitalism, we would make a serious mistake in taking the process begun in 1951 with the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) as an enemy. I’m afraid that if the EU were to implode, it would take no more than a generation for Europe being again involved in the tragedy of war. I’m sure that my admired Stefan Zweig, an admittedly pro-European writer who lived through the horror of both world wars, would think the same nowadays if he was alive.