The Awakening

Discussion Paper

Peace, Security & Defence

Picture of Etienne Davignon
Etienne Davignon

President of Friends of Europe, Belgian Minister of State and former European Commission Vice-President

An appeal for a new European ideal

On the 60th anniversary of the signature of the Treaty of Rome, Etienne Davignon, President of Friends of Europe, launches an appeal for an awakening of a European ideal. A list of co-signatories can be found under the article.

The European debate is confused, characterised by doubt, fear and disenchantment.

Now we are the rebels. We think that it is possible to remain clear-headed and not sink into pessimism. To predict the worst is not proof of wisdom. The defeatists are intelligent, proactive, those with a vision are dreamers. We reject this pretence.

Since ancient times Europe’s political story has been characterised by barbaric wars that have endlessly ravaged our continent and accumulated countless victims.

For 70 years Europeans have changed the course of their history. The events that surround us bear witness to the fact that peace is only a fragile reality. There is no need to be an expert to understand this. Ensuring peace remains the primary duty of our Union.

Europeans are and will increasingly be a minority within the global population. This is the unavoidable consequence of global evolution.

A rejection of fatalism is the choice of those who believe they can shape the future. It is not our destiny to be relegated to the periphery.

Confronted with globalisation and accelerating change, people want our model of society to be preserved. The people are right; as the model of withdrawal and isolation has always failed in the past and will have no greater success this time.

People have forgotten that it is the European Union that has the best-protected citizens. It guarantees the quality of water and food; it lowers the cost of phone calls, internet access, transport and energy; it certifies the quality of new medicines. People’s individual freedoms are guaranteed by our Charter of Fundamental Rights (let’s not forget that in 1957, only 12 of the current member states were democracies).

Europe is the only place in the world with a social model that offers everyone education, healthcare, a minimum wage, a pension, annual leave and equality between men and women.

Of course, while the model is incontestable it is also imperfect. Too many inequalities persist. Our will to ensure social justice must be unshakeable.

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has done well so far, holding back and challenging member states and the European Parliament by describing five options for the future. Once their reactions have been noted, the real debate on the EU will begin. It is indispensable for the EU not to leave itself paralysed by the United Kingdom’s decision to return to the open sea.

When determining our approach, we also need to nail two myths.

First, that few things are possible without treaty change – a (false) assertion behind which certain member states are hiding their reluctance to act. But all our proposals are possible under the Lisbon Treaty. The legal services of the Commission and the Council confirm this. The decisions depend only on the strength of our will.

Second, that a multi-speed Union is at odds with the very concept of the European project. More fakery. During its 60 years of existence, the obligations of the member states have never been identical. The original treaty not only allowed these variations, but structured them.

Differentiated transition periods organised these variations; lately it has been again recognised through ‘opt-outs’. We are inventing nothing; we are not questioning the fundamentals; we are organising the differences – permanent or provisional, depending on the choice of member states.

The priorities

1. The eurozone: it has been possible, but painful, to stop the financial crisis that was born in the United States from destroying our monetary union. But reality has bitten; we need to address the fragility of our structures. The European Central Bank has done its duty. At times the Council of Ministers has revealed its weakness and had to recourse to intergovernmental procedures.

So the model must be corrected.

The Eurogroup must become a European institution responsible for all the aspects and achievements of economic and monetary union. Within the European Parliament, the parliamentarians of the eurozone countries must be able to exercise their responsibilities with respect to the deliberations of this Council.

Economic and monetary union brings rights and responsibilities that do not affect those who are not part of it. Naturally, it remains open to those who wish to join and fulfil the conditions of entry. One of the great merits of the European project was to not force the hand of any member state, but no member state has the right to hold back the others from progressing.

2. Protection: the single market must be protected. Its attractiveness gives the EU the necessary weight in all negotiations to protect its fundamental interests.

On security, the terrorist threat can be countered only through a four-pillar strategy:

a) Exemplary and efficient collaboration at the levels of intelligence agencies, police and the judiciary;

b) External border controls – an unavoidable necessity to ensure that the free movement of people (in the Schengen area) is possible. The means must correspond to the increased challenge, and a merciless fight against human smuggling must be undertaken;

c) For those who come to Europe, absolute respect for our fundamental values is a necessity. But of course this implies that all the member states respect our Charter of Fundamental Rights, a common good of the Union, and that breaches are sanctioned in the same way as other violations of the treaties;

d) The EU must participate in resolving conflicts that lead to an exodus of refugees and radicalisation. It is useful to take part in coalitions that work to eradicate terrorism, but it is not enough: the EU must be part of the political dialogue about the future of our neighbouring countries.

The EU must continue to give aid to countries affected by these conflicts through its development aid policies so that they succeed in overcoming the economic and financial consequences of war at their borders.

3. Migration policies: it is right to establish a clear distinction between the victims of conflicts and those who want to settle in the EU. Not to make a difference between the victims of civil war and the perpetuators is scandalous. The main objective remains to replace illegal migration with legal and organised migration.

4. Defence: independence demands military capacity. Current circumstances require the materialisation of this aspiration, which could not become reality with the rejection of the European Defence Community. It is not necessary to draft a new treaty, but to insert this dimension into the current EU structures. The Lisbon Treaty allows this.

5. Growth: disenchantment with Europe coincided with a fall in growth. We need a boost in investment and reinforce the Juncker plan, and the time has come to distinguish in member state budgets the measures that contribute to growth, and prioritise them. Without this, formal budget orthodoxy risks becoming a liability.

6. Young people: mutual recognition of diplomas and the Erasmus scheme have made Europe a unique platform for the younger generations. We must continue in this way by achieving the same equivalences and the same exchanges for technical training and apprenticeships, strengthening the link between companies and educators.

7. The environment: The protection of our environment and sustainable development is the challenge of the century. Can we imagine that it is possible to address this issue successfully outside of the EU?

8. Innovation: the concerns of the British scientists obviously show the added value of European policies for research.

The conclusion is simple. Without Europe, our future is dark.

Our leaders must realise that today they are the authors of what will be our history tomorrow. We cannot limit ourselves to being the managers of the present.

We need to set out a perspective that will direct strategy and action. Priorities are only defined in relation to objectives. We only enjoy a fair wind if we know the port we want to reach.

Let us dare to take pride in what we have already accomplished, have enough clear-headedness to correct our mistakes, and reinforce our solidarity, without which there is no common future.

These are our beliefs.


Jamila Aanzi

Member of the Dutch Appeal Advisory Committee on Childcare Allowance and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Alberto Alemanno

Jean Monnet Professor in EU Law at HEC Paris, Founder of The Good Lobby, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Joaquín Almunia

Visiting Professor at PSIA-Sciences Po Paris, former vice-president of the European Commission and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Edmond Alphandéry

Former French Minister of the Economy (1993-1995)

László Andor

Secretary-General of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), former European commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Francisco Pinto Balsemão

Former Prime Minister of Portugal

Ricardo Baptista Leite

CEO of the International Digital Health and Artificial Intelligence Research Collaborative (I-DAIR), President of ‘UNITE Parliamentarians Network for Global Health’ and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Enrique Barón Crespo

former President of the European Parliament, former President of the European Socialists' Parliamentary Group and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Franco Bassanini

Former Italian Minister of Public Administration

Remus Aurel Benta

Chief Executive Officer at DAW Benta Romania, 2013 European Young Leader

Joachim Bitterlich

Professor at ESCP Europe and Diplomatic Advisor to Helmut Kohl (1987-1998)

Laurens Jan Brinkhorst

Former Dutch Deputy Prime Minister

Elmar Brok

Member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs

John Bruton

Advisor to Fair Observer, former prime minister of Ireland and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Philippe Busquin

Former European Commissioner for Research

Jean-Pierre Buyle

President of

Malcolm Byrne

Irish Senator for the Cultural and Educational Panel and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Geert Cami

Co-Founder and Secretary General of Friends of Europe, and Co-Founder and Co-Secretary General of the Africa-Europe Foundation

Carme Maria Chacón Piqueras

Former Spanish Minister of Defence

Willy Claes

Former Secretary General of NATO

Silvia Console Battilana

Co-Founder & CEO of Auctionomics and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Pat Cox

President of the Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe, former president of the European Parliament and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Gerhard Cromme

Former Chairman of the ThyssenKrupp AG’s Board of Directors

Pierre de Boissieu

Former Secretary General of the Council of the European Union

Henri de Castries

Former Chairman and CEO of AXA

Anna Diamantopoulou

President of the Athens-based think tank DIKTIO, former European commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, and former Greek minister for education and development, and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Lukasz Dziekonski

CEO and Managing Partner of Montis Capital Fund and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Minister of State, President of the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs, former NATO secretary-general and former Dutch foreign minister and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Jacques Delors

President of the European Commission (1985 – 1995)

Xavier Duportet

CEO and Chairman, Eligo Bioscience and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

The late Henrik Enderlein

Founding Director of the Jacques Delors Institute and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Mark Eyskens

Former Belgian Prime Minister

Tanja Fajon

Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Aaron Farrugia

Maltese Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Franco Frattini

Former Italian Foreign Minister

Markus Freiburg

Founder & CEO of Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship (FASE) and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Nathalie Furrer

Director of Climate, Energy & Sustainability, Health, European Young Leaders and State of Europe at Friends of Europe

Josep-Maria Gascón

Co-Founder & CEO of Vitaes and Meditech Capital and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

José María Gil-Robles y Quiñones

Former President of the European Parliament

Edvard Glücksman

Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter Business School and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Elisabeth Guigou

President of the Anna Lindh Foundation, former French Minister and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Jakob Haesler

Managing Director at Foxdixneuf and European Young Leader (EYL40)

Ben Hammersley

Founder of Hammersley Futures and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Wolfgang Ischinger

Chairman of the Munich Security Conference

Shada Islam

Managing Director at New Horizons Project

Klen Jäärats

Director for EU Affairs at the Office of the Prime Minister of Estonia and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica

Deputy Speaker of the Latvian Parliament, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Fiorella Kostoris

Economics Professor at Sapienza University of Rome

Pascal Lamy

Vice President of the Paris Peace Forum, former director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Trustee of Friends of Europe and Member of the Africa-Europe Foundation High-Level Group of Personalities

Eneko Landaburu

Former Director General of the Commission’s External Relations Directorate

John Latsis

Chairman of the Independent Social Research Foundation, Council Member of the Fondation Latsis and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Enrico Letta

Former Prime Minister of Italy

Yves Leterme

Belgian Minister of State and former prime minister and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Thomas Leysen

President of the Governing Board of Friends of Europe and Chairman of Mediahuis, Umicore, the King Baudouin Foundation and the Rubenianum Fund

André Loesekrug-Pietri

Chairman and Scientific Director of the Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI) and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Pauline Massart

Former Deputy Director for Security and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe and Vice-President of WIIS - Women in International Security, Brussels

Louis Michel

MEP and former European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid

Stefano Micossi

Honorary Professor at the College of Europe

Philippe Maystadt

Former President of the European Investment Bank (EIB)

João Wengorovius Meneses

Secretary General, BSCD Portugal and 2012 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Giles Merritt

Founder of Friends of Europe

Marcello Messori

Director of the LUISS School of European Political Economy

Gérard Mestrallet

Chairman of the Board of Directors, Engie & Suez

Joëlle Milquet

Former Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium

Mario Monti

Italian Senator for life, former Italian prime minister, former European commissioner and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Katarzyna Nawrot

Professor, Poznan University of Economics and Business and member Committee of Future Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences

Ferdinando Nelli Feroci

Former European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship

Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck

Former MEP and Belgian Secretary of State

Antonio Padoa Schioppa

President of the European Library for Information and Culture Foundation

Riccardo Perissich

Andris Piebalgs

Senior Fellow at the Florence School of Regulation, former European commissioner for development and for energy, and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Michael Printzos

Director of Programming at the Hellenic Initiative and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Romano Prodi

Former Prime Minister of Italy and President of the European Commission

Nina Rawal

Founder of Emerging Health Ventures, Partner and Co-Head at Trill Impact Ventures and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Claude Rolin

Member of the European Parliament

Onno Ruding

Former Dutch Minister of Finance

Ferdinando Salleo

Former Italian Ambassador to the US

Jacques Santer

Former European Commission President

Jamie Shea

Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence at Friends of Europe, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Javier Solana

President of ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics, former EU high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, former secretary-general of NATO and Trustee of Friends of Europe

Antoinette Spaak

Honorary Belgian Minister of State

Kamilla Sultanova

Diversity and inclusion expert at ConnectUz and 2015-2016 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Cezary Tomczyk

Member of Parliament, Poland and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)

Gianni Toniolo

Professor of Economics

Loukas Tsoukalis

President of ELIAMEP

Herman Van Rompuy

Belgian Minister of State, former president of the European Council, former Belgian prime minister and Trustee of Friends of Europe

António Vitorino

Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and former European commissioner

Max von Bismarck

Chief Business Officer & Managing Director, Deposit Solutions and 2014 European Young Leader (EYL40)


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