The changes essential to the EU’s future

Europe's World

Citizens' Europe

Picture of Vesna Pusić
Vesna Pusić

What’s needed for the future of the European Union was written into its very foundations as our common values of democracy, solidarity and the rule of law. The long-lasting financial crisis and now the refugee crisis have provided excuses for questioning the purpose of the European Union itself, with discussion extending to the need to preserve those fundamental European values versus attempts to shut them in behind the tightly locked doors of national borders. By pursuing the latter, we have effectively made these values contradict themselves.

This refugee crisis is a test for Europe and all its members because it shows how hard it is to maintain our original values against populist xenophobia. There are very vocal movements in Europe today whose members use referenda to justify the discrimination of minorities or the persecution of certain groups in society. These new ideas have also increasingly begun to take hold in the European institutions, where one can hear highly discriminatory statements about foreigners, who have been described as potential aliens in our orderly European society.

Dealing with the crisis and coping with austerity together is understandably difficult for people, who in times like these are wont to turn increasingly inward and show much less generosity. Changing this will require real leaders, politicians who will not focus on narrow party interests or succumb to populism for a few additional votes. It takes visionaries like Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman who spoke of solidarity and union in a ravaged Europe. If they had the strength and courage to speak about those ideas in such sensitive circumstances, let us not fail to show the same qualities today.

Besides, let us ask ourselves why refugees see their future with us, in Europe, and why their minds are not set on other continents. It is because they see in us a hope that their children will live in a place that respects democratic values and human and civil rights. Are they right?

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