Sometimes the European integration project seems to move one step forward and two steps back. While important progress was made in shifting the balance between economic and social priorities by integrating the European Pillar of Social Rights* into the European Monetary Union, and the participation of all Heads of State at the Social Summit in Gothenburg three weeks ago, unfortunately yesterday’s summit made the divisions in Europe more visible again. And again it is the lack of solidarity around the issue of migration that divided them. Even the most timid proposal was rejected by the some of the Visegrád countries who should contribute to burden sharing as they have also benefitted greatly from joining the EU over the last decade.
The effects of the push to focus mainly on economic convergence in the enlargement process is more and more visible. There is scope for agreement on security, however, and European defence cooperation (PESC) is a necessary and important step. Agreements are always the result of compromises which themselves are the result of the art of negotiation. But we have come to a point where pressure might be considered to be exerted, as countries like Italy and Greece are doing far more than most to face the massive migration to Europe, not to speak of the thousands of lost lives in the Mediterranean Sea. It is very unpopular to propose making a link between access to European structural funds and the acceptance of burden sharing, but in the end, why not? If Europe is allowed to become a sort of modern supermarket where the Member States can push their caddie around and choose only the “products” they are interested in while ignoring other “articles” this may accelerate the division of Europe.
The division is a reality and upward social convergence is more than the technocratic terminology of the still committed European. It is a necessary process which reconstitutes the glue that keeps the European house together and which needs appropriate financial support through the next Multiannual Financial Framework.
And this Europe, that is supposed to be based on common values and not only on competition between egoistic member states, needs to continue to be an open house with internal rules to be respected by everyone and common shared access rules i.e. legal channels of migration. The coming year will be crucial for making the transnational European integration project attractive again and convincing citizens of the utility and the performance of this project in all parts of Europe. There should not be any place for selfishness neither in Central and Eastern Europe nor on the Iberian Peninsula. History has proved that nationalism, in whatever colour it appears, is a poison that pollutes our “living together” and increases the gaps between us. Widening gaps is easier than narrowing them, but this is where we as civil society organisations have also to assume our role and responsibility. It is better to unite than divide!
*) On 14th December SOLIDAR Secretary General, Conny Reuter, received a letter from Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, with regards to our engagement in favour of the European Pillar of Social Rights. In her letter she is encouraging “to act as an ambassador for the Pillar at all levels of governance and to every man and woman in the street, to remind policymakers and politicians of their commitment to the Pillar regularly and repeatedly.” And “to engage with European, national, and local institutions to ensure the implementation of the 20 principles of the Pillar.” The full version of the letter can be found here.
This editorial appeared in the Weekly Round Up of 15th December 2017.