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George Dassis

President of the European Economic and

Social Committee

Pan European Networks: Government




The aim of the European Union, according to the terms of its own treaty,

is ‘to promote peace, its values and the wellbeing of its peoples’; yet

many, including decision makers themselves, do not seem to think about

this very much. It is as if it were not in everyone’s interest to do everything

possible, above all else, to ensure that the people of Europe continue to

live in dignity and in peace.

We must read Articles 2 and 3 of this treaty, tell others about them,

champion them, and above all actually apply them. Many people probably

think that the texts of these agreements between states must be

fiendishly technical – even “technocratic” – and horribly heavy to wade

through. But that is not the case at all, at least not for the broad principles

set out at the beginning of the treaties. Children should be reading this

at school.

Immediately after the passage I have just quoted, the treaty says: “The

Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice

without internal frontiers”. This shows that the European project was not

intended for abstract entities, systems, administrations or automata: it

was intended for men and women. This project makes a promise to them

and it must fulfil that promise.

A third clause follows in which the word ‘social’ appears five times in

ten lines. For the European Union to recapture the prestige it used to

have among its citizens, that clause does not have to be amended: it just

needs to be implemented.

It is not too late for us to put things right, but we must not delay. Let us

look carefully at the history of the European continent over the course

of the last century and act quickly so as to ensure that mistakes are

not repeated: our future, and that of our children, is in a united and

cohesive Europe.


he European Union is in danger. However noble, intelligent, open

and historically unique it may be, the European project is

currently going through an unprecedented period of crisis. This

is an ideal moment for populists and other hate-mongers: it is an

opportunity for them to deceive vulnerable people by promising them a

better future, a ‘golden dawn’, provided they seek refuge behind

inviolable borders as in the good old days. After all, why deal with our

problems together bravely, creatively and collectively, when we can put

up multiple ‘iron curtains’ wherever we need them and – while we’re at

it – build watchtowers and fit them with machine guns. That will certainly

stop the influx of poor people, keep out dubious characters fleeing wars

or dictatorships, preserve local mores and customs, boost our economy,

benefit our businesses and prevent even the most fanatical criminals

from causing harm.

The truth is that if the European Union breaks apart, it is Europe itself

as a geographical entity that will become exposed, and to danger of the

worst kind. Whatever its shortcomings, since the end of the Second

World War the Union has clearly been a key factor in the preservation of

peace between its member states; Europe has also long been a place

where the rule of law, democracy, social justice and prosperity have

prevailed, whose appeal was such that its own peoples almost

unanimously supported the European project, while those that were not

already members were clamouring to join.

If the Union is in danger, this is precisely because it is not sufficiently

united, integrated or cohesive. It is now divided into too many different

subcomponents, for spheres such as the single currency or freedom of

movement. Europe is now bereft of the various kinds of harmonisation

and common policies that are nevertheless essential, for instance with

regard to taxes, defence or even – and above all – social issues.