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What Holds Europe Together?

Krzysztof Michalski


European and Global Solidarity

Ulrike Lunacek

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1Ad 2) The Union has been enormously successful. It established durable bonds, which made a European civil war virtually impossible. The Union established a zone of peace founded on freedom, the rule of law, and social justice.

2While this might be true, in the era of globalization we cannot disregard the role that the European Union plays in the world. Armed conflict no longer exists within the EU, yet this is not at all true beyond its borders. The EU must bear a measure of responsibility for what occurs in other parts of the world based on its involvement in the global economy and also due to the colonial past of many of its member states.

3In economic contexts, measured by the volume of foreign trade or achievements in the area of developmental work, the EU has long been a global player. It is the greatest contributor to developmental aid and, in recent years, has been willing to eliminate duties for imports from the poorest nations, with no limitation as to amount, in the framework of the “everything but arms” initiative (weapons are excluded, and interim regulations are in effect for bananas, sugar, and rice).

4In the global context, for example in negotiations in the context of the UNO, the EU is often equated with civil, or human and minority rights that still meet with protest elsewhere. These include, to name but a few, fair access to the justice system, individual freedoms, women’s rights, an independent media, environmental protection, and equal rights and anti-discrimination measures protecting people from discrimination on the basis of ethnic origins or sexual orientation.

5It is quite a different picture with negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and with agricultural talks. Ex-EU commissioner Pascal Lamy may have explained that the European Union is always seen as a representative of the above-mentioned values; nonetheless, in the WTO (cf. the Minister’s Conference, Cancun, September 2003) the EU plays a role that propagates a neo-liberal economic policy (e.g., liberalization of public services) on the one hand, and at the same time maintains protectionist measures toward its own agricultural sector.

6Thus, the role of the EU is rather discordant, characterized by a major discrepancy: most of the governments of the member states are still stuck thinking as nation-states, and therefore do not act as a European whole:

  • not as a social union (most recently, for example, in the Kok report on the implementation of the Lisbon strategy, Kok criticized the lack of political will to implement effective measures in terms of employment policies as a general feature);
  • not in matters of tax harmonization (which should be based upon necessary expenditures for a functioning and stable polity to cover the basic needs of the population, rather than on the lowest common denominator); and
  • not in foreign and security policy, as was made shamefully evident during the 2003 Iraq war.

7Ad 4) Economic integration is not enough to drive European political reform. Economic integration simply does not, of itself, lead to political integration because markets cannot produce a politically resilient solidarity. Solidarity—a genuine sense of civic community— is vital because the competition that dominates the marketplace gives rise to powerful centrifugal forces… The original expectation that the EU’s political unity would be a consequence of the European common market has proven illusory.

8I consider this insight to be quite positive: the misconception on the part of some neo-liberal apologists that the market (Who is the market anyway? The market is made up of people and is not a “self-fulfilling instrument.) regulates everything automatically must be firmly contradicted. Markets need controls to do justice to the value of, and right to, the social solidarity people have created. Without state or transnational regulations, values such as solidarity are lost, as “the market” sympathizes at most with the winners. Losers fall by the wayside.

9Solidarity in terms of economic integration, would, in my opinion, mean an actual common EU tax policy—key word: tax harmonization (see above).

10Political union demands political cohesion, a politically grounded community bound by ties of solidarity.

11It is always necessary to add that politically grounded solidarity and commonality are also based on common interests. Pro-solidarity policies function only when a certain amount of self-interest is present. Pure altruism has never really existed—and it is, in personal as well as political dimensions, unpalatable.

12Ad 5) Unfortunately the “values of European citizens” are not defined in any greater detail. What are they? The values of the Enlightenment “liberty, equality, and fraternity”? For at least the last term—fraternity— massive changes have occurred since the end of the eighteenth century. Women’s rights and equality have become European values, which guidelines from the EU have also helped to anchor the legal frameworks of EU member states (and, as part of good governance, beyond).

13Nonetheless, I continue to get the impression (even more so after the 2004 U.S. presidential election campaign) that the conservative side has been the main initiator in the debate over morals; also, that Enlightenment values (those fought for against the power of the Catholic and other Christian churches in Europe) and victories gained against dictators from both right and left, as well as gains in freedom of expression and the media, are threatened in this era of fundamentalist trends that is increasingly evident in all religions. The main issue is: how much individual freedom can be tolerated in an era when the restrictions mandated by surveillance are propagated as necessary for “protection”?

14Ad 6) Where are the forces of cohesion for the new political Union to be found?

15The longing for freedom, and for security, will continue to grow. With these, however, also the danger of affording priority to seemingly simple solutions—for example, through the dangerous illusion that more police, more military, fewer migrants, fewer refugees, less criticism, etc. equals more security. This can easily endanger the principle of “diversity in unity.” Fearful, insecure people seek security— and sometimes traditions and customs can (often falsely) mediate this sense of security, which a modern, diverse, border-crossing world is no longer able to offer. Cohesion can only be achieved through an open approach to differences, and through a commitment to acceptance and tolerance.

16Ad 7) The authors unfortunately do not provide an answer to the question, “What is European culture?” and do not attempt any definition of it.

17The common European cultural space cannot be defined as a counterpart to national cultures. There are, actually, no “national cultures.” No one has ever been able to explain to me—apart from citizenship, national sports heroes and historical events— what is “typically” Austrian, or what unites a person from Burgenland and a person from Vorarlberg more than a person from Salzburg and a person from Bavaria. In order to define themselves, individuals combine various components of their identity: gender, place of birth, citizenship, language, skin color, age, occupation, etc.

18The only characteristics I would consider to be part of “European culture” are those values defined in the tradition of the Enlightenment that the European Union currently represents.

19Ad 11) Religion was considered, with good reason, as divisive, rather than conciliatory. That may still be the case today. But Europe’s religions also have the potential to bring people in Europe together, instead of separating them.

20In times of increasing religious fundamentalism in all religions, it is difficult to see what unifying potential religions might possibly have. Those liberal, open-minded representatives from a wide variety of religions, who in the past often presented a glimmer of hope in the sense of solidarity, appear to have become fewer and farther between. It is as though fears have led to a new moral “hype” of conservative morals and have likewise impeded progressive thought in the sense of letting go of tradition, rather than clinging to the long-established norms.

21Ad 12) Despite this global calling, there can be no justification for attempting to impose, perhaps with the help of the institutions of a common European foreign and defense policy, any specific catalogue of values on other peoples.

22If what is meant by this “imposition” is military intervention for the preservation of EU interests in the name of an alleged solidarity, then I agree and find the statement accurate. However, if what is meant is that the moral program of the EU is arbitrary, and should not apply elsewhere, then I cannot agree. The moral program of the European union is based on assumptions that are founded in multilateral agreements (mainly the United Nations). These have been accepted, signed, and ratified by most nations on other continents—some with reservations, but nonetheless ratified. Quite often civil organizations rely on these agreements— especially those that defend them against undemocratic regimes— and therefore seek the aid of the European Union. Here, global solidarity is necessary.

23There is no essence of Europe, no fixed list of European values.
There is no “finality” to the process of European integration.

24I agree in the sense that every community constantly continues to change, and is constantly subjected to processes that are prompted and controlled internally, as well as externally. However, we should not make the mistake of believing that what has already been achieved is open to negotiation—for example, when faced with the pressure of fundamental movements, or pressures pushing toward a surveillance state. Here, what applies for me, and should also continue to apply for the European Union, is: solidarity, yes; restriction of personal freedom and promotion of a climate of intolerance, no.

25This procedural principle also naturally applies to the finality of the European integration process: even if there should one day be a political and social union with no nation-states in the sense we think of them today, even such a construct will be subject to change.

26Translated by Dream Coordination Office
(Lisa Rosenblatt and Charlotte Eckler)


Ulrike Lunacek is Member of the Austrian Parliament and Foreign Policy. Spokesperson of the Austrian Green Party.

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