What do the next 50 years hold for Europe?

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by Ahmed Ben Abdallah, translated by Lucy Cumming

Manuel José Barroso (photo by Cornelia Iatu)
Manuel José Barroso (photo by Cornelia Iatu)

Nowadays, the future of Europe is subject to a fairly bleak prognosis, with the financial recession continuing to put the institutions of the European Union to the test. Yet over and above this economic slump, the number of hopeful prospects and initiatives is growing and keeping alive the dream of a Europe capable of captivating the rest of the world by setting not merely a contemporary example worthy of observation, but one to follow and from which much can be learnt.

On the 50th anniversary of the Institute for European Studies, former graduate of Geneva University and current President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, shared his vision for the future of Europe with a fascinated audience.

The President alluded frequently to the challenges of globalisation during his presentation. If there was one point he emphasised in particular, it was that we must not forget that our limitations, cultures and perceptions of the world are constantly evolving. Consequently, as highlighted by President Barroso, the future of Europe must be considered in light of this fact. As a result of a desire to defy traditional national standards, the challenges faced by our society have taken on a global dimension (following global economic market fluctuations which have repercussions for the whole world).

Crossing European Union boundaries, this new global framework plays a pivotal role in terms of these repercussions, and remains a careful consideration of the President of the Commission. With this in mind, around the time of the 2008 G20 summit, he decided to call a meeting of the European Union and the nineteen countries who account collectively for no less than 85% of global trade. This initiative came following the 2008 economic crisis, which affected the majority of these countries. It acted as an ideal opportunity for them to build the foundations for mutual cooperation and collaboration in a bid to best prepare for the future.

However, good understanding and effective cooperation between member countries are both vital and indispensable qualities, a point alluded to by the Portuguese ambassador for whom interdependency between countries within the EU itself is a fundamental requirement. Robert Schuman stated in 1950: “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan: it will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity”.

The crisis, which began in 2008 and left various European countries destabilised in its wake, has really plunged the EU into a wealth of criticism with many analysts convinced that the Eurozone would not last much longer and that Greece should have been excluded from the EU. But certain circumstances have proven them wrong, and according to José Manuel Barroso’s explanation: “They have underestimated factors such as integration and interdependency within the EU because this union is first and foremost a project, a yearning for integration and intersolidarity which can only be achieved gradually”. Thus Robert Schuman’s prophecy, foreshadowed half a century earlier, becomes a reality.

By destabilising the very foundations of the structure of Europe, the crisis has reminded member countries that their shared interdependencies force them to commit to common values, mutual solidarity and integration, in order to successfully defend their common interests throughout the world. “Of course the crisis is ongoing, but for the time being, the most critical stages appear to be behind us”, declared the President of the European Commission optimistically.

Today, the European Union represents 20% of international trade and given that its currency is the second most common, its economic power is substantial. Barroso reminded us that this dynamic is a result of the principles established by the EU, which are the same values that encourage it nowadays to dedicate itself to development projects and humanitarian aid across the world (the EU is responsible for up to 60% of the ICRC budget).

Today, by means of integration and openness, he also appeals to those outside Europe, calling for a sense of global citizenship. Notwithstanding individual communities, it is this global community that outlines the changing faces of Europe and the world’s future.

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