European elections in urgent need of "Europatriots

While a bloody war has been raging for two years on Europe's doorstep, following the aggression of Ukraine by a totalitarian and vindictive Russia that has not digested its ouster from the continent, the European Union is preparing to renew its Parliament in June, without the shockwaves of this historic explosion having yet sufficiently shaken the over-insulated windows of its hermetic institutions.

While Europe did show its solidarity in the emergency by imposing unprecedented economic and financial sanctions, and then provided significant aid to the aggressor, backed by the might of the United States and NATO, it did not go so far as to commit itself to Ukraine's territorial defence, or to reconsider its own security dependence and political incompleteness.

Although this war now threatens its own members in Central and Eastern Europe, dominated and even annexed from 1945 to 1990 by a Russian dictatorship whose flag and nomenklatura have changed, Europe continues to marinate in its routines, obsolete treaties, internal quarrels and half-measures. Will we have to resign ourselves to seeing it as nothing more than a decaying descendant of the "mishmash" criticised by Charles de Gaulle when the ECSC was created?

The ECSC, launched in 1951 by Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer and the other founding fathers, was in the minds of these pioneers only a first step towards creating, step by step, a genuine "United States of Europe". What remains of it today?

Embarked together, but where to?

Seven decades on, Europe has certainly achieved a great deal, despite its ups and downs: the frontier-free market, the free movement of people, the Common Agricultural Policy, the euro, German reunification, continental enlargement.

But while it has grown from six to twenty-seven, it remains as far away as ever, if not further away, from the objective of the founders: federal Europe, like an unattainable horizon, even appears today to a majority as a perfect utopia.

The mood in the run-up to the European elections reflects this paradox, where the extension of the European Union's powers and influence, even to the point of going into debt jointly and severally in euros, has not prevented euroscepticism from growing among its Member States, including the founding members, both among the general public and among its leaders.

The initial flame has been smothered under the weight of an institutional labyrinth cultivating hermeticism, repeated crises, nights of the long knives and convoluted communiqués. The twenty-seven Member States would be hard-pressed today to set out their common political project! But there is no good road for those who do not know where they are going.

A France divided on everything but its Gaullist reverence

In France, where the European project had already germinated in the post-war period in Jean Monnet's house, there is no longer any party or audible personality who, unlike yesterday if not the day before, claims any kind of European federalism. Beyond the usual anathemas at the extremes of the hemicycle, it has become the subject of insistent denials by moderates of all origins, led by the Macronists.

Should we see this as the result of a unanimous conversion in the shadow of Charles de Gaulle, who saw Europe only as an opportunity to reconnect, by relying on selective cooperation, with a past national greatness, without abandoning anything of its autonomy and undivided sovereignty? The recent inclusion of the Lorraine cross in the coat of arms of the President of the Elysée Palace clearly confirms, beyond the irruption, criticised by all sides, of a European flag under the Arc de Triomphe, the display of this "France that must remain France", even if it means sacrificing the omelette to preserve the eggs.

Germany still federalist but tired of not being followed

Germany, loyal to Konrad Adenauer, on the other hand, remains in favour of a "European federal state", the objective of which was explicitly included in its government programme bringing together Social Democrats, Liberals and Greens. Only the AFD, the equivalent of the French RN, is clearly distancing itself from this, although the Christian Democrats have always shared the same federalist stance.

This broad consensus has, however, been put into perspective in 'real life' by a Germany that has been scalded by its ignorance of the advances it has made to its French neighbour, and whose rejection of the European Constitution in a referendum, by an admittedly heterogeneous coalition, has convinced it to learn its lesson. Having to "live with" this incomplete and flawed Europe, which is preferable to calling its achievements into question, Germany has not hesitated to take liberties with solidarity in order to protect its own interests.

Despite Brexit, Europe is more British than ever

The construction of Europe has thus gradually drifted towards a free trade area, paying for its multiple enlargements with a loss of identity and direction, to the point where we now wonder why the British left it when it ended up bringing together, what's more 'in English', what they had always wanted to achieve! These deserters have every reason to regret a Brexit which, while needlessly complicating their lives, will have weakened and isolated them.

But for the other Europeans who wanted to build an effective power, capable of uniting and making its voice heard in the world, how could they cope with such a situation? Because despite the upturn that the late Jacques Delors was responsible for, the leaders of the following decades failed to remedy a surfeit of European shortcomings and national inconsistencies. The list goes on and on! We will limit ourselves to highlighting ten or so that are already representative.

An excessive accumulation of European shortcomings

To begin with, how can we describe European elections without being perplexed by the fact that the precise dates and voting methods differ from one Member State to another?

Is it really effective to entrust twenty-seven members of the European Council, elected on the basis of national interests, with the unanimous arbitration of major European decisions?

Why should we be surprised that they choose the person who will cause them the least embarrassment to chair them, reducing the function, beyond good offices, to arbitrating speaking times, fine-tuning press releases and selling the goat with the cabbage?

In terms of security, how can we bring ourselves to see the defence of Europe subjected for almost eighty years to American leadership on the grounds that its autonomy, apart from its intrinsic weakness, would create too many internal squabbles?

How much longer are we going to cap the European budget at 1% of GDP (twenty times less than the US federal budget) while reducing its own resources in the face of ever-conflicting national contributions, with 50% of GDP being confiscated by the needs of States, their debts and their duplication?

Lastly, how can we describe the absence of any tax framework, which results in taxing what can cross borders, and therefore capital, and compensating for the loss of revenue for governments by over-taxing what cannot, especially property?

An equally persistent parallel of national inconsistencies

Why should we be surprised by a lack of European feeling when every evening our public television broadcasts the weather of a France that is 'outside the soil', and therefore outside Europe, corrected by former colonies, most of them islands, that have remained tricoloured all around the globe?

And what can we say about these secular public holidays, whose parades, flags, fireworks and festivities are reserved solely for the memory of great national deeds? Would this have been at the expense of our European neighbours, with no equivalent celebrating Europe?

And what are we to make of these euro notes that are devoid of any symbols, monuments or personalities that might identify Europe and create a shared feeling, while the coins are marked with the most explicit national references?

Furthermore, why persist in equipping customs officers at the Union's external borders with national uniforms and subjecting them to the sole responsibility of their various hierarchies, when the customs administration of the single European market should be equipped with the same uniform and subject to the same authority?

Finally, to end the chapter on a picturesque note, for how long will public merit of all kinds and origins be honoured exclusively by national decorations, in the conspicuous absence of any European decorations?

An increasingly inextricable Gordian knot

Such is Europe's current situation, so strange and muddled, seventy-three years after Gaull's remark about the "méli-mélo", not devoid of all premonition!

We need to put things back in order, but for most, despite the constant war on Europe's doorstep, this seems like wishful thinking. Everyone continues to go about their own business, with the preparation of national lists for the European elections already occupying the priority attention of the political staffs.

But in a Europe lacking direction, a backbone, efficiency, autonomy and resources, with an increased risk of the conflict with Russia spreading across its territory, what are lists and candidates for, and to do what?

For it is not just that Europe has demonstrated, beyond its obligatory sanctions and emergency aid, a culpable lack of military preparedness, unlimited American dependence and a constant distancing from the aggressor. It has also revealed cracks in the intensity of its support for Ukraine.

We will see the effect of the economic and social difficulties created by the aggression against Ukraine, with, in addition to welcoming refugees, a rise in energy prices, an unprecedented rise in inflation, the burden of aid to the aggressor and the inadequacy of our arsenals in terms of know-how and arms production, which have been neglected for too long.

There are also similarities here and there with the denigration by Putin and his entourage of a "Western decadence", particularly aimed at the "wokist" inversion of traditional values, notably on gender identity or gay marriage. Given that the European Commission itself is heavily involved in this revision of traditional values under the recent treaties, it is hardly surprising that this is another reason for friction with the more conservative Member States.

As for Europe's dependence and defensive deprivation, they are becoming even more worrying in the run-up to the American presidential elections, with Donald Trump's strong rise in the polls, despite his judicial avatars, while President Biden's European solidarity is suffering a setback following the resumption of the Israeli conflict, added to tensions with China and North Korea.

There's no doubt that Russia is going to exploit these multiple loopholes to the maximum by supporting all its objective allies and interfering in all these elections!

These are the facts, as serious as they are intractable, that should dominate the debate in the run-up to the European elections. Yet this is not the case, or only to a very limited extent...

A federal path with no alternative for Europe

This total reshuffling of the cards will impose, whether we like it or not and whether we debate it or not, a new stage, this time a decisive one, in the construction of Europe.

Faced with the chasm that has now opened up in front of the Union's traditional "small steps", there is still only one way to cross it and give ourselves the means to stand up to Russia even in the event of American disengagement. This is the only way in which the Union can continue to expand without becoming ungovernable. It is the only way to restore Europe's lost weight in the face of global change.

The access to this path is clear, despite its detractors who can only disqualify it by blindly legitimising supposedly inviolable taboos. In fact, in all the areas mentioned where European shortcomings are compounded by national inconsistencies, it would be enough to make the radical change to do the opposite! "If men fear change, they only progress with it". Why should Europeans fail to recognise this?

An urgent need for "Europatriot" candidates at the next elections

When you're up against the wall, the only question is not whether you can do it, but whether you want to do it! Only faith can move mountains, but do we still have it? Rediscovering it will mean at last ensuring that there is a genuine feeling and a shared emotion in favour of the European project, because "the heart has its reasons that reason ignores".

It will therefore be necessary to promote a genuine "affectio societatis on this scale and, with it, another way of building Europe. François Mitterrand said it well in his day: "France is our homeland, Europe is our future". Since then, the war has accelerated the passage of time. The future has become our present, and with it the time to recognise that Europe has already become our collective homeland!

This Copernican revolution will require States to renounce, some more than others, the strictly national exclusivity of all collective feelings, all common emotions, all shared history and all patriotic sentiment. Here too, we will have to do the opposite of what has been done, or rather what has been denied or ignored.

As for public euroscepticism, should we see it as an irreducible obstacle to such changes? The answer is clearly no: this Euroscepticism is fuelled not by an excess but by an inadequacy of Europe, due not only to its democratic deficit but also to the flaws that have been left wide open: weakness in decision-making, institutional isolation, openings without quid pro quo, dismantling of national protections without collective equivalence, fiscal inequity, social fallow, anonymous technocracy, abstruse language and, for some, abusive intrusion into their values.

Change, even radical change, is therefore possible. The aggressiveness of a totalitarian Russia, which will do everything to exacerbate internal divisions without ceasing to aggravate the threats to our common borders, makes them urgent. The unknown factor of a possible American disengagement following the forthcoming elections makes them unavoidable. The accelerating assertiveness of the new world powers, with China's ambition to dominate the world and the emergence of a global South that will do us no favours, also means that there is no way out.

It is therefore a matter of survival for Europe, its freedoms, its way of life and its sovereignty, as well as its capacity to influence and act to ensure a world that is more respectful of the rights of all and more committed to the urgent needs of the planet.

Julien Freund, a French- and German-speaking European activist, once summed up perfectly the justification for the radical reforms now required of Europeans if they are to survive: "a political community which is not a homeland for its members ceases to be defended and falls more or less rapidly under the dependence of others".

It is up to the "Europatriot" candidates, who are not prevented from presenting transnational lists in the Member States, to convince the voters of this!

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