Imagine a soldier from the German Democratic Republic (Communist East Germany or GDR, 1949-1990) looking into a crystal ball; would he have believe his eyes to see his grandchildren talking with their Sicilian friends over MSN messenger, a reunited Germany or a woman from the GDR - a scientist! - heading today's modern nation-state?
How much further far will we go as Europeans citizens of 2057? Three experts sketch their visions for the future: Claude Fischer, secretary general of the French organisation Confrontation Europe, Jaroslaw Pietras, lecturer at Warsaw University and secretary of state at the Office of the Committee for European Integration, and José María Gil-Robles, president of the European Parliament from 1997-1999.
Uniting for progress
'Union', 'sharing'. There has been a lot of progress in common policy, with the Common Agricultural Policy reform and the single market. But what is the EU's major challenge? According to Spaniard Gil-Robles, Europe needs to 'consolidate its independence within its foreign policy, defence and common energy.'
On the other hand, the Pole Pietras also has hopes that a future foreign policy will be more consistent and solid. Within our frontiers, he believes that 'we need to deal with aspects such as individual rights and freedoms, being also much more involved in ensuring our security.'
Price of ethics
Defending human rights, a large tradition of powerful syndicates, the Kyoto protocol – Europeans certainly have the will to comply with the rules of modern ethics. But what price does our economic competition pay in the international market?
Pietras believes that to be succcessful, the EU has to convert its apparent weakness into its major product. 'We should try to avoid direct competition with low cost producers like those located in Asia. Therefore we should concentrate on education of its own citizens; their knowledge and our knowledge-based products will be the major factor of worldwide competitiveness.'
According to him, Europe will have a 'challenge to cope with more and more sophisticated products. In order to be developed and produced, they will have to be an outcome of collaborative effort undertaken by many EU nations. Therefore a need can be expected for very close intra-industry cooperation, rather than a national specialization by sectors.'
But actions speak louder than words. Ironically, the UN estimated that England, France and Germany account for about 80% of global arms exports in 2006. 'It's a contradictory world. Whilst Europe is an intermediary for peace, it's supplying arms to both parts of the conflict,' says Gil-Robles.
And the million dollar question: where will Europe's frontiers have extended to in 2057? It's a topic which has been one of the most controversial between Europeans, and our experts views also reflect this variety of opinion. Gil-Robles doubts the EU's capacity for absorption. 'Europe has arrived at its limits. I doubt it will grow much more. The Balkan region is a European protectorate. With Turkey, it depends if they manage to homogenise their people and respect human rights. Until then, I am afriad they have to keep waiting.'
Pietras is more optimistic. He is convinced that Europe's 2057 will include the Ukraine and Belarus. 'Russia will be about to decide to join European Union in view of the ever stronger China on its far-East border,' he says. Fischer remembers that we can't forget its ties with the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean.
Do we need the constitution?
The constitutional treaty suffered a major setback with France and Holland's 'no's in 2005. But the 'fact that some countries have not yet ratified the constitutional treaty will not play any meaningful role in next 50 years,' assures Pietras. Fisher agrees that we have achieved a lot thus far: 'peace, an internal market, a single currency' – and all without the constitution. 'It doesn't make any sense to speak about the future without a constitution. If we don't have it by 2009 we will have it in 2014. 18 countries have already said 'yes', and for the rest, some like France will change their minds in due course.'
But how do we make Europeans aware of their Europeanism? Firstly, by ensuring that their own states and citizens mediate within the EU. It's also about educating the smaller countries, as Gil-Robles says: 'the separated countries tend to say bad things come from the outside, and we can't put up with this kind of discourse.'
When the oil runs dry
The era in which oil monopolised the energy market will become an era of the melange, the mixture. 'Europe will depend much more on fusion, geothermal and sea energies. It could also start to use solar energy produced in space,' predicts Pietras. Gil-Robles believes that fossile resources will die out, but 'it won't happen within the next 50 years.' He is convinced that from our current 6% of current renewable energy, we will have increased to 15-20%. Fischer is emphatic: 'Energy without carbon. We should use it as of today if we want to avoid global warming.'
Laws guaranteeing human rights, a political union, exporting knowledge, whilst cars run rings and rings of heat around the Earth. Science fiction? No - Europe in 2057.