Europe, a discreet revolutionary

Article published on April 6, 2008
Article published on April 6, 2008
Sometimes, we are caught in moments of doubt. Faith falters and convictions subside. In these moments, it is all too tempting to indulge in cynicism and relativism. Sometimes Europe disappoints us. Too slow, too fast, not visible enough. We come to hope for a new dawn of revolution, a loud bang!
Something saying to the world that this is the model for a new millennium; see how we will do away with old power schemes, well ordered hierarchies and ancient myths

This moment never comes. No scandal, no waves, the Union carries on and we come to despair when it keeps such a low profile.

However, through this undefined shades of grey, there is a silver lining on the cloud of indecision, a few signs allow us to believe in it still. A few touches, mere impressions, not even distinguishable with the naked eye. On February 26, the Council of the European Union (vulgarly referred to as the Council of ministers) has launched a joint technological initiative on hydrogen batteries (ITC). What is this damn thing? Well, this is a project aimed at reinforcing research on this new way to stock energy and which principal advantage is that it only emits water vapour. Its main drawback though is that it costs a fortune.

ITC, a joint undertaking that deserves to be greeted

The aim is thus to develop a viable commercial solution to equip tourism cars with this kind of batteries. I will not dwell upon the debate on global warming here; the advantage of cars emitting water seems pretty obvious.

The initiative has to be greeted be it just for its substance. However the structure of the scheme is also very interesting for this is where the big ambition of the project resides. ITC will be a joint effort where the European Commission on the one hand and an association representing undertakings of the sector on the other hand will be associated. This body thus created will distribute funds and coordinate research projects, which will allow to avoid to a great extent funds to be dispatched all over the place. The Commission will subsidise the project with 470 million Euros and it is hoped that industrials in the private sector will contribute just as much…

What is the point of such an organisation?

Of course, it enables a concentration of public and private funds. More importantly, this public-private partnership model allows combining research of the general interest and the progress in knowledge with the efficiency of private companies. Sterile stand-offs between nice public bodies and evil money grabbing undertakings also will be overcome. For those fearing dilution of public power in private hands, I would simply emphasise that it is the European Union taking this initiative and not the industry. European public powers choose to trust the private sector to bring about a project they deem important for the future of the continent. Private-public partnership is not about abandoning political responsibility as some allegedly progressist movements (but deep inside conservative) often claim. No, the idea is only that the general interest is better served by a more efficient and more flexible public action.

In times of global warming, a European answer

Let’s look from a distance at everything happening these days concerning environmental issues and global warming. Yes danger is great. But this danger calls for our creativity and to change our behaviour and also the power structures favoured in our societies. The environmental fear transforms the way our society is organised and this is probably a change for the better. I am absolutely convinced that the European Union is the best tool to bring about this social change. Even if there will be no dawn of revolution in Europe.

Alexis Brunelle

Translation: Julien De Cruz