Imagine this scenario: In 2050 the older generation will dominate Europe, depriving the continent of its rightful destiny and leaving it unable to maintain its high living standards.
If things continue at the current rate, the European Union will lose 50 million inhabitants and the average age will be close to 50 as opposed to 36 today. From 2020 economic growth will stagnate at approximately 1.1%. More importantly, Europe will only represent 11% of global trade against 23% in 2003, and its moral and political influence will be marginal in a world governed by power relations.
In the same period, the United States’ large population will remain young and they will keep their commercial and strategic power.
China, whose vast needs are currently provoking a global shortage of steel and carbon which is destabilising markets, will become a negotiator with clout.
The future remains uncertain in the extremely youthful Arab-Muslim world. In that region, there are two possible options: total chaos or prosperity achieved through democratisation.
Today, the question is whether Europeans will find the necessary inner strength to thwart such predictions, which have been confirmed by the majority of economic and demographic analyses and which endorse Rumsfeld’s ‘Old Europe’ hypothesis. Or will the carelessness which has prevailed for several years prove him right?
We belong to the generation which came together the day after the fall of the Berlin wall in the autumn of 1989. We take part in the Erasmus exchange programme, benefit from the single market and live a European way of life every day. We don’t claim to be this generation’s spokesmen. We are just ordinary citizens from across the continent. Our horizon is naturally European and yet at the same time we are proud of our national roots. Ours is a generation very aware of our shared destiny. We are well informed and we believe in politics. And we believe that the often-discussed European decline is not yet set in stone.
The European miracle has already taken place once. We believe that Europeans have all the necessary ingredients to write another new, optimistic page of European history. Only 60 years ago, Europe lay in ruins, divided by a shameful wall, ravaged by hate, haunted by decline.
Who would have thought that at the dawn of the third millennium, Europe would be unified once more after almost 1,000 years of war and religious disputes? Who would have thought it would become the world’s most accomplished democratic power with such highly qualified and cultivated citizens who care about solidarity and human rights? Who would have thought it could once again become a leading global commercial power, the primary centre of innovation in the fields of aeronautics and space thanks to symbolic joint projects such as AIRBUS or ARIANE, and the world’s most stable monetary zone thanks to a new currency, the euro, which is now carried in 300 million wallets?
Today, Europe’s model of peace through economic and political integration appeals to leaders in Latin America, Asia, Africa and even the Middle East. The world needs a powerful Europe whose moral authority is reinforced by an autonomous and credible military power which can nip in the bud the so-called clash of civilisations that certain extremists from all sides are trying to provoke. The world needs Europe to force America to abandon its current egotism so that the coalition of democracies for peace and sustainable development for the planet can be rebuilt on healthy foundations. Europe, which successfully overcame the challenge of economic harmonisation, must also accomplish the next step – political unification, or the collective mobilisation of citizens and member states towards a joint project.
Today, Europe is in trouble. The European Union’s record of problems and setbacks act as an alibi for all the sceptics who do not want to proceed further towards integration. Yes, they argue, Europe is necessary but more Europe does nothing for citizens’ concrete interests. The same people condemn the constraints imposed by the Union and yet do not celebrate the benefits that the Union brings. They shamelessly oppose a socially and market-orientated Europe, forgetting that no free trade area can survive in the long term without a minimum of social and tax mechanisms or effective macro-economic co-ordination so that undesirable effects of competition between States can be corrected. Why do they constantly attack European civil servants, the Commission or even the European Parliament when these people are just carrying out, rather well incidentally, the missions conferred on them?
To these sceptics, we say that a better politically integrated Europe with real strength of purpose and founded on better division of budgetary resources between Nation States and the Community is not only necessary but also has advantages for the citizen. Defence, internal security and the war on terror; demographics, sustainable development, research: these challenges which have a direct impact on our quality of life and safety appear on the horizon every day. No country can deal with these challenges alone and simple inter-state co-operation has often shown itself to be insufficient. The dreadful attacks in Madrid on March 11th were yet more evidence of this. We cannot be satisfied with a Europe which proceeds through a series of crises and which arouses the disturbing feeling that development is muddled. Citizens need to see the plan so they can understand where this collective project is going.
Europeans should be trusted to control their own destinies. No longer should we hesitate to broach subjects seen too often as taboo, such as restarting the birth rate, re-organising research in Europe, and Europe’s role in calming world tensions. Furthermore, the point of European elections needs to be made clearer. How can citizens be interested in European electoral campaigns and more broadly in Europe if they do not think that, by contributing to creating a coherent political majority within the European Parliament with a real plan for government and an opposition able to execute checks, they are having real influence? How can citizens be interested in Europe if their votes have no impact on the appointment of the President of the European Commission who is the Head of the Union’s Executive? How can they understand shared risks on the continent when there are no pan-European electoral lists, parties, or debates and so little really European media? Finally, how can European citizens feel at ease with European integration if they are not consulted on major decisions like the Constitution or Turkish membership? We have concrete proposals for all these areas. We also have ideas for making Europe more responsive to the citizen, ideas which we are ready to debate.
An enlarged Europe is currently confronted with a double-headed challenge: To record its project in a historical and global perspective in a way that is understandable to citizens and which better integrates them so they are more involved in the common aim; and to define the rules which would allow Europe to find effective solutions to the challenges which it faces in the long and the short term. From this point of view, adopting the Constitution is of the utmost importance since, although not a miracle cure, it is at least evidence of indisputable progress.
The time for chronicles has passed. It is now time for action. And this action must be collective. Let’s not fool ourselves. If we, Europeans, don’t stick together, no one will stretch out a hand to help us. We therefore urgently need solidarity because we also urgently need efficiency. In our eyes, the only solution is creating a powerful Europe.
Our generation is ready to make the leap towards a more ambitious, better-integrated, and more democratic Europe where the people in charge are clearly identified and their powers checked. We invite the leaders of the Union’s member states to use these young Europeans, who they wanted to have and who now exist, to move from a forced marriage of 25 members to a Europe which is ready to take on its destiny - our destiny. The European elections in June are a unique opportunity for them. We are ready to act as integration go-betweens for Europe’s founding fathers to help move Europe forward faster – towards political integration.
Guillaume Klossa (France) et Enrico Letta (Italy), Member of Parliament, former Minister for European Affairs, respectively President of the board and President of the scientific committee of the EuropaNova collective
Adriano Farano (Italy), Piotr Kaczynski (Poland), Václav Nekvapil (Czech Republic) & Tobias Troll (Germany), Café Babel editors,
Frédéric Allemand (France), Secretary General of Jeunes Européens
Peter Altmaier (Germany), Member of Parliament, member of the European Convention
Gustavo de Aristegui (Spain), Member of Parliament, spokesman for the Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, Director General of Dialogo Europeo
Oscar Becerra (Spain), editor
Damijen Cotci (Slovenia), President of the Slovenian Students’ Union
Elvire Fabry (France), Doctor of political science, official representative of the Robert Schuman Foundation
Charles Grant (UK), Director of the Centre for European Reform
Alex Heyer (Germany), founder of Europa-digital.de
Daniel Keohane (Ireland), Researcher at the Centre for European Reform
Colomban Lebas (France), Senior Researcher at the Centre de Géostratégie of ENS-ULM
Alexandra Lekkakos (Greece), lawyer
Inigo Mendez de Vigo (Spain), Member of the European Parliament, Member of the Praesidium of the European Convention
Julie Perry (Belgium), director
Rudy Matuschek (Austria), consultant
Robin Semal (France), Vice-President of FAGE and Chris Weavers (UK), Vice-President of the National Union of Students (UK), members of the ESIB executive committee
Peter Sandor (Hungary), researcher
Aurore Wanlin (France), researcher at the Center for European Reform
Bernhard von Weyhe (Germany), communication chargé at the European Space Agency.