International / Let's talk about Europe

Can we (still) build Europe without Europeans?

The referendum will not be held, eventually. George Papandreou, the Greek Prime minister, forced by France, Germany and his own party, decided to give up.

This new development relieved most of European leaders and political as financial specialists who are going to be relaxed better. The new Greece rescue plan is going to be implemented in spite of the very lively wrath of the Greeks who don’t support the new turn of screw anymore.

Giving up the referendum is quite relevant insofar as such an exercise was not without problems and consequences for the Union particularly. The game wasn’t worth the candle so much the outcome was really unknown.

However, the Papandreou’s aborted initiative had a quality our leaders would be wrong to disregard: Europe cannot be built without the citizens anymore especially when it has a clearer and clearer impact on the Member-States citizens’ daily life.

Indeed, there was, behind the question, another important issue: can we still build Europe without Europeans? Can we achieve the economic and political European integration turning a deaf ear to lambda citizens’ concerns?

The current debt crisis re-launched this debate about the democratic deficit of Europe. A debate in which there exist some nuances but which remains very current as the current situation of Greece clearly showed, the recent days. Imposing an austerity plan without any consent of the people and without any pedagogy (except the TINA acronym) clearly reinforces the feeling of exclusion and not this one of belonging to the EU as if Greece became a Brussels protectorate – or worse a colony – what some people are beginning to think in the country.

This is the big issue and a referendum could have given the opportunity to politicize the European issue insisting on the stakes and sending our leaders a message, these one still considering the Union as something obvious, which is still not the case of a large part of our co-citizens and European citizens. Because of the legitimacy coming from the votes, our leaders probably daren’t take into account the people anymore, daren’t associate it anymore. It may be relevant but such a consideration has limits.

In fact, nothing was considered from the last referenda held in 2008 (Ireland) and France (2005) vis-à-vis the European integration. In all these case, the citizens had the impression their opinion was not taken into account and it was preferable for them to be silent and to suffer in silence. This type of behaviour doesn’t make things better for the European integration in a long-term except if we take the risk of reinforcing this democratic deficit feeling a little more. As I wrote before, some nuances are needed but we would be wrong to disregard them.                    

So, if we can be relieved of the withdrawal of the Greek referendum, we can’t crow however. In fact, there remains a unique and essential question: can we still build Europe without citizens? If yes, don’t be astonished by the increasing reject of our co-citizens vis-à-vis Europe and by the success – without any objection – of populists.