After 21 years since its formal establishment, the European Union has achieved the position of a respected partner in all highly important international dialogues. It plays a crucial role in shaping structures and relationships of the contemporary world and contributing to the maintenance of peace and safety. At the same time, the EU is still one of the most vividly revamping and constantly progressive political and economic institutions – quite young, but relatively experienced, surely not flawless, but trying to learn the lessons given by history.
WHY do we unite?
The formation of the EU can be considered as an unprecedented event, as it has never happened before that such an impressively big number of autonomous countries was willing to freely sacrifice a fraction of their precious sovereignty. Even though the structure, competencies and benefits of union were not not clearly captured back then, all the joining members truly believed they become a part of something significant and powerful. This shift of a collective mindset from the idea of a short-term, nationalistic “more power” to a long-term cooperation in a sustainable “power in more” was a huge step forward in understanding the potential of a synergy in a political life.
The word “synergy” from Attic Greek synergos, συνεργός, meaning “working together” can be defined as the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. This concept underlies the initiation of combining multiple European countries’ powers and potentials into a united Europe. One of the greatest founding fathers of the European Union, Winston Churchill, was convinced that only a united Europe could guarantee peace, and contribute to rebuilding new Europe after the World War II. Churchill’s goal was to eliminate the European ills of nationalism, destructive competition and warmongering once and for all. He formulated his conclusions drawn from the lessons of history in his famous ‘Speech to the academic youth’ held at the University of Zurich in 1946: “There is a remedy which (…) would in a few years make all Europe (…) free and (…) happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”
When back to basics, it becomes clearer why Europe should be united. What would a disintegrated Europe of many small countries mean nowadays? Would it be a partner in dialogue with the United States, Russia, China and other rising powers of the Far East? Would it be able to be a part of globalised reality with borders expanded further than any time before and face the fact that Europe is not the centre of the world anymore as in the glory of ancient times? The importance of the unity within the Europe goes even beyond the initial, but still valid reasons set in the previous century. Europe needs now a stable internal market and a cooperation aiming at innovation and growth. However, one important factor is needed for that and that is a willingness to collaborate and be open to compromise.
And in my opinion the European Union suffers from one really bad affliction, which can be fatal if no remedy will be found: a lack of common voice. If the voice of the United Europe wants to be heard internationally and count in the future even more than it does now, it must master the skill of compromising and speaking with a one, decisive and resolute voice. Every single country should reconsider the fact why it joined the EU at the first place and realize that these reasons are just as valid and legitimate as they were decades ago.
WHAT should we do together?
There are multiple aspects on which members of the EU do not agree, starting with the eternal budget problem, going through energetic policies, economic stagnation and further enlargements, to end with an inconsistency in the foreign politics. Congruence in both internal and foreign affairs is equally important and finding compromises is in stake of all the members. However, the international politics is a particularly significant topic, since it signals a stability of the EU and it determines how the EU is perceived as a global partner. The crisis in Ukraine and Russian’s military intervention showed that there is no convergence in the opinions and each member speaks first defending own interest, than thinks about joint reaction to the problem. While Poland, the Baltic States, and to a lesser degree the UK were supporting more assertive diplomacy and politics of sanctions, France stated that the agreement to supply Russia with two Mistral warships is still in place. Hungary openly spoke about being against the EU imposing a round of economic sanctions and The Netherlands preferred to remain silent. This does not portray European Union as united and calls into question the main principle and motto of “United in diversity”. Naturally, every conflict brings different opinions and mismatching interest. However, bringing all the voices together and speaking out loud only after a congruent opinion is formulated first, seems to be a fundamental part of what is called a union.
HOW should we unite?
Finding a remedy for unifying opinions of such a diversified conglomerate as the EU, seems to be a really tricky challenge, since every member of the Union remains an autonomous country and has the right and freedom of claiming own opinions. Nevertheless, a union which speaks with too many voices at the same time has a rather ambiguous identity and creates a poor image.
Who is actually in charge of representing European Union? The president of the European Council (Donald Tusk), of the European Commission (Jean-Claude Juncker) or maybe the European Parliament (Martin Schulz)? Assigning one person for such a responsible position would surely be quite confusing, for both potential agency problem reasons and the fact that a fully democratic union would not feel comfortable within any dominating power. On the other hand, simply holding a role of spokesman who is the face of the EU, but has little freedom or recognition in the public eye, seems to be too limited. Therefore, the question of who should Barack Obama call when he wants to speak with European Union still remains open. However, behind this silly issue, there is an important challenge hidden of how to unify the Union.