On Friday, the Nobel Prize committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union for "contributing to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".
This award is the recognition that the European project goes beyond a mere economic union and represents a collective effort to protect the European people by opening our borders rather than closing them.
This rather counter-intuitive idea still faces a lot of mistrust and scepticism around the world. The temptation to close our borders increases as economic growth slows down and people face new difficulties. But this is not a solution to the problems we face: growing unemployment and poverty.
The European project can be seen as the first life-scale experiment of the idea that embracing the globalisation process rather than going against it is the long-term solution to issues of global poverty and international conflicts.
Globalisation isn't a process that one supports or goes against. It is the new paradigm in which society is evolving. The fact that people from across the world can communicate, trade and meet each other is not the result of any policy encouraging this behaviour, but has been enabled by advances in transport and communication technologies. No reasonable political decision can ever reverse this technological and cultural transformation and what is therefore now needed is a new global social contract.
Some might argue that this social contract should recognise regional specificities by enforcing physical and somewhat arbitrary boundaries. They could argue that cultural and language particularities could serve as a basis to delimit the areas where common economic and social policies should be implemented. However, history has shown that building barriers between nations through legislations, limits to workers’ migrations, tariffs on imports and limits on cultural exchanges (through censorship for example) is detrimental both to the countries concerned and to global welfare. The European experience is the evidence that this approach does not work, and that a new social contract should recognise that national borders are beeing made obsolete by technology.
It is certain that developing an international governance system won't solve all the issues of violence and poverty. Terrorism, ethnic and religious conflicts will remain. So will crime, environmental issues, contagious diseases or income inequalities. But what the European experience has demonstrated is that we, as a global society, are much better at solving these issues when we cooperate, exchange and share resources than when we focus on artificial and arbitrary so-called national interests.
It is the pioneering work of the European Union and its citizens in designing this new social contract that the Nobel committee has decided to recognise.
The Stronger Europe team is launching today an innovative competition with the purpose of increasing awareness of young Europeans on current European issues and widening participation in the European debate.
The competition will be hosted on my.strongereurope.com, our interactive platform for live debate and ideas generation. Users can submit their ideas for a stronger Europe across a wide range of topics, from the European economy, to defence or the environment. Submitting an idea only requires a short description of how this idea would work, and why it would be great for Europe.
We have two one-week work placements in March 2013 with our partner MEPs available for the winners. The work-placement will be attributed to the ideas that get most likes on Facebook, so users are strongly encouraged to advertise their ideas and convince others around them!
The competition will close on January 15, 2013 when the winners will be announced to the public. Following the competition, the team here will work on a common manifesto gathering all the ideas that were posted on my.strongereurope.com and will submit it to members of the European Parliament and officials in the European Commission.
The competition is free and open to all and is the ideal opportunity to make your voice heard, debate online about European politics and get the chance to win an invaluable work experience at one of the core decision centres of the Union.
Don't miss out on this opportunity and submit your idea now on my.strongereurope.com!
It is now 62 years since the Schuman Declaration which proposed an organised Europe. Happy Europe Day. These 62 years have seen one of the largest periods of prosperity and peace that Europe (certainly Western Europe) has ever seen and this is because of the unique way in which Member States come together to compromise and solve problems. It is a fantastic system and does, in some areas, work very well. The fact that, against all the odds and the cynics, 27 (soon to be 28) countries are able to work together to create solutions that make Europe stronger than the sum of its parts, is well worth celebrating.
According to the EU’s website: “Europe Day is the occasion for activities and festivities that bring Europe closer to its citizens and peoples of the Union closer to one another.”
We would object to one element of this statement Europe Day should allow citizens to bring their European Institutions closer to them. We are not Europe’s citizens, the European Institutions are ours. This fundamental difference is often forgotten in Brussels, where turnout in European Parliamentary elections and no media scrutiny robs MEPs of any real democratic legitimacy and unelected, and unaccountable Commission staff make politically loaded decisions behind closed doors.
Even the European Citizens Initiative, a right for European Citizens to participate in EU decision making has been rigged so that participation is extremely unlikely.
Look at all that Europeans have achieved together in the past 62 years. We the people of Europe can lead institutional reform, and a day like today is here to remind us all that there is so much we are yet to achieve together in the future.