It is only when we psychologically refuse to be European that we have issues

Federica Mogherini at the European Business Summit 2018

, by Eloïse Ryon

It is only when we psychologically refuse to be European that we have issues

The European Business Summit, an event running from the 23rd to the 24th of May 2018, had as one of their main speakers Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission. She intervened alongside Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Kingdom of Belgium, on the topic of “the EU as a global actor”. I had the privilege to witness this discussion and now to analyse their words.

Didier Reynders began with the vision of a Union “champion at promoting rights”. However, the Deputy Prime Minister did relativize his saying by affirming that the EU, in order to promote rights and liberties, first needs to be “organized at home”. The EU needs to “practice what it preaches”.

In fact, the rise of attacks to fundamental rights in countries within the European Union does not make it easy for countries outside the Union to take it seriously and respect its standards. The Polish ban on abortion, or the aggressive repression of migrants at the Hungarian frontier, are examples of EU values being challenged. Therefore, before taking a role of leadership in the area of fundamental rights, the EU should for sure clean up on its porch.

“The EU is not only about fiscality and economics” affirmed Federica Mogherini. In fact, since the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community, the EU has considerably evolved. There was a need and the will to develop this economic partnership towards a more integrated unity, which has given birth to the European Union as we know it. We, however, should not forget that the EU is only what it was allowed to become by the member states.

The EU, therefore, should not be the only one to blame when its efficiency reaches its limits. Member states have the biggest responsibility, they have the future of the EU in their hands. As Madam Mogherini stated, “no one is giving marks ... , the EU is a voluntary family”. That is the reason why the growth of extremist parties and the constitution of euro-skeptic governments is so worrying. That is the reason why we need citizens to be informed, and citizens who are not afraid to express themselves during elections, but also on a day to day basis. Opinions need to be challenged.

What are the next steps? Can we say that the EU is a global actor? Being one of the largest economies - and still growing while you are reading this article - and giving a louder voice to smaller and bigger states on the international political stage, the EU can certainly be said to be an important actor. But is it a global actor? We can see through the Iran Deal, which was “facilitated by the EU”, as explained Madam Mogherini, and through its stand on fundamental rights and the environment, that the EU has an enormous potential as a global influencer.

The Iran Deal still stands because the EU and the international community have proclaimed its validity. The EU’s political power appeases Iran and balances the rejection of the United States, clearly demonstrating the Union’s strength on the international stage.

But then why does the Union have no power over the instability caused by the proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the United States? Because there are several global actors in our shared society, each having their own cards to play, and they are doing just that (such as China with its road-belt initiative). The EU should do the same.

M. Reynders emitted the idea of a seat for the EU within the Security Council, recognizing that through this project, Belgium would have more power as a member of the EU, rather than by requesting a seat for themselves. This trust in the EU is what it takes in order for the transformation of the Union of today into the Union of tomorrow.

Our capacity to recognize the benefits, as well as the disadvantages, of the European Union, our capacity to take our own actions, to represent our own interests through one single voice, will determine the future of the Union. And do not forget, each and every one of you, of us, has a role to play, as the EU is and will always be what we decide it will be.

Citizens: do not forget to vote at the next European elections. Political leaders, be ambitious, realistic and take your responsibilities.

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