Unity and identity are categories enabling the interpretation of Europe today; concreteness and “dreams” are the lenses enabling to envisage Europe’s future. On the occasion of the celebrations marking the 60th Anniversary of the founding Treaties of the EEC (European Economic Community), and of the EAEC (European Atomic Energy Community or Euratom), the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, addressed the stumbling blocks on the path leading to Community integration, mentioning its manifold opportunities. At the same time the EP President extended his gaze to the future with the “optimism of reason”, he said. Elected past January to the highest post of the Assembly, Tajani, a professional journalist, has a long Europeanist curriculum serving as MEP since 1994, nominated EU Commissioner in the period 2008-2014, in charge of Transport and later of Industry.
Mr. President, on March 25 the leaders of EU Countries, together with dignitaries of EU institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg , will celebrate the historical bearing of the Treaties of Rome. What lessons come from the past that could be useful today, to face the ongoing challenges? It is essential to acknowledge the achievements of the past 60 years. Community Europe has contributed to the construction of long-lasting peace, to the establishment of democracy and freedom, to the respect of human rights and material wellbeing. It’s a precious heritage that should never be taken for granted.
The celebrations of the coming days can help us understand the value of unity, of walking together, of sharing common problems to seek common answers. Following the example of the “founding fathers.”
But nationalisms gain ground, while the public opinion, concerned about the impact of the economic crisis and globalization, is repeatedly calling for new walls. Brexit is a clear signal…
First of all it’s important to distinguish between the love of one’s country and nationalism. The former is a positive attitude, it means loving one’s own land, its people, culture and national language. This is all part of our identity, which we were not asked to renounce in order to enter the European Union. Conversely, nationalisms speak the language of fear, of closures. They lead to the walls – psychological and material walls alike – that are being rebuilt in several Countries.
Nothing good has ever come out of nationalisms:
European history was scarred by tragedies and wars that were sparked off by nationalist sentiments. Instead, we need to walk together, whilst not renouncing our proper identities and features. Moreover, we are called to confront giants such as the United States, China and Russia. If, as European Countries, we fail to be united, we will end up becoming marginal and overwhelmed.
Hence, we should stand together to pursue common goals? On several occasions you highlighted the urgent need to create job opportunities for the young, to face the knot of migration flows, and to ensure citizens’ security. Can the EU act as an added value in this respect?
Without question; first of all, it plays a primary role in delivering the concrete results demanded by European citizens. Just consider the advantages of the common market, or the amount of investments available through the structural funds; or the opportunity of enabling our youths to study abroad thanks to the Erasmus programme…. In Italy we have seen a EU present in the areas hit by the earthquake, delivering aids and funds for the reconstruction. But there’s also another important aspect.
Which is…? I consider it equally important to continue cultivating the European “dream”, especially for our young people. It is a high objective that should be developed day by day, through economic policies directed at development and job-creation, with projects in the areas of education and culture, with actions furthering the encounter of different peoples, with decisions that address the integration of the immigrant population. It’s a dream that is created and furthered via effective policies based on the principle of subsidiarity.
There is renewed attention to the contribution of faith communities, that could lead to social and political integration also thanks to the dialogue between the EU and the Churches enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon. What is your opinion?
The dialogue with religions is the cornerstone of Europe’s development, owing to the deep-rooted presence of the Church at local level, and thanks to her ability to be a thriving part of our society.
Moreover, special attention should be paid to the Jewish-Christian contribution characterising European history.
Indeed, far from being a confessional argument, it is part and parcel of the history of the continent, along with the contribution of Greek philosophy, of Roman Law, up to the Enlightenment and beyond.
On March 24 the heads of Government and State, along with EU leaders, will be received in audience at the Vatican. The Pope “from the other side of the world” has been devoting much attention to European developments and has addressed this theme on several occasions.
Indeed, Pope Francis delivered a beautiful speech in November 2014, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. And again, past May in the Vatican, upon the conferral of the Charlemagne Prize: his addresses are marked by the constant quest for a renewed European profile in full adherence to our roots;
When Bergoglio speaks of Europe he always uses the word “hope.”
The Pope calls upon the EU not to leave anyone behind, to help the last and the poor, to welcome refugees, sustain the family, and respond to young people’s needs. These are fundamental references for the political realm of our present times.
One last short question on the Future of the EU: are you pessimistic or optimistic?
Mine is the optimism of reason. Europe is the horizon on which we move. And without Europe, given the present circumstances, we will go nowhere.