As a convinced European, I summon you to participate in the elections of the European Parliament this weekend to give your voice to the Project Europe. Europe is both our task and chance to fight for our solitary future -- because only a strong and solidly united Europe can guarantee a democratic globalization. And therefore I see these European elections as a clear acknowledgment of one of the most successful peace projects of the past few decades. I hope that you will too!
Europe is hope
When we talk about Europe, we often begin by talking about a Europe, which is in "crisis." We talk about the indebted "crisis countries," about the "Euro crisis" and one foreign-policy crisis has been keeping us busy for weeks, namely the one in Ukraine.
But this crisis shows us, in particular, that Europe means hope for many people.
It was the hope for a life of freedom with constitutional circumstances and fair prosperity which took the people of Ukraine to the street and ended the corrupt Janukowitsch regime.
This protest has partly been hijacked and instrumentalized by other powers. By listening to the head of the "Right Sector" it becomes clear what scorn for a free and liberal Europe has been spread in his circles. But the decision to bet on an association with Europe was the initial drive for protest. And for this, people had to die on the Maidan. This should humble us.
Therefore, we Europeans should stop badmouthing this Europe. The talk of "those bureaucrats in Brussels" must be banned from the texts of all speechwriters of democratic parties. Too much about climate protection, about involvement of citizens, about immigrants... that's the song that more and more Europeans are singing. But that's defamation, which our Europe doesn't deserve!
Europe is a great idea. Europe is hope. Even authority systems cannot withstand it. That's what Ukraine taught us.
Europe is peace
Initially the new Europe intended to overcome the causes of both devastating world wars -- initiated by Germany -- through economic cooperation and generosity.
This new Europe, for which a young Helmut Kohl once pulled out borderline trees with France, this Europe has given this continent 50 years of peace.
At the end of the Cold War, war returned to Europe after the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Today, the perspective of a unified Europe is the unification of Croatians, Serbians, Slovenes, Bosnians, the peoples of the western Balkan regions.
But peace is not natural. That's what Ukraine taught us. We have to work hard for freedom.
Europe is democracy
Europe has been the answer to the fascist Spain, the colonial dictatorship in Portugal, the military coup in Greece. And the societies of Eastern Europe wanted to access this Europe, when the lack of freedom under the Soviet Union came to an end. Therefore we must end the defamation of Europe.
New danger of the renationalization
This Europe is threatened. Not from the outside. The real threat comes from the inside. Because for several years, we have noticed a national reinvigoration. Even within the established, democratic spectrum, when say David Cameron once again decides to nationalize important decisions and to end the freedom of movement in Europe. The thereby created Europe of National States in a free trade area without common standards would be a turbo charger for all open European enemies. Their power can be taken from recent polls. The United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) is leading in the UK. In France, the Front National may become the most powerful political force after the European elections. The right-wing populist Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) from the Netherlands and Ms. Le Pen have already agreed to build a common fraction within the upcoming European Parliament. The Liberal Party of Austria (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs or FPÖ), the Belgian Vlaams Belang, the Swedish Democrates and the Lega Nord will join as well. And Alternativ für Deutschland from Germany will also move into the European Parliament.
Thus, the clandestine National Renaissance is taking place in Europe. This won't confine itself to right-wing populists and radical right-wings. In Germany, the regional party CSU enjoys specifically fanning the fear of people from Romania and Bulgaria. Since then, the taboo word of the year has been "benefit tourism," and rightfully so.
Of course, we cannot tar all parties with the same brush. Still, the right-wing populist European enemies unite three main ideologies: they are anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic and economic-liberal.
These parties are enemies of the basic principle of a common, solidly united Europe. Europe must fight together against these parties. And this with a clear acknowledgment of freedom of movement.
It may be certain, that the Eurosceptics will be more powerful after the elections. The question is, how powerful will they become? This is also something we will be voting for on Sunday.
The German sees the Romanian just like the Swiss sees the German. Even though Switzerland was not able to maintain its tourism, health system and even its national economy without immigrants, a small majority voted for a limitation of immigration and therefore opposed one of the four fundamental freedoms of the European Union. In fact, the opposition was highest in regions with the smallest amount of immigrants. Regions with many immigrants, and regions with -- by Swiss standards -- lots of problems due to immigration, such as Zurich, were more liberal. This is a common phenomenon in many European regions.
In other words, these are obviously not real but vague, imagined fears and problems, which fuel the cheap propaganda against an open-minded Europe.
Error of the crisis: "If everyone thinks about himself, then everyone is thought about"
At the same time, we should honestly realize that slogans from right-wing nationalists also step on breeding grounds, because massive mistakes have been made while dealing with the financial crisis since 2008. These are mistakes which undermine the European legitimacy.
The bailout packages for faltering national economies were necessary, given the circumstances. The underlying problem of economic unbalance between the individual states has not been solved.
On the contrary, to remedy the crisis, we reverted to old recipes. The public spending ratio has been restored, taxes reduced and social contributions decreased. This crisis concept has been suggested by business elites, neoliberal economists and the governments of the remaining strong countries of the Euro zone, most of all Germany. With partially devastating social consequences. Too often, the slogan of the crisis management has been "If everyone thinks about himself, then everyone is thought about."
Still today, the indebted countries remain in crisis; the European austerity plans prolonged the misery of the people and widened the gap between incomes massively. This is fatal for the social climate and these austerity plans give no perspective to the national economies. The unemployment in the southern countries is still at a high level; in January 2014 it was 28 percent in Greece and 25.8 percent in Spain. 59 percent of the youth in Greece are unemployed, compared to 54.6 percent in Spain and 42.4 percent in Italy.
Therefore, a whole generation is growing up which doesn't believe in the European Hope anymore. They mostly blame this Europe and its few strong states for their living conditions, and rightly so because these strong states dictate the conditions of economic "rescue."
This is the breeding ground for anti-European right-wing populism: the badmouthing of European institutions, vague national resentments against immigrants and "others," and the lack of perspective of the people from those countries, which suffer most from the crisis. The fact that established parties such as the German CSU deliver these ideologies themselves and try to make them presentable is one of the relevant driving forces of this development.
If once again an act against "social abuse" is gotten off the ground right before the elections of the CSU in Germany, that would be repulsive. If it is supported by the social democracy of the big coalition, then it would be shocking.
They hide all facts for electoral reasons. Not only do they withhold the fact that immigration is absolutely necessary due to demographic development, but also that the national economy will benefit from immigrants today.
This type of politics at the expense of the weakest strikes at the roots of Europe.
Use your voice: Go and vote!
But the National Renaissance is no law of nature. A strong, confident European Parliament can offer opposition. It can turn Europe into hope once again, just the way it is. We need political majorities to oppose the danger of renationalization. Democratic majorities.
And these majorities would be accepted. Not only by the heads of the member states. For the first time, a Commission President cannot be formally enforced against the elected Parliament. It would be a devastating signal, if the next parliament did not match the results of the European elections. It cannot be that the heads of state would once again select a Commission President by their grace. Angela Merkel is not the Queen of Europe, but everybody who is giving his or her vote on Sunday.
Only a high turnout can guarantee the legitimacy of the parliament and strengthen the voice of the European citizens. Therefore, use your voice: go and vote!
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