November 2, 2015
Not failing to understand that we do not entirely live in a world full of idealists, I believe that it wouldn’t be an unwarranted question for the British to ask themselves what the values are they share with Europe and how they can contribute to the realization of these through the European project.
This insight stems from the deeper perception that any true leader is a minister, a person who is driven by the will to serve his/her people. That mentality implies perhaps the question the British citizen can ask itself of how best to serve the needs of Europe in an impartial manner.
My guess is that this perspective would shift the debate in a slightly different direction. I wish though to stand neutrally and without prejudice towards the concrete implications of the effects an attitude of having an impartial will to serve would have on the British opinion towards membership of the EU.
I thus hope that these words, will help and inspire those who are seeking to address the British questions in a meaningful manner. I also hope in general, that we want to keep on thinking big in Europe, to expand our horizons and truly dive into ‘the other’, not merely as a tourist, looking into diversity from the point of view of a person passing by, but as parties having a genuine and in-depth understanding of our shared history and future together.
Thereby it isn’t enough for us to stick to seeing Europe as a philosophical or ideological construct, or as a set of beautiful things there are to see and experience in exercise of our freedoms in Europe. We need a deeper material connection that binds us in a structural manner to reach the required integration for peace in Europe. If one accepts this thought, doesn’t this then require a commitment that is part of rather than liaised to Europe? And, isn’t it this more important than getting the balance of power exactly right in Europe?
Of course, there remains the very practical question of the budget, which critics heavily argue against. And indeed, they are right in thinking about the question of what it is really worth to be part of a club that thinks about the idea of Europe as a grand ideology, one others may not be as interested in as those permanently engaged.
However, Eurobarometer 83 shows still that 56 percent of EU citizens have a commitment towards the EU as a peace project, a peace which is a benefit that no EU budget has ever counted into its risk analysis and shows as well that there is a crucially fundamental link of people to the EU.
Again, this is not to say that there would be infinite limits of loyalty to an EU in which one is a net contributor. The more one contributes the less legitimacy one would say. Still then it would be interesting to see for people to which degree they are actually willing to be a net contributor and why?
Also, of course one needs to look at the nature of the processes that are being financed through the EU budget. It is not always evident that what would be done by the EU would be replicated with similar value to people and the economy when done by the UK or any other member state for that matter. In that sense it would also be highly interesting if one can translate the (relative) impact of EU policies in broad domains into a dashboard of indicators.
The EU has been an excellent gathering place for professionals thinking about these matters, for example using GDP and beyond type of indicators (DG ENVI). If this would succeed, and the public would be able to access these indicators and assess the relative importance people attach to certain policies, we may also be able to better assess (in a quantitative manner) the relative value of having type X activities financed by the EU versus type Y by the UK. So who picks up on this? What are we ready with? How is this already integrated in the media, and what can we do to improve upon it?
Finally, coming back again to the question of the ideological project of Europe, if people were in fact to be so disinterested in the idea of Europe, as some may have it, why don’t we try in our campaigns to educate better about the ideas of Europe that are out there? It wasn’t for example just Immanuel Kant that wrote something on Europe in his ‘Perpetual Peace’ and ‘Metaphysics of Morals’, but many others in history who have written on Europe as a philosophical and political order. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t at some level have a feel for the depth of effect one political ideology or another can have on oneself. So, if things are like that, wouldn’t all citizens benefit from the enrichment of a form of collective re-examination of the different ideas that have existed about Europe in that past?Antonius Voluptarius