Next year Europe celebrates the 60th anniversary of the day when the heads of state of six European countries met in Rome to sign the Treaty of Rome, the founding document of the European Communities. They saw European integration as a way of preventing the seeming inevitability of new conflicts in Europe.

Sixty years on, the integration process has deepened and widened to include 28 member states. It also brought forth the peace Europe had coveted for so long, as well as growth and prosperity.

As we reflect on Europe's achievements over the years, it is however also the time to take stock. Lately the European Union has faced, and is still facing, severe tests to the solidarity on which peace and growth have prospered. European solidarity was severely tested by the Greek crisis, the continuing refugee flows and the tragic and shameful terrorist attacks.

The European Commission has been swift in leading the response to each situation. Adhering to the true spirit of Robert Shuman's declaration on the 9th of May 1950, which we commemorate today as Europe Day, when he stated that "world peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it", the European Commission is striving to stand up to the challenge. Over the past months it has put forward proposals to deal with the situation at hand.

European ideals...are under unprecedented strain- Elena Grech

Unfortunately, the response is not uniform and further efforts remain crucial.
Europe as we know it today could have never been realised, if there was no commitment to achieve and deliver it, by all those involved.

Since its conception the project had an economic and political dimension, and these two elements still drive the continent today. The founding fathers were farsighted in their ideal of pooling their resources so as to avoid future conflicts.

We are living in a period where the European ideals, what we stand for and the principles on which the European Union was founded, are under unprecedented strain.

Apart from the various economic and political pressures, the Union also had to contend with the consolidation phase required after the biggest enlargement that took place in 2004. 

In his declaration Shuman also said that “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.” Albeit severely tested, European solidarity remains at the heart of European Policy.

Despite the various external pressures, most of the strain is currently coming from within the union

The ten priorities identified by President Juncker at the beginning of his mandate aim to ensure that the action taken by the European Commission over the next five years will really be “big on big and small on small”. The aim is to focus major efforts on the most important issues which redefine the original objectives of the European forefathers.

Despite the various external pressures, most of the strain is currently coming from within the union. While focusing on the problems at hand, the challenges Europe is facing have led to a surge in nationalistic movements and policies, which are built on populist arguments aimed at those who believe that a country is better on its own.

Time will tell, but I am convinced that as time goes by, Europe will be judged by its ability to take courageous collective decisions rather than short-term individual measures.

Global issues need global solutions. The European ideals set by Schuman are even more relevant today. The solution to the economic crisis stands in a collective effort towards growth from within the continent. The solution to the global threat of terrorism is found in a strong concerted global effort in which Europe will be a key player.

The antidote to the anxieties of conflict is a strong and connected continent. However as the Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker cautioned a few months ago, "there is not enough Europe in this Union and there is not enough Union in this Union".

There needs to be a focused effort to recreate a process of convergence, both between Member States and within societies, for economic growth and social justice. The same effort needs to be injected into converging our energies to secure growth, safeguard peace and address global challenges. We are responsible to protect what is European in terms of values, whilst nurturing trust amongst all those who look at Europe as a beacon of hope.

Elena Grech is Head of the European Commission Representation in Malta.


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