In 1918, Europe emerged exhausted from a bloody war that took so many lives without addressing the tensions at the heart of the conflict. In 1939, a new conflict broke out against a backdrop of crisis and the rise of fascism. It took decades of effort and compromise for a new generation to finally offer Europeans what the sleepwalking leaders of two wars had denied them: a Europe of peace, prosperity, and freedom.
A century later, as our continent once again faces division and resistance to change, we refuse to be a complacent generation. We must act now, or else face the risk that the European project will perish. Worse still, it could be suffocated by populist leaders for whom our Union is nothing but an anomaly of history, up for destruction.
Eight months away from elections that will allow citizens of 27 countries to choose the Europe they want, we are launching an appeal: we are proposing to rebuild the European Union to finally meet the expectations of our peoples, and to reconnect with the European promise.
Today’s Europe is too often overwhelmed by the challenges it faces, be they ecological, economic or migratory. It is overwhelmed by the expectations of its citizens who demand less regulation and more action. It is overwhelmed by the commitments it struggles to meet, due to a lack of common vision and a functioning performance.
But the European promise is not lost. It just lies dormant. Recent improvements in cross-border workers, and in defence, show how Europe can progress when political will harnesses Europeans to rally around a clear and ambitious project.
And when it comes to digital taxation, we are just at the beginning of the process - but we know the only possible solution is a European one. French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech about the future of Europe at the Paris-Sorbonne University last year was a step in this direction. It is now up to us to make it happen.
Instead of a divided and weakened Europe which is at the mercy of world powers, we want a sovereign Europe that acts robustly at all times
It is not merely a question of going beyond the divisions that have animated European politics for 40 years and led to the current stalemate.
Nor arguing against Orban, Le Pen and Salvini when they blame the Union for everything wrong in their country, without proposing anything constructive, nor agreeing on a plan of action. We have to make proposals.
This is why our vision to revive the European Union is clear.
Instead of Salvini’s threats of “mass cleansing” or “getting rid of Islam”, or Le Pen’s “doing away with Europe”, we proudly proclaim we still believe in the Union’s founding values of peace, freedom, prosperity and solidarity. And we will fight to both protect and retain them.
Instead of appeals to muzzle justice and opposition, we will defend the committed adherence to the rule of law and democratic institutions.
Instead of a divided and weakened Europe which is at the mercy of world powers, we want a sovereign Europe that acts robustly at all times where the action of isolated countries is unyielding - especially when it comes to economic and monetary policy, security and defence, social policy, ecological and agricultural transition, immigration and integration, plus digital change.
Our method is equally clear.
We are not scared of change. We are ready to reform treaties if that is what is needed. We are determined to move forward, despite obstacles and each member state needing a different pace to embrace change. We want a stronger Europe, one we can reinforced together. And we remain open to others wanting to join us in this quest.
We are determined to overcome existing partisan structures if they act as obstacles. We have committed ourselves to rejuvenating Europe by bringing together citizens from all four corners of our Union. People who are passionate about the European Union, and determined to invest in this historical project.
But the time we have to convince each of our member states that Europe and its citizens deserve this new project is running out. Eight months is all we have left to reawaken Europe. So we must come together to act now.
Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, senator and former Italian prime minister, Christophe Castaner, delegate general of La Republique En Marche, France, Albert Rivera, president of Ciudadanos, Spain, Guy Verhofstadt, president of ALDE Group in the European Parliament, Belgium, Olivier Chastel, chairman of the Mouvement Réformateur, Belgium, Dacian Cioloș, former prime minister and leader of the Romania Together Movement, Romania, and Alexander Pechtold, leader of Democrats 66, The Netherlands.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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