Europe getting stronger rather than Germanized
ANGELO SANTAGOSTINOAre we witnessing the “Germanization” of the European Union’s policies? Or Europe’s surrender to the national interests of its leading states? Are there growing tendencies of xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism in the EU? Yes, according to the views expressed in interviews and articles by commentators and experts on the EU economy, politics and social situation.
Let’s first deal with Germanization. Europe has been strongly battered by the present economic crisis. The response of the EU has certainly not been quick. About 30 European summits, over four years, have been necessary to set up the new economic governance and cope with the crisis. But finally, through the so-called six-package, the stability funds and other measures implemented by the European Central Bank, an answer has been found.
The toolbox is now ready. Each one of these instruments has been prepared through a long process with the participation of the European Commission, the EU and European Councils and the European Parliament. In addition, national parliaments have ratified the Fiscal Compact Treaty. To put it briefly, the whole European democratic system has taken part and has had a say in this process.
Nowadays, we have more of a political union in Europe than before the start of the crisis, meaning the European project is now more robust. Germany has certainly played an important role, but not more and not less than in any previous phase of the process of European integration. The dominant factor has not been German will, but the determination of all members of the union to strengthen it. It has been a unified answer to the crisis, not a supine acceptance of a diktat from Angela Merkel. Fiscal discipline is the product of classical liberal thought, not of German Protestant ethics. It has been part of the EU treaty since the beginning of the 1990s. This enhanced economic and political integration will benefit each member state, not just one or a few at the expense of the others. Europe is a win-win game, and will continue to benefit all players.
When it comes to Islamophobia, it should first be defined. For this, it is useful to start from the wider concept of religion-phobia. This occurs when a religious community is hindered in the manifestation of its belief by the use of force and violence, which could include destruction and murder. Both Muslim and Christian communities in Myanmar, Pakistan or Nigeria are the victims of fundamental-terrorist groups not accepting religion freedom. None of this is happening to Muslim communities in Europe. We have episodes and stains of religious intolerance, but nothing that can be compared to a whole movement. The aggression shown to Muslim woman wearing a headscarf and other forms of intolerance are not acceptable, but this does not equal Islamophobia.
We cannot only look at one aspect of this reality. Muslims enjoy religious freedom in Europe under the Charter of EU Fundamental Rights, a constituting element of European integration. The practical consequence of this legal framework is that hundreds (probably thousands) of mosques have been opened throughout Europe, in many cases built with public support. Muslim religious freedom is complemented by Islamic cultural centers and schools, butchers and cemeteries. In European bookstores, even in those run by Christian organizations, the Quran is sold alongside the thoughts of Rumi. In the German Parliament, there are eleven deputies of Turkish origin. In France, under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, a Muslim woman held a post of minister. In Italy a black woman of Congolese origin is now minister for integration policies. Muslims and Turks are present in the European Parliament. All this greatly overwhelms the spots and episodes of intolerance. Europe is a space of freedom for any person living there, irrespective of their religious belief.
In conclusion, the European space of shared economic and political sovereignty, freedom, democracy and respect of human and individual rights is getting stronger, to the benefit of all.
Angelo Santagostino is the Jean Monnet professor of European Economic Integration and a guest professor at Yıldırım Beyazıt University in Ankara.