Protect the ideal of Europe: Article

Protect the ideal of Europe: Article

Pedro Sánchez*
Protect the ideal of Europe: Article

A few months ago, in an intervention before the European Parliament, I called for the need to protect Europe so that Europe would protect its citizens.

In the first part of that assertion - protecting Europe - it appealed to the need for Europeans to become aware of the risks that threaten the Union, and to act accordingly. The second part - a Europe that protects - is a firm, determined bet for Social Europe.

The Europe that protects is the Europe that unites, that unites society with facts and not just in words, with more solidarity and not less. To protect Europe is to strengthen it and not to engross it, not to weaken it by encasing problems. Much less, disintegrate it with new mental or physical trenches. Neither to centralize their competences, denying European diversity and weakening the principle of subsidiarity. Protecting Europe is federalizing it. It is to realign the principles with the acts. Philosophy with reality, values with facts.

Until a few years ago, the idea of a constantly expanding Europe was never in question. First towards the north, then towards the Mediterranean and finally to the East after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But three years ago, for the first time, Europe contracted. The triumph of the supporters of the departure of the United Kingdom marks a before and after. And we must ask ourselves what happened.

A helpless society is a society more prone to believe in prophets. Prophets with different faces -authorities, extremists or nationalists- but identical intellectual approach: simple solutions to complex problems, more fences, more tariffs, more folds ... That is the proposal of the ultras: exaggerating the fear to make society entrenched.

That fear may grow because of the skill with which those who infuse it maneuver. But also by own failures. Perhaps we have relied so much on the symbolic power of the concept of Europe, on the strength of future promises, or on its legitimacy of origin, that we have forgotten to act in the present.

This present is called inequality, precariousness, migration, global warming, gender gap, the future of our youth, population aging, gentrification of cities, access to housing and citizen security in the face of organized crime or international terrorism.

It is discontent with this reality that advances the enemies of a united Europe, determined to stop the clock of history and return to place their needles in the nostalgia of a past that they idealize. But the future of a society is not its past.

To defeat them we need an ideal of Europe that translates into certainties. We all need certainties in life. Ideals are very necessary, but they are not enough to fill the pantry, nor do they lower the price of rent, nor guarantee decent pensions. Therefore, it is good to measure and recognize the damage that the paradigm of austerity did.

I have always believed that Europe is, above all, a community of values. But it is also a community of interests that must be protected and can only be protected from unity. The geopolitical threats that we face are real. And we must act decisively against them.

In this scenario, the role of Spain is fundamental. We are the only State that shares a physical border with a continent like Africa that, in three decades, will double its population. There is no border that more clearly summarizes inequality. We are the gateway to a strategic area such as Latin America, with which links of great value to the Union unite us. And we are a relevant player in the Mediterranean, a scenario of crucial importance for Europe.

The European Union protects us against unfair competition from other foreign giants, from the dominant position of other commercial powers. Or the abuse of large technology companies, as we have seen recently, that trade with citizens' data, sometimes putting our own democracies at risk. Unrenounceable values and fair interests.

The Europe we want is Industry 4.0 Europe, which competes for excellence, which creates a modern and entrepreneurial economy without renouncing some of its most distinctive economic potentials. Artificial intelligence, the digital universe, robotics and clean energy are the spaces in which the future is winning. Europe has to look to China and the United States and occupy the space that corresponds beside them.

A Europe capable of competing globally in the markets with the great powers, but not at the cost of weakening the competition policy or of agglutinating the economic power in the most privileged regions, increasing the differences within the Union.

In 1945, Europe had the intelligence to look at the human being. To men and women of flesh and blood, and from that began to build. That Europe has served to inspire the best dreams of humanity, such as peaceful union, the Declaration of Human Rights or the welfare state.

Now, more than seven decades later, we must recover our lost pulse and face the new challenges. Our obligation is to protect Europe so that Europe protects citizens.

A purpose that translates into the following policy action objectives:

First: We have to consolidate the modernization and the digital and ecological transition of our economy from a position of leadership, taking care of the new sectors without forgetting in any case the traditional sectors.

Second: We must undertake the new pending reforms that underpin the single currency to complete the Monetary Union, culminating the Banking Union, consolidating the Tax Pillar of the Euro and setting in motion the European Deposit Guarantee Insurance System. A true budget for the euro zone must be promoted.

Third: It is necessary to preserve our social contract and protect the most vulnerable through decisive actions, such as the European Unemployment Insurance, which will complement the current national systems.

Fourth: It is a priority to complete that feminist Europe in which we are advancing. For this reason, I have proposed the adoption of a Gender Equality Strategy of the European Union of a binding nature, to combat the gender gap, the higher rate of unemployment and the precariousness that women suffer, with greater intensity.

Fifth: We must continue to lead the fight against climate change, which is undoubtedly the most important challenge we have right now, because none of the others will be resolved well if this is not resolved. We are being asked by young people with the Fridays for future, but it also represents a great opportunity for economic transformation, which is already being reclaimed by the streets. It is time to promote a Green New Deal, capable of invigorating the economy with sustainable industries and jobs, with high added value thanks to innovation and knowledge. A new agreement that allows us to arrive earlier and reach better all the sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Sixth: We have to face the challenge of migration from a double perspective. From the interior, giving orderly and supportive shelter to those immigrants who need Europe. And from the outside, putting cooperation and development aid with Africa in the first line of action.

Seventh: We must reach a firm and effective foreign policy once and for all. Therefore, it is essential to have a framework of self-defense, which contemplates multilateral collaboration but not dependency. To ensure the safety of our citizens we have to achieve a true Europe of Security and Defense. We have to build a more agile and less bureaucratized Europe in some decisions.

Eight: All these policies that will make Europe useful and effective in protecting its citizens, demand an ambitious European budget, in size and content, that is up to date and reflects the new priorities, without neglecting the traditional policies.

In short, a roadmap to protect Europe and get Europe to protect Europeans.

Together we are the second economic bloc and the first commercial power on the planet. Separately, we must resign ourselves to living in a world designed by third parties. Retreat, in our times, is synonymous with defeat.

The writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau said that: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them”.

That is the European ideal. When nobody dared to build castles in the air, we built them, knowing that this is where the castles have to be: on high, spotting the world. They are safer, they are bigger and they are more comfortable. In these decades, what we have done has been to lay foundations under those castles until they are a solid space.

Now, when a problem has arisen, we cannot be willing to demolish or drop our great work. It is enough to reinforce those foundations, to close the cracks. It is time to protect Europe so that Europe protects us.


* Pedro Sánchez is the President of the Government of Spain.

Pedro Sanchez, op-ed,