"Europe's heart and soul"
Juncker, Tusk, Schulz
Mr Donald Tusk, President of the European Council,
Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission,
Mr Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament,
For me, you are the key people in the EU and therefore I allow myself to write you at the same time.
Briefly about my person: Danish citizen, born 1943. Since 1975 I live in Germany with my family (husband, 2 married children and 4 grandchildren). For the last 30 years I have been senior psychologist at the psychiatric university clinic of Cologne.
My remarks refer mainly to the 5-day conference "My! Europe "in the Netherlands from 26.-30.10.2016. Participants from DK, D, NL and GB discussed with invited guests questions about the EU. In addition, I have attended several events by "Europe Direct" in Cologne. Further references at the end of my conclusions.
It is often noted that the ideas of Jean Delors from the 90s "give Europe a heart and a soul" could not be realized because of economic interests and the increasing influence of neoliberalism. There were also idealistic thoughts. Today, the goal must be to strike a balance between reason, intellect, facts and values, which usually have an emotional background. So far, the first three of these have certainly tried to get through - with the last one as a troublemaker.
I shall return to the consequences of these considerations.
Now, however, some comments on concrete discussion questions at the conference:
A: Active Citizenship in the EU
A closer contact between EU's citizens and the EU's political system is needed, but we should not develop a European citizenship. This would jeopardize the national identity still to be preserved. However, a dual citizenship could be a possibility.
When it comes to EU education, the idea of lifelong learning has to be put into practice, which means that intercultural customs and religious differences should already to have a role in the kindergarten. In schools, national history and literature must always be taught in the European context. Later, young people have the opportunity (as students at universities or as apprentices in vocational schools), e.g. through activities such as being an interpreter, assistant at exhibitions, or similar, to earn credit points, which can be accounted for as proof of study or training achievements.
Internet voting as a supplement to personal voting could be considered if the necessary security standards could be guaranteed. Certainly it would motivate many, especially young people, to vote.
B: Democratic deficit of the EU
On the question of the democratic deficit of the EU, I would like to note that this deficit exists in the individual Member States as well.
Full transparency as the basis of a democracy can only be accepted in part. It is necessary to conduct talks "in the background" in order to achieve joint public decisions where neither one or the other party loses "face" too much. However, in the course of such a process there must be a right to have a public discussion, so that the population is not confronted with facts that they do not understand and therefore often cannot accept!
In contrast, a completely different transparency must be developed for lobbyists. The Commission claims that the consultations which are necessary in many cases, are indispensable and fully documented. Nonetheless, it is usually completely opaque to the public, which economic or other interest groups are actually behind legislation or political action.
Whistleblowers would have to be protected by a not yet written rights code.
As regards human rights and the Copenhagen Criteria, their content and impact should be discussed more clearly in the public sphere. A thing that is said to be valid at all times is always blocking when it comes to a future that we do not yet know.
National referendums should be part of a modern democracy at both national and EU level. Through greater citizens' influence on the European Parliament, this institution could also gain more power. E.g. the EU Parliament could also propose the members of the Commission and not only approve their candidature.
It would have to be considered that the national parliaments give further competences to the EU institutions. They could also co-decide on how an "ever deeper cooperation" in the EU should develop. There should always be a clear separation between the legislative, the executive and the judicial power in the EU!
In summary, the EU is currently dominated by economic interests. But we also need a shared system of values and a morality derived from it. To achieve this, we must resort to our century-long common political and cultural history.
In the past, we have managed so many painful problems together, more or less well, and we should not compromise this consensus. We need, therefore, to work towards an "EU of the Middle", a broad centre, which will never stop discussing with those who have other points of view.
If we can not do this, there will be a risk that the EU will slowly lose its importance world politics.
1. „So funktioniert die Europäische Union“, 201
2. „10 Prioritäten für Europa“, Oktober 2015
3. EU Nachrichten, 20.10.2016
4. „Memorandum Europa für die Bürger“, Prof. ir N.D. Klaas Van Egmond, Oktober 2016