Monday, October 20, 2014
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European Defense and European Solidarity

PRAGUE - Perhaps it is the experience of a man who endured forty years of Communist rule, and the Nazi Occupation before that. Maybe it is the experience of inhabiting a country in the center of Europe, a place which has for centuries been a crossroads of Europe’s spiritual currents, geopolitical interests, and confrontations. Perhaps all these factors, combined, led me to the conviction that Europe is one political entity whose security is indivisible.

The idea that there could forever be two Europes - one democratic, stable, prosperous and integrated; one less democratic, less stable, less prosperous and isolated - is mistaken. It is as if one part of a room could be heated and the other kept cold. There is only one Europe, despite its diversity. Any weighty occurrence provokes repercussions across the continent.

If Europe is to become one, if the European Union is to take in the new postcommunist democracies - which is in the interest of all Europe - a number of vital tasks must be undertaken, within the new democracies, as well as, in the European and Atlantic communities. To begin, Europe must foster community in the postcommunist countries by restoring civil society.

For a living society cannot be restructured from above. Thus Europe must help its new democracies to become an organic part of a shared Continental commitment to a deepening and advancement of civil society. The more diverse and interconnected European civic structures become, the better equipped the new democracies will be for membership in the EU and the more stable they will be as States.

To achieve this, Europe must encourage the new democracies to transfer various tasks of solidarity to self-governing bodies and non-profit or public service organizations. The lower the level of redistribution, the more transparent and more economical it will be; and, the better it will satisfy those social needs which central authorities cannot discern. Social solidarity will become more authentic if closely linked with concrete people or their associations.

Authentic solidarity amongst people, social groups, settlements and regions is also the surest background for those forms of solidarity that only States can implement. A bitter chapter in modern European history was the policy of appeasement with its renunciation of European solidarity, leading to the capitulation of Munich. This experience still carries a strong appeal for vigilance. Evil must be confronted as soon as it emerges, but it is not enough if governments act. For government policies grow from the sentiments of civil society, from the people.

Concern for security, indeed, is a manifestation of societal solidarity. The EU is working intensively on a new concept of its security policy. It should be marked by a capacity to decide quickly and speedily translate joint decisions into action - reforms recent events in Yugoslavia exposed as necessary.

NATO’s intervention last year showed that respect for human life and human liberty, and considerations of pan-European security, can necessitate intervention outside the EU’s borders. The stronger the mandate for such action, the better. Unfortunately, there may be situations in which a UN mandate may not come, although intervention is in the interest of many people; of all Europe; indeed, of human civilization. Until recently, Europe was ill-prepared for this alternative. It is more prepared now, at least psychologically. This psychological preparedness should be utilized to advance Europe’s material and technical preparedness.

But more needs doing in the field of preventive security, and to make that security reflect the values of Europe’s wider civil society. Tens of thousands of human lives and immense material could have been saved in Kosovo, Bosnia/Herzegovina, as well as other parts of former Yugoslavia, had the international community acted at the beginning of conflict. Despite warnings about impending horrors, action was timid. Those failures arose from a consideration of various particular domestic interests, as well as a lack of readiness to take risks for a good cause.

Indeed, without American energy, the international community would still be watching the horrors of Kosovo. Europe cannot remain forever dependent on the US, especially over European problems. It must be capable of agreeing on solutions of its own. It is unthinkable that the EU can stand as a respected part of the global order if it proves unable to agree on ways of protecting human rights, not only in its territory, but in areas that may one day be joined to it.

Such EU enlargement is fathomable only if it progresses hand-in-hand with bold reform of EU institutions. I trust that the Intergovernmental Conference on institutional reform will produce viable proposals to move the Union forward. But I see this as the beginning of a process which may take decades, and which should be guided by a lasting endeavor to speed up EU decision-making, making it more transparent.

One issue connected with institutional reform is the question of how to give smaller States a certainty that they will not be simply outvoted by larger ones, yet pay due regard to the size of these individual States. A possibility here is to establish a second chamber of the European Parliament with members not elected by direct ballot, but by the parliaments of member States from among their ranks. Thus, the EU’s first chamber - ie, its present Parliament - would mirror the size of individual member States; its second chamber, with the same number of representatives from every State, would enhance equality.

Sooner or later these changes will require that the EU possess a clear, understandable Constitution - a text all European children could learn. Such a Constitution needs two parts. Part One would lay down the rights and duties of European citizens as well as of States; the underlying values of a united Europe; and the meaning and objectives of integration. Part Two would describe the EU’s key institutions; their principal powers and the relations between them. Such a basic law would not automatically mean transformation of today’s union into the federal supra-state feared by Eurosceptics. It would, however, make it easier for citizens in an integrating Europe to recognize what the EU stands for; to understand it better and see its connections to their lives; and, consequently, to identify with it.

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