ROME/STOCKHOLM – The ongoing global economic crisis is shaking beliefs and approaches that have long been enshrined in European policies. Indeed, the crisis is calling into question the very foundations of the European Union. There is thus an urgent need to reassert the core character and identity of Europe. The very nature of our European model – a model that is open internally, externally, and globally – must be reaffirmed.
Internally, Europe should remain both an open society and an open economy. We should fight against the protectionist temptations that would unravel the very foundation of the European project, a project based on the “four freedoms”: free movement of goods, people, services, and capital.
But the European economic recovery plan that was recently reaffirmed by the European Council of Ministers is mainly focused on national measures to support domestic demand. In implementing this plan, governments must refrain from the temptation to turn national measures into narrow protectionist schemes. Such a development would threaten growing unemployment in Europe and elsewhere, and make fighting the crisis much more difficult. So a return of economic, social, or political nationalism is simply not an option.
Indeed, intra-EU trade today accounts for nearly two-thirds of EU member states’ total trade. And the EU itself is the leader in world trade, accounting for 18%, followed by the US and China. Even the free circulation of workers and people in Europe is a well-established and positive reality: 2% of EU citizens – more than 10 million people – reside in a Union member country other than their native one.