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17th Apr 2021

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Time to reinvent our Union, learning from Schuman's courage

  • 9 May 1950: Robert Schuman, minister for foreign affairs of France, pronounces a declaration by his government, in which Jean Monnet played a decisive role, which marks the beginning of European integration policy (Photo: EU Commission)

This Europe Day (9 May) marks the 70th anniversary of Robert Schuman's declaration of 1950, which signified the beginning of post-World War II Franco-German cooperation and the reintegration of Western Germany into Western Europe.

It was a powerful expression of intent to unite Europe, after the devastation wrought by World War II, and create a de facto solidarity

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70 years later, after decades of comparative peace, todays European Union - perhaps the world's greatest experiment in state integration - finds itself at a crossroads.

Consumed by a global pandemic, a world order changing in real time and a prescient ecological emergency, Schuman's dream of a united Europe is in need of resuscitation taking into account a fundamental change in the global geopolitical order.

In the 1950s, Schuman, Jean Monnet and others combined their efforts with the US's Marshall Plan. The post Covid-19 financial crisis, combined with the ecological crisis of climate change, the ongoing digital revolution means we face an equivalent challenge.

But this time, no external power will come to the rescue of the European economy in 2020.

Moreover, other superpowers considering Europe as a challenger will use this crisis to weaken Europe. It's up to us to show courage, ambition and willingness to be stronger together.

We will have to move from 'surviving to thriving' ourselves, show unity and solidarity.

In the short term, this means rolling up our sleeves to jointly build a massive European recovery fund, founded on our need for innovation, future-orientated investments, Europe's Green Deal and mass investment in emerging technologies.

This will be the first milestone to awaken ourselves from the current lethargy, and build a better future for our children and grandchildren.

Schuman appreciated that peace in Europe needed be built on the pooling of natural resources; in the 1950's this was coal.

The future

Now our young people, climate action, health and the digital transformation will be the new pillars of a cohesive, inventive and generous project.

The debate on the recovery plan is the first step of the broader debate of the Union we want for the next decade. Indeed, this debate might expose even more the limits of our own rules or the way we are using our rules.

But here, Schuman's words were never truer; "Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements, which first create a de facto solidarity."

If we are to tackle future health emergencies, which our citizens want us to do, we must build on the achievements we have made in this pandemic and have the courage and vision to build a Europe that has the capacity to protect, meaning anticipating new threats and acting as a power. The same goes for the economic recovery and with the new industrial policy needed.

In Schuman's era, change was implemented from the top-down.

In 2020, the European project must be changed from the bottom up. This is why the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe is so important and already today, I call on all Europeans to start reinventing Europe and contributing to the debate.

Real reform is needed now more than ever, because Europe's house is half built, a reality Schuman would no doubt be acutely concerned with.

A solution to this challenge must come from the citizens. As the Treaty of Paris in 1951 'gave birth to Europe', we must ensure the Conference on the Future of Europe reinvents our continent.

In 1950, Schuman knew that, in a changing world order abroad and a continent ravaged by nationalist imperialism, European countries would thrive, politically, economically and culturally by working together.

Schuman's declaration stated: "World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it."

In 2020, we must re-learn his lessons once more and commit to continuing to advance the hope of a united and sovereign Europe.

The European Union cannot be safeguarded without similar creativity and efforts consummate to the threats it faces.

Author bio

Dacian Ciolos MEP is the president of Renew Europe.

Disclaimer

This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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