Return of the long-term

Martin Schulz warns in his Europe speech for a "market-based democracy"

Event contributions, Berlin, Nov. 9, 2012
Ed.: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V.

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Martin Schulz
In front of some 750 guests at the Paul-Loebe-Haus of the German Bundestag…

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, urged in his Europe speech in Berlin for a ‘return to long-term thinking.’ “It makes perfect sense to arrange a speech on Europe to be given here, in Berlin, on this fateful date, 9 November. This is a clear message that Germany's past and Europe's past are just as inextricably linked as Germany's future and Europe's future are.”

Europe is currently experiencing the worst crisis since the founding of the European Union, Mr Schulz said at the outset of his speech at the Paul-Löbe-Haus of the German parliament. Assuming that many of the achievements Europe has made so far are self-evident is a big part of today’s crisis. “On the most prosperous continent on earth we can travel, work and live where we please, we enjoy a standard of living and a degree of protection of our fundamental rights which people in other parts of the world can only dream of,” said the President of the European Parliament.

Especially given the turbulent and difficult times, that Europe is facing today, the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union on 10 December in Oslo "was finally some good and a well-earned distinction.” The Nobel Peace Prize honours the historic achievements of the European integration process. “It should remind the Europeans, in particular at this time of crisis, how important it is that we should not give up the fight and that we should do everything in our power to ensure that the European Union does not fail.”

"One of the most brilliant ideas in the history of mankind"

The birth of a united Europe goes a long way back and is mainly due to ‘the boldness’ of the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman and the first German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. Those two man, in their own way victims of the Second World War, created a so-called European Coal and Steal Community, referred by Schulz as "one of the most brilliant ideas in human history." The key industries of coal and steel production, which were so important for the preparation and waging of war and which were already running at full capacity once again in Germany, were to be placed under the administration of a joint High Authority.

One of the greatest challenges for today’s politics Schulz sees in the rhythm of our globalized media society where decisions are taken and implemented with unimaginable speed. "E3ven before the news agency telex machines have finished tapping out the latest report, a politician is being asked to comment on it. The new social media, Twitter and Facebook, which have brought a communication revolution, are adding to the pressure to respond to events immediately.” As this system of ‘market-compliant democracy’ develops, there is a danger that parliamentary democracy will suffer - parliaments need time to consider proposals, to seek a consensus after weighing up all the opposing arguments or to push decisions through. Times of crisis are conventionally times when the executive comes to the fore and parliaments, both national parliaments and the European Parliament, are increasingly being marginalized. When it becomes the norm democracy will be in danger. “Therefore the challenge which is facing politicians today is how to retain the ability to act decisively whilst safeguarding democracy.”

This crisis has made clear that Europeans no longer live in separate countries, but that they are living in an interdependent Europe. However, some governments still refuse to accept that they are already working in a European context. “In so doing, they disregard the fact that it is in their countries' very best interests that Europe should function properly,” said the Parliament’s president.

“EU is a long-term project”

Because of Europe’s unification, values as prosperity, peace and freedom also found permanent place, because Europe managed to build a unique society model that is based on consensus and economic order in a social context and that gave birth to the welfare state. “The fact that today people are talking once again about a 'lost generation' in Europe should make us sit up and take notice. In Greece and Spain every second young person is unemployed.” These prospects will lead to disappointment, to frustration and to anger “It is undermining trust in our democratic institutions,” said Schulz.

HE finished his speech by pointing out that the European Union is a long-term project. A project which has always produced long-term dividends. “It demands that we take a long-term view, setting aside day-to-day political squabbles, approval ratings and election dates.” Prof. Norbert Lammert reminded in his speech that Europe is a product from war results and since it existence managed to develop it self more and more. “Therefore I’m sure that juts like times before, also this crisis will lead to more integration,” said the President of the Bundestag.

Dr. Hans-Gert Poettering quoted Konrad Adenauer in his welcome speech with the words: "The fate of a European country will be the fate of all European countries. We are in this all together.” He encouraged the youth of Europe to see themselves as self-conscious Europeans who recognize their responsibility and enthusiasm for Europe.

Kathrin Deventer from the initiative "A Soul for Europe" asked in her opening speech, to regard today’s Europe not as self-evident but as something, which we have to keep working for. "It is always easier to fight against something, and harder, to build something together." Europe will only be stronger when cooperating together on and for its values.

Die Europa-Rede, the “State of Europe” is an event organized by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Robert Bosch Stiftung and Stiftung Zukunft Berlin. Each year on the 9 of November, one of Europe’s highest representatives, will deliver a speech to present their views on Europe’s past and future. In 2010 opened Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council the “State of Europe” series, followed by the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso.

Europa-Rede