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Santiago de Navascués, PhD student of the School of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Navarra.

Reclaiming Europe

Thu, 09 May 2019 10:49:00 +0000 Published in

If anything has been conspicuous by its absence in the last few months of electoral campaigning, it has been the crucial European elections on May 26th. However, that the future of our country depends as much on the result of the elections as on the Brexit is something that no one would doubt. The dissolution of the European Union in the coming weeks is a real risk, although it would not be the first time that Europe is disunited.

In fact, in the inertia of the present moment, the perspective of what the European Union has meant for the world may be lost. According to the great historical schools of thought, the construction of Europe can be seen from two opposing points of view. For some, European unity was the response to a historical catastrophe - the Second World War - which had revealed the crisis of the nation-state. Europeans assumed the disappearance of their world hegemony and reflected on the danger of nationalist rivalries and imperialism. The consequence would be the training of organizations of solidarity and supranational partnership to avoid a third "European collective suicide". For others, Europe would be the result of a new form of international organization to achieve economic prosperity, to consolidate the expansion of the welfare state and to ensure the legitimacy of the nation-state as a citizen. At final: economic diplomacy and political calculation would be at the basis of European construction. European unity, according to these analyses, may have been the fruit of two very different virtues: solidarity on the one hand, and selfishness on the other.

It occurs to me that, between the two analyses, an intermediate one could be placed: Europe has been the fruit of a common idea based on cultural aspects which, on the other hand, advanced thanks to specific policies in which each State benefited from the help of the others. Europe would be a nice ideal on which to base concerted action that would benefit national interests. In this sense, the European unity that we have experienced over the last fifty years has been, as Samuel Johnson would say, like a dog that walked on two legs: "It did not walk well, but the wonder is that it walked". We should not expect a perfect union, because it never has been. Europe may exist not only in spite of its mistakes and vacillations, but also because of them. Following a biblical metaphor, those who made it possible were "cunning as serpents and innocent as doves".

In a global world like ours, it should not be difficult for European citizens to feel several identities at the same time. The attachment to our regional identities should not be at odds with a more global identification, open to the world, which proposes the idea of a European union. In this sense Brexit, like other Euroskeptic threats, represents the atavistic fear of the homeland being diluted in a global identity, of the disappearance of the self. History teaches us that European identities have developed in the heat of the admirable variety of cultures that is Europe. For better or worse, nations have long since ceased to be an "I" to become a "we".

The Europe of our times has championed peace, international cooperation and cultural exchange , something unthinkable not so long ago. As in so many other things, we Europeans have become accustomed to the miracle. Today, we invoke the name of Europe to rid ourselves of the nationalist spell, the "rise of the extreme right" and demands for EU reform. The problem, as Tony Judt wrote, is that "if we see the European Union as a solution for everything, invoking the word ''Europe'' as a mantra, raising the banner of ''Europe'' in the face of recalcitrant ''nationalist'' heretics and shouting ''Abjure, abjure!'', one day we will realize that, far from solving our continent's problems, the myth of ''Europe'' will have become an impediment to knowing how to recognize them."

We must also make our particular "workshop of reflection" in view of the European elections. The rebirth of Europe depends on our knowing how to recognize the miracle and act knowing what unites us as Europeans. In 1945, over the smoking rubble of the continent, Salvador de Madariaga wrote that "Europe can only be saved if Europe is born; and Europe can only be born if we act as if it were already alive".