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© cc photo: Mustang Joe
Yes, these are confusing times in the world around us. Some of us deliberately don’t want to hear the word ‘crisis’ anymore. Too large in number, too confusing in meaning. Are political leaders tasked with realizing solutions, including when it comes to Putin’s war against the Ukrainian people? What can I do about it?
I am secretly inclined to agree with them, but perhaps I lack the courage to do so. What I do know is that we as ordinary citizens are missing out on opportunities. Possibilities not mentioned by the company of analysts who play the same record over and over. The world has changed, the United States is dividing into two political parts, China is struggling to realize its dream of prosperity, the climate is suffering worldwide, and poverty is increasing everywhere. You can see on Van Wijken’s faces how badly they suffer from a lack of imagination.
And Europe? Oh, let’s get straight to the point. The European leaders are fully behind Ukraine, but they make absolutely no sense of being European. Should it? I would think so, because the current thinking about European values is not shared by the inhabitants of the European continent. And so we keep staring at the maps depicting battlefields, wondering if Putin is terminally ill, a new Stalin, or worse, a new Hitler. Thinking of a perspective for Europe ending with a gas cap (although it is brave of the European Commission to abandon the mantra of the free market that solves everything).
Ask yourself: do I want to be European? As a Dutchman, you are formally already due to the association with the EU, including elections, rules and agreements on passports and €. But being European goes further: Protecting fundamental freedoms, promoting democracy, standing for the separation of powers – legislation, administration and an independent judiciary -. Essential rights that directly imply quality of life. And that we as Europeans should not detain vulnerable groups outside our continent
It is unique in our world that the European continent has such a constitution. Other continents have weakened sub-forms (Africa, Latin America, Asia) but lack the constitutional, enforceable frameworks that the EU and Europe have.
Being European is not a non-binding option where it is easy to pay for a French baguette with a few euros now. It is an attitude to life, a task for education – which in my opinion lags far behind European education -, a new framework for analysts and an appeal to political administrators not to give up if, for example, EU member states such as Poland and Hungary respect the rights of scoffing citizens. The citizens themselves can also contribute ideas and thoughts beyond the current confusion about how being European can take on a personal meaning. And: how do we deal with the Russian population suffering under Putin, how do we achieve an active peace-loving Europe that does not become the pace setter of a new cold war with billions of dollars spent on defense? How can we make climate change a priority again with international cooperation instead of fragmenting the world into regions fighting each other?
There is a movement that wants to keep us from all this: right-wing nationalists who mislead us with their appeal that Europe is no good. They inspire fear but have no choice but to incite hatred. It does not lead to a better Netherlands and Europe, but it creates a climate of despair and deception. Let’s take their supporters seriously and start the conversation to arrive at a perspective. A perspective also for new generations.
More specifically about the Dutch analysts. At the weekend I read NRC and De Volkskrant. What sorrow I face when it comes to (wanting to) be European. To mention m/k/t and horse.
In NRC, Europe expert Caroline de Gruyter notes that wars are the reason for Europe’s binding force. In her contribution, she emphasizes the current mindset of Europeans, who, due to the war in Eastern Europe, are reasonably positive towards Europe itself (ie: the EU). De Gruyter is the author of the book De Europeanen (2006), but in her latest contribution perspectives are omitted and she is locked into a European pragmatism, as also mentioned in her book.
Another NRC contribution on Europe comes from Rosanne Hertzberger. She struggles with the question of how far the threat of a nuclear attack must go in order to give a real response (from Europe). She gets no further than that you cannot trust experts in their predictions and that, for example, Europe had already entered World War I before sleepwalking.
A third contribution is an article submitted by senior lecturer Nikki Brand. She argues that European diplomats are too slow and too reactive to respond adequately, for example, to the American signal that Putin will attack Ukraine. She leaves the question unanswered about which values and standards ambassadors should be proactive about. Here’s a variation of more of the same.
De Volkskrant is completely wrong. Europe is the big absentee this weekend. As if there is no war raging on the eastern flanks. Or is De Volkskrant Ukraine tired? You can’t get more un-European. Okay, the De Volkskrant editorial board is also entitled to autumn vacation, but this does not apply to the newspaper itself. think laziness? Worse than that: great indifference to the European continent.
Being European is an exciting task. We should especially challenge students to surprise us with their images and ideals. Let them surprise the media with their invention of how the European continent is worth fighting for. Not so much with weapons, but especially with essays, poems, festivals, educational experiments and European meetings.
To be an analyst of a European future.