United Europe - an integrated spirit -
Can the civil society lay out a Central-Eastern European Vision
to address the Future United Europe?
Motto: " . The salvation of this human world
lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power
to reflect, in the human meekness and in human responsibility"
(Vaclah Havel on Kundera)
Seven maps of South-Eastern Europe are juxtaposed. Internationally,
our region bears at least seven labels: CEEC - Central Eastern
European Countries, South-Eastern Europe (SEE), The Balkans, CE
- Central Europe, PAC - The Pre-Accession Countries, the Black
Sea Countries and lately, the Carpathian/ Danubian zone. Whatever
its accepted label, our identity has often been questioned. Nonetheless,
our nations are deeply rooted in a common Europe.
Often perceived as a nation “placed where Europe begins
and ends” Romania is a very interesting example of
what makes a European blend. A Latin country in the midst of a
“Slavic ocean” very close to Russia, Greece and Turkey,
Romania has a clear European vocation and a lot to bring to United
Integration into the Union will only round up Europe’s
proven strength for reconstruction. 58 years ago, the Second World
War ended with the defeat of the worst evil our European soil
has ever seen. Five years later, Robert Schuman presented a plan
we still consider the founding stone of European integration.
Three years ago, Minister Joska Fischer laid before us his personal
blueprint for a federal European Union. Placing those three events
side-by-side will convince the most hardened sceptic how far we
have travelled during these 58 years.
But it is not only those who remember the apocalyptic days of
the World War whom will have little doubt about this distance.
Most of us, younger than fifties, feel these fifty -eight years
of European construction in our bones.
And yet, euro-enthusiasm is not the order of the day.
East and West, North and South of the European Union, the integration
project is up for critical debate.
There are positive reasons for encouraging this creative ferment.
A year has already gone by since the Euro notes have been used
for the first time in the Euro-zone. A historic moment put a closure
on December 16th in Copenhagen, to long and pain staking negotiations
with the ten most advanced future new members. Only four years
to go before Romania and Bulgaria are likely to join the Union.
Just a few months to go before the European Union will have at
its disposal a sixty thousand-strong rapid reaction force.
All these represent momentuous developments which would make
the founding fathers most proud of their heritage. At the same
time, the European Union has been better at forging ahead with
new projects, rather then at selling them to the public. It is
difficult to put the blame on the shortcuts of political marketing
The European Union is not and will not be an easily sellable
And this, for several reasons. The most obvious one, European
integration, is a constant search for middle ground. It does not
go beyond what some members see as a red light. A good example
of that is the Niece treaty. As a result, we are still searching
for a magic formula to make our citizens embrace the European
Union the way they once embraced the nation-state, that is, as
a normal arena of political debate.
The post-Niece discussion began before ink dried under the new
The scale of the debate is a new phenomenon, and one that we
should welcome very strongly. What is also new is that the discussion
is solely devoted to governance. We are not talking about new
projects. The ones on the agenda, such as:
- enlargement or
- security and defence policy are challenging enough.
- We are discussing the way the European Union is governed
and the way citizens can make an impact.
We, at the Ithaka Foundation are confident that our action
will lead to a better understanding and better function within
a United Europe. Our on-going programmes: “EU Awareness”,
“Corporate Responsibility”, “Branding Romania”
and “Youth 2007” are all synergistically designed
to promote an active dialogue within the EU.
What do our programmes specifically represent
for Romania, for United Europe and for the rest of the South Eastern
European part of our continent?
First: Accompany what is today a fact, that Romania and
Bulgaria will be able to continue their progress, as the doors
of the EU will definitely not be closed after the first accessions.
Second: Lay out a blue print to later cooperate with those
countries in the region at varying stages in the SAA process,
who will also continue to make progress with the perspective of
eventual EU membership.
Through our programmes, we believe that in the next five years
we will inspire and contribute to the dialogue between the civil
society in “the more advanced candidate countries”
and the ones lagging behind.
The enlargement process offers the chance to heal forever the
artificial division of Europe, and the Europeanisation of the
Balkans offers the chance to show how reconciliation and cooperation
can be mutually reinforcing. Peace and prosperity lie at the heart
of the benefits which enlargement will bring.
- it will help improve security the SPSSE
is already tackling common European problems such as cross-border
crime, drug-smuggling, human trafficking and illegal immigration.
- it will bring new jobs: academic research
suggests enlargement will create 300,000 new jobs in the current
Member States and up to 2 million in the candidate countries;
- it will ultimately give consumers of an
enlarged EU access to a wider range of products at competitive
prices, as we create the largest market in the world with a population
of nearly 500 million.
Positioning ourselves as an actor responding to the challenge
for a United Europe, we can righteously look into ways of envisaging
the future and make plans for a yet unborn Europe, with a good
half of the continent comprising new members, mostly Eastern European,
who have very different identities. Our vision of the future of
Europe is yet to be defined. One way of looking at an enlarged
Europe is to also consider the spiritual and cultural heritage
of the East Central Part of the continent as a source of inspiration.
The Romanian, Constantin Noica and the Czech, Jan Patocka, view
the soul as a core philosophical concern to redefine our continent’s
The Ithaka Foundation, launching an active dialogue of the
civil society aims to identify through practical exercise and
response for 2007 existing potential aimed at inspiring the spiritual
reinvention of Europe, a possible solution for the crisis of its
modernity, and to foster cooperation with the EU and with our
Co-operation is a two-way street. Or, as a Bulgarian colleague
has once stated “integration begins at home”.
In the perspective of European integration, this statement ought
to represent a call to both Romania, Bulgaria and non-candidate
countries with a European vocation to work harder at harmonising
their standards to European ones. It should be a plea to the ten
newly invited countries to share their experience with their neighbors,
which are behind, in terms of promoting more regional projects
as a common cause. For us, at Ithaka it represents a call for
action to play a part in what on December 16th 2002 already became
“The United Europe”.