Home >> News >> European Dream

The European Dream

Martin Luther King didn’t say "I have a nightmare", when he inspired the civil rights movement. He said "I have a dream." I also have a dream. I am dreaming that we can stop thinking that the future will be a nightmare.

Nic Marks The Happy Planet Index www.ted.com/talks/nic_marks_the_happy_planet_index

Brexit is for Europe what Fukushima was for Japan. Unexpected and tragic. Well, the very question - to be or not to be in the European Union - seemed to be crazy, let alone such answer to it on 23 June 2016.

The shock derailed the elite of the beaten path and touched for one day markets as well as ordinary people. Germany’s Foreign Minister, together with his French colleague came up with the idea: more Union in the Union - as a standard therapy that does not work probably due to the very low dose of the drug - now even more of it will come. In Poland, the chief politician proposed new treaties, and as new they probably should be different from the German-French ones, which would therefore mean: less of the Union in the Union. To sum up, it seems that in terms of the treaties, it will more or less remain the same, for the time being. Europeans, after a day of anxious curiosity, have turned back to their respective businesses, convinced that, as a matter of fact, little or nothing depends on them anyway. Markets priced in the change and returned to the old trends - the US stock market is testing their tops, while Polish – their bottoms.

Can EU be saved? Or, to put it stronger, why should we save it? Why the EU? Let’s look for analogies. Many have heard of the American dream. Surprisingly many even know what the American dream is. And now, as we are here, can we say that we have the European dream? Do we have a Polish dream? Or we don’t care? Once, at the beginning of the transition we did have a common dream. We had dreams of a better life, of Poland’s full membership in the European Community (which we then called European Community) and in NATO. It was the prospect of happiness which we sought. Sometimes dreams come true. But if we cannot keep nding new ones, we have a problem.

The most important questions

After the British decision to quit, I spoke with many people. My question whether we can save the European Union generally caused big surprise. What is going on? After all, it's not our business, that is up to the governments, the European Parliament, but not to Mr Smith or Ms Brown. When I said that the matter is in fact too serious to to be left solely in the hands of politicians and Eurocrats, I was answered that our voice is not heard and our will does not matter. But can we really let things continue as they go now? I don’t think so. Indeed, the history is built of milestones. And if you miss them, there is no return. Perhaps the summer holiday time is not conducive to the mobilization activities, but after the holidays the processes may become irreversible.

For starters there is the basic dif culty: what to talk about? The treaties, institutions, European law, the Single Market? The scope is huge and overwhelming. Let's start, therefore, from the most general issues. To whom is the European project addressed? The answer seems simple. To the residents of Europe (it is worth looking more broadly: it should not be limited to the European Union). The next question is: why? What for? What is the point of the European integration - the European Union, or perhaps the European Community (or maybe this time the community perceived as the common good, the European Commonwealth)? Another area of discussion is the answer to the question: how and what? How to act and what to do exactly? The most important, however, is to outline the answer to that simple and basic question: why? Why do we want to create a common project for Europeans.

In 2004, when Poland entered the European Union a fascinating book by Jeremy Rifkin - The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream. As it seems Americans believe in the EU more than many Europeans do. Now in 2016, it turned out that the majority of Britons lost their faith in the European project. What happened? In my opinion the crucial factor was just the lack of faith. If you ask the Europeans: what is the European dream, you will not receive a short straight response as you would in America. Most often you will hear that there is not such a thing as a European dream, or instead, a long argument about the European approach to life. Can we therefore come up and strongly and clearly de ne the common dreams of Europeans? Even if we fail at once, it's worth a try. Rifkin tried to prove the superiority of the European dream over American. You can brie y put it in one sentence: Americans live to work, Europeans work to live. There is much truth in this statement: the quality of life is often more valued in Europe than the size of your bank account. Mention must be made here of the already effectively buried concept of the welfare state and of the model of sustainable development. But all that is not enough to wake the European spirit and generate enthusiasm and joyful hope.

Paradise: real or lost?

Paradoxically, for many migrants seeking peace and prosperity Europe has now become Eden, the land of dreams. It might be worthwhile to ask them what is so fascinating for them in Europe? If we can not nd a convincing answer by ourselves, let them suggest a clue. Ukrainians have already decided, and in a dramatic way for the European direction of their development. Georgia is dreaming of Europe. Meanwhile, in Europe, instead of a joyful hope for a glorious future, here and there we see triumphant politicians who poison our lives with fear. These fearmongers and masters of nightmare wakening use the darkest corners of human nature to win votes, gain popularity, media praise and power. The search for the European dream is worth efforts if only to reject the nightmare of being managed by fear. In one of my conversations about the European dream I heard such an opinion: forget Europe, as we in Poland cannot nd a common Polish dream. And that is painfully true. Looking for a comprehensive answer for Europe we can probably also nd a better way for Poland.

Let's step back to about two decades ago. At the beginning of the transformation the Polish dream was focused on joining the EU and NATO. In the 90s of the twentieth century it was the common goal of (almost) all Poles. NATO came earlier - in 1999, and the European Union - in 2004. In some sense we have achieved the desired end to our history. Elites were feeling ful lled and for many (too many) Poles migration to the UK became the next dream. Just like at the beginning of the twentieth century emigration to America was commonly perceived as catching Fortune’s lift, so at the beginning of the twenty- rst century, a trip to the UK became a symbol of going to paradise. In 1970s my dad travelled a few times to US to visit our relatives there. He was returning with dollars, tools and new skills, which changed our lives, our farm and our village. I had no such luck when in 1978, with passport in my hand, I stood in front of the American consul. Smiling he told me: "I can not be sure that you come back” and he refused me an American visa. This event discouraged me for long from learning English and later I had to catch up on the run. In 2005, my peer neighbour bene ted from the fact that out the EU countries it was the UK which opened her borders most widely for Poles and went there to seek a better life. When talking to me he stressed the warmth and openness of the British and with some regret he recalled that he had more problems in dealing with the Poles there than with the native people of the United Kingdom. Today, we forget that it was the British were for us Poles the most friendly and approachable at the beginning of our presence in the EU. In that time, the countries which today like teaching all about the need for closer cooperation, closed their borders for Poles. Ftom that perspective one could now ask what is more attractive in Europe: British openness or continental constraint?

Enthusiasm and doubts

Poles are now among the biggest Euro-enthusiasts in the EU. Just as other people of Central and Eastern Europe. A friendly Slovak diplomat put it very accurately: "The European Union was the right course of action during the time of transition, and we are grateful to the fate, that the European Union then existed". Poles were enthusiastic but also concerned. The decisive was then the strong and determined voice of Pope John Paul II. Today, various groups look to the EU bene ts of the others with traditional Polish envy. City dwellers are jealous of EU subsidies to farmers while villagers admire new investments in factories, roads and buildings that bear the table "Co- nanced by the EU." Everyone is a little bored with the reality and slightly irritated that it does not improve fast enough. There is palpable tension here. On the other hand, the governments in the region represent quite extreme attitudes - from a very submissive to the EU institutions to openly criticizing the dominance of Brussels. At rst, people were skeptical and today the governments have lost enthusiasm. You could say that, apart from the satisfaction we feel some inconvenience. It's like staying in a good holiday room, however with many annoying mosquitoes at night. Views and prospects are great but sleeping is dif cult.

Before we move to reform the European Union let’s wonder whether it is worth doing at all. Why should we spend our time and our life for Europe? Can we nd a European dream? You will not nd it in the treaties and in the European institutions. Paradoxically, the preamble to the Treaty on European Union begins with the words "His Majesty the King ..." while the American Constitution opens with the words "We, the people ...". The American Declaration of Independence is the essence of people's dreams of freedom and the right to happiness, which no government can deprive them of. The European treaties are dreams of the institution, that the Europeans will not only understand, but they will also love the dif cult matter of the treaties and will be happy as cogs in the machinery of higher necessity.

We should therefore start our debate on how to save Europe, from determining which dream can unite Europeans so much that they might be ready to devote their lives to that goal.

Dialogue - the road to the European dream

Finding this common thought, the common European dream is possible through a dialogue. In my language we say: "Unity is strength". Unity does not mean uniformity, but rather and foremost a community where everyone has a decent place. Dignity and subjectivity provide tremendous power capable of overcoming most dif culties. In Europe, the key to the dignity is subsidiarity. It is the principle which requires that matter be solved as close to people as possible and in an ef cient manner. This means their maximum participation in shaping our present and future.

Within the European relations, it often translates into demands of a greater sovereignty for the Member States. That is right. But it is also right to demand greater sovereignty for the citizens of those countries, for their local governments, associations etc. It is unacceptable to demand more sovereignty by the state for the state, while at the same time attempt to nationalize everything inside the country. This astonishing asymmetry of behavior is particularly characteristic for the critics of the EU demanding more sovereignty for their respective country while at home seeking to impose unconditionally a top-down order by state managers. Trying to heal Europe we can also heal EU Member States including Poland.

How to start a dialogue? We can start from partners of the existing social and civic dialogues. The voice of employers, trade unions, NGOs and local government representations seems natural here. That voice has been already ezpressed by the representation of Polish employers - Employers of Poland. When I discussed the idea of a broad dialogue with the former President of the European Economic and Social Committee he drew my attention to the need for informal dialogue and the power of relevant ideas, recalling the time when Jean Monet convinced France and Germany to establish the European Coal and Steel Community. Today, when we have social media initiatives such like DemocracyOS and many other forms of debating, there is no shortage of tools, but there is no more faith that our voice can make a difference. It is very interestingly explained by Ivan Krastev in his book "Democracy: sorry for the fault". Citizens have enough energy to protest, often successfully, but they do not accept the leadership and programs, because they identify the with the system of power. People are still ready to protest but do not have enough patience to work in long perspective. Referring to the history, especially here in Europe - indignation and impotence is a very dangerous mix. It is a dreamed-of opportunity for those who are preying on fear. It is therefore also time for awakening to search our dreams giving hope for a happier future. We shall either nd a common European dream or the nightmares will come, similar to those which Europe already experienced so many times.

The dialogue means opening one to another, to a different one. It means also striving for common agreements, understanding and unity. And this would give us a chance to nd the common European dream. It is not going to be easy in Europe, if only because of our great diversity, but it is possible. The greatness of Europe ourished when it was able to stay open while inviting others to fraternal cooperation. Similarly, Poland experienced her great and glorious days when she was open. That greatness can be achieved by incorporating all to the common work. That is why the European dream should be better than the American dream by showing not only its individual attractiveness but also the joy and power of acting jointly for the common good.

Waldemar Pawlak

Waldemar Pawlak https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldemar_Pawlak (born 5 September 1959) is a Polish politician. He twice served as Prime Minister of Poland, brie y in 1992 and again from 1993 to 1995. From November 2007 to November 2012 he served as Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Economy. Pawlak is the only person who held the of ce of Prime Minister twice during the Third Republic (i.e. since 1989), and he remains Poland's youngest Prime Minister to date.

He is also a long-time President of the Association of Voluntary Fire Brigades in Poland, holding the rank of Brigadier General. Since 2015 Pawlak is workstream leader for the AMU (Agency for the Modernisation of Ukraine), where he contributes his expertise in economy.