The Europe we want: Fair, sustainable, democratic and inclusive

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While there has been progress since the initial days of the EU's inception, the early promise has still not been fully realised. [Laura Morgan/ Flickr]

The 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome is a huge opportunity to take stock of how far Europe has come – and how far we still have to go in order to offer a sustainable and prosperous future to everyone in Europe, write a number of European organisations.

For a full list of the contributors to this opinion-piece, please see below. This OpEd is based on a joint statement signed by 233 organisations.

It is an opportunity that we call on the leaders of Europe to seize with both hands. We call on them to show leadership, vision and courage to set Europe on the path to a sustainable future which realises the rights of all people and respects planetary boundaries.

We must not fail to appreciate how far Europe has come since 1957, when we were a handful of nations determined to emerge from the ashes of World War II and to move towards a peaceful and united common future.

Today, the European Union is the largest and most successful peace initiative of our time, a place where Europeans find richness in cultural differences and strength in common values and aspirations, enjoying greater stability, safety and prosperity than in many other places in the world.

But we cannot afford to be complacent: much still needs to be done to construct a sustainable world for current and future generations. While we have seen much progress, the promise of those early days has still not been fully achieved and we have entered an era in which the values at the very heart of Europe – democracy and participation, equality and social justice, solidarity and sustainability, respect for the rule of law and human rights – are being undermined.

Citizens are questioning the raison d’être of the European Union, the legitimacy of governments and mainstream politics, and the ability of existing governance structures to respond to society’s most pressing challenges. As a result, trust in public institutions is in decline.

In these uncertain times, European citizens seek a stronger focus on those core ‘European values’, not a reduced one. They seek economic, social and environmental well-being.

Economic well-being in the form of prosperity for all and the redistribution of wealth. Social well-being in the provision of quality, affordable services for all and a reinforcing of the social fabric which binds us together. Environmental well-being residing in a healthy natural environment that sustains all life on Earth and protects our clean water and air.

In the face of a world that is changing faster than ever before, European unity and solidarity are just as important now as they were 60 years ago. Solidarity brought us together and solidarity is the only way forward.  None of the current challenges can be solved by one nation or one group of people alone.

However, there is an urgent need for the European Union and its institutions to reconnect with the realities, dreams and hopes of its citizens if the long-term relevance and survival of our Union are to be secured. Now is the time to rethink the direction in which we are travelling, build on our achievements and lay the foundations for the next 60 years of European integration.

We expect the leaders of Europe to have the courage and the vision to lead the transition to a just, sustainable, democratic and inclusive Europe. We expect them to listen to the people of Europe and to use the occasion of the Rome Summit to make a strong, joint commitment to a better, more sustainable future.

That’s what we call on them to do!

This opinion-piece was co-authored by the following people:

Luca Visentini, Secretary General of the ETUC;

Petros Fassoulas, Secretary General of the European Movement International;

Genevieve Pons, Director of the WWF EPO, on behalf of Green 10;

Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby;

Allan Pall, Secretary General of the European Youth Forum;

Seamus Jeffreson, Director of CONCORD.