This article is part of our special report 20 Visions for Europe.
“20 Visions for Europe” gathers unique visions from public officials, intellectuals, artists, diplomats, athletes, civic actors and business representatives. The project is part of EURACTIV’s celebration of 20 years of free, independent reporting with European values at its core.
Conny Reuter is the secretary-general of SOLIDAR, a European network of civil society organisations working to advance social justice in Europe and worldwide.
If we want to look forward to what might happen in the next 20 years, we might first look back. In 1999 we were united at the Brandenburg gate to mark 10 years since the opening of the Berlin Wall.
Who would have predicted the fall of the wall 20 years earlier, when the Realpolitik was based on a two-state solution for the two Germanys as meant by Francois Mitterrand, who preferred two Germanys to one only?
We thought that there couldn’t have been a worse American counterpart than President Reagan, but only because we couldn’t see the current one coming. Hope was the driving force for the democratic transitions in Central and Eastern Europe, even in Russia, to lead to more open and fairer societies.
For many years SOLIDAR has been organizing or contributing to conferences on the Europe we want, we call for, we insist on. We, like many others, have developed agendas based on social needs and developed a vision.
Like many others we have contributed to the implementation of European agendas like the Social Agenda, the Lisbon Strategy and Europe 2020. Some have just been abandoned, others have been buried without a funeral service.
Today we have to state that Russia is still not democratic, and that in some countries of Central and Eastern Europe the market economy is accepted, but social market economy is still not implemented, nor is the democratic rule of law with its civic liberties understood as the European landmark accompanying the European Social Model.
Who would have thought 20 years ago, that we would have the risk of a new fascist movement supported by young generations of Europeans, who never experienced borderlines nor dictatorship?
Who would have thought that we would have had such a massive financial crisis in 2008 as a result of non-regulated and unleashed financial capital markets? Who would have imagined the magnitude of worldwide migration flows and the dramatic climate change? Why was the scientific community that understood it not supported by policy-makers at the time? Why should those worse-off now pay the cost?
The list could go on, but its only purpose is to raise awareness that we do not really know where we will be in 20 years. Progress is not linear, it is a matter of making the right decisions at times of short-termism, when a false idea prevails, that policies should “deliver” immediate results as if they were a factory producing goods.
What we know and anticipate is the environmental crisis. We can already witness today its impact all over Europe when it comes to rising temperatures and water shortages, even in Northern Europe. We are aware that at stake is the future of our globe. Any decision taken now will have dramatic consequences, including the decision not to act.
What we know is that the digital revolution will concern all kinds of work and not only the low-skilled ones. We know that we must invest in transition, and promote social and infrastructural investments by stretching the Stability and Growth Pact.
What we know is that only a socially stronger Europe based on a democratic rule of law can frame living together in time of uncertainty and division. It is so much needed to dry out the seeds of anti-democratic right-wing populism which claims easy solutions for complex matters, being of no help and only fueling hatred and angry retorts among the many.
Read more contributions to EURACTIV’s “20 Visions for Europe” project.