European citizens, time to wake up!

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Soldiers carrying the EU flag for the first plenary session of the European Parliament's 2014-2019 term. June 30, 2014. [European Parliament / Flickr]

The triumph of populism in Britain and the US should act as a wake-up call for citizens to support greater ambition for the European project, write signatories from the May 9 Movement.

This op-ed was co-written by a number of authors, listed in full below.

Once again just like Brexit, Donald Trump’s victory came as a huge surprise. Most of us thought that reason would prevail over a populist speech.

However, the reasons behind Trump’s election win, just like the Brexit referendum, are the same that keep on damaging our European democracies: increasing inequality, lack of social progress, the dread of losing a cultural identity reinforced by the fear of mass immigration, no oversight on social matters, a deteriorating educational and cultural system, a distrust of an economic elite acting solely in its own self-interest and public institutions seen as expensive and useless.

In both cases, the consequences for Europeans are extreme. In addition to the risk to see the disintegration of the European Union, we face a further disconnection between the US and the EU but also the end of a post-war world based on multilateralism and a benevolent US leadership. The newly elected president was clear: Europeans have to take control of their own security, politically as much as financially. He is only speeding up a dynamic started 27 years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Also on the continent, populists are rejoicing at Trump’s victory like they did at Brexit while in the next few months, important votes and elections will take place in Austria, Italy, Netherlands, France, and Germany. Everywhere moderate political parties are threatened.

That is why we should act urgently.

If us, Europeans refuse to learn quickly from those significant events, the collapse of the EU and the marginalisation of our values and interests – in a world where we will soon only make 5% of the population, and where no EU member state will be part of the G7 – will be unavoidable. We will not have then the power to be heard and to guaranty our safety from the increasing threats coming from all of our borders. Our economic interest and our market position – as first global export power – will become harder to defend while protectionism temptation rises everywhere. Our message for sustainable development will not be heard. Our social models, based on and strong public services, will no longer be sustainable. None of our states has the means, alone, to offer adapted solutions to these challenges.

More than ever, the urgency is, therefore, to give ourselves the means to reconnect our fellow citizens with the European project and to invent the Europe of the future. It is the purpose of the May 9 Movement, launched by citizens and personalities from all walks of life. We have therefore proposed to European leaders to adopt an ambitious and pragmatic roadmap aiming at protecting citizens, improving concretely their lives, reducing inequalities and promoting smart and fair growth that fosters innovation and jobs for the future.

Among others we suggest to create an Erasmus programme for middle school students, to put in common the research activities on defence, to immediately double the Juncker investment plan and to launch transnational lists for the forthcoming European elections.

However, now we need more ambition, the time has come to adopt a genuine European foreign and defence policy. The EU has to assume its role, as political power and awakens in order to weigh and have a real impact on the democratic, cultural, social, economic and ecological fate of mankind.

The European Summit, to be held in the Capital of Italy on 25th March, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome must be an opportunity to reinforce Democracy as such, in Europe, by developing deliberative democracy solutions that effectively enable citizens to create the rights and freedoms of the 21st century. Without this new political impetus, an evil populism – that has already led to our quasi-annihilation – will overcome. History changes in its shapes, but the outcomes would be as disastrous.

This change will only come true if the tens of millions of citizens, sharing our ambition, are mobilised to give a future to our continent. In this purpose, we will create a cooperative civic platform by January 2017 and we have already launched civic conventions all over Europe to make sure, all together, that our voice is actually heard.

You too, if you want to change Europe, join us. Sign our roadmap and join us on www.m9m.eu.

***

Signatories:

Guillaume Klossa (FR), writer, initiator of the roadmap, founder of EuropaNova, former Sherpa to the reflection group on the future of Europe (European Council) ; Lionel Baier (CH), filmmaker ; Mars di Bartolomeo (LU), President of Luxembourg Parliament ; Mercedes Bresso (IT), MEP, member of Committee on Constitutional affairs, former President of the Committee of the Regions ; Elmar Brok (DE), MEP, President of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, European Popular Party, European Parliament ; Daniel Cohn-Bendit (DE-FR), former President of “The Greens” Group, European Parliament ; Philippe de Buck (BE), former Director general of BusinessEurope, member of the European Economic and Social Committee ; Georges Dassis (GR), trade unionist, President of the European economic and social committee ; Paul Dujardin (BE), CEO of the Centre for Fine Arts of Brussels (BOZAR) ; Cynthia Fleury (FR), philosopher ; Markus Gabriel (DE), philosopher ; Sandro Gozi (IT), Italian minister of EU affairs ; Danuta Huebner (PL), former European Commissioner, president of the Committee of Constitutional Affairs, European Popular Party, European Parliament ; Cristiano Leone (IT), Head of Communication, Artists’ Residencies and Cultural Events at the French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici; Robert Menasse (AT), writer ; Johanna Nyman, President of the European Youth Forum ; Christophe Leclercq (FR), media entrepreneur and founder of EURACTIV ; Alain Lamassoure (FR), former Minister, MEP ; Jo Leinen (DE), MEP, President of the European Movement ; Sofi Oksanen (FI), writer ; Maria João Rodrigues (PT), member of EU Presidency teams, former Minister, Vice-Chair of the Socialists and Democrats Group, European Parliament ; Roberto Saviano (IT), writer ; Nicolas Schmit (LU), Minister of Labour, Employment and Immigration of Luxembourg ; Gesine Schwan (DE), President of the Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform ; Denis Simonneau (FR), President of the think-tank EuropaNova ; Kirsten van den Hul (NL), writer and editorial writer ; René van der Linden (NL), former Minister of European Affairs, former president of the assembly of the Council of Europe, former president of the Dutch Senate ; Philippe van Parijs (BE), philosopher, Professor at the Oxford University, l’Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) ; David van Reybrouck (BE), writer and founder of the Brussels Poetry Collective and the G1000, citizens summit (platform for democratic innovation) ; Petre Roman (RO), former Prime Minister of Romania and Former President of the Senate ; Guy Verhofstadt (BE), former Prime Minister, Chairman of the ALDE Group, European Parliament ; Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga (LV), former President of Latvia ; Cédric Villani (FR), mathematician, Fields Medal ; Luca Visentini (IT), General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) ; Sasha Waltz (DE), choreographer, dancer and leader of the dance company Sasha Waltz and Guests ; Wim Wenders (DE), filmmaker, producer, scriptwriter (one of the major representatives of the 1960-70s New German Cinema) and photographer.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.