The Brief – Words have power

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

During a press conference on the front steps of Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday (2 June), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked for his thoughts on US President Donald Trump’s call for military action against protesters.

After painful 23 seconds of silence, Trudeau finally spoke.

“We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States.”

“It is a time to pull people together, but it is a time to listen, it is a time to learn what injustices continue despite progress over years and decades.“

And he stressed: “It is a time for us as Canadians to recognize that we too have our challenges, that black Canadians and racialized Canadians face discrimination as a lived reality every single day.”

What a self-critical, reflective attitude without pointing at the other person!

Of course, Europe must do the same.

Yesterday Germany marked the first anniversary of the murder of Kassel’s district president Walter Lübcke. He was responsible for the accommodation of refugees and was threatened because he stood for democratic values and a humane refugee policy. On 2 June 2019, he was found dead, shot in the head.

Within that year, two racist-motivated murderous attacks followed in the country: in Hanau (western Germany) 15 weeks ago, and in Halle (eastern Germany) 34 weeks ago. And yesterday, German MP Karamba Diaby, representing the Halle constituency, was sent a tweet telling him he is “not welcome” in Germany.

And how is that connecting the dots between the current political turmoil in the US, the self-critical and reflective attitude of Canada’s premier and Europe? The power of words.

Because words are bridges that allow us to live together in the city, in the Ancient Greek sense of the term.

The words of the politician form a bouquet of values and beliefs that combine civic freedom, the hope of democracy and trust in the power of magistrates and institutions. It is this ancestral awareness of a common identity and a general interest that still allows us to live together in the city.

Words structure thought, the way we talk, the way we think. Not speaking out is not thinking, and it conceals racist violence, allowing ourselves to believe that it’s the others, that it’s an American problem, that it doesn’t exist here, at home, in Europe.

What we are currently observing and painfully experiencing is a radical shift in what a public discourse should be. The appeasing words of a Trudeau or a Merkel are being more and more heavily and brutally challenged by a minority that seeks political domination of the public space, be it through inflammatory tweets or even murder, as in the case in Germany.

What we are now seeing, in the US and in Europe, is that political ties, normally factors of common identity, are being trampled underfoot by the political ambitions of noisy, brutal personalities who do not or no longer hesitate to use force to impose their vision of the world.

Which is not ours.

The Roundup

To stay up-to-date on everything to do with the coronavirus across the capitals, feel free to check out EURACTIV’s comprehensive overview, which is regularly updated with the help of our network of offices and media partners.

Belgium is set to enter Phase 3 of deconfinement measures next week on Monday, with a reopening of hotels, bars and restaurants, extended social life and eased tourism restrictions, the National Security Council (CNS) announced.

The European Commission has redoubled efforts to show that Europe will avoid mistakes made during the ‘Great Recession’ in dealing with the ‘Great Lockdown’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was accused of acting too late and inflicting major damage on tourism after announcing that it will impose new quarantine requirements that force people arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14 days from 8 June.

The global struggle to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of global societies to natural and manmade biological threats, prompting experts to warn of a potential increase in the use of biological weapons, like viruses or bacteria, in a post-coronavirus world.

President Vladimir Putin approved a strategic document on the fundamentals of Russia’s nuclear deterrence policy, naming the creation and deployment of anti-missile and strike weapons in space as one of the main military threats to Russia.

The European Commission has launched public consultations on its long-awaited Digital Services Act package, and at the same time called for feedback on the possibility of a new competition tool to address market imbalances in different sectors, including digital.

Europe’s average CO2 emissions from new cars increased again in 2018, according to data by the EU’s environment agency. National plans aimed at stimulating the sector could worsen those figures further.

It is very difficult to make EU’s main farm policy greener when figures on the bottom line are red, budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in an attempt to uphold the latest proposal of increased spending for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Look out for…

  • EU home affairs ministers meet on reopening the Schengen borders
  • European Parliament’s LIBE, ENVI, CONT Committees

Views are the author’s

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