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Europe, a culture of shared causes ? - Summary of Panel Discussions prepared by COEUR Staff and Heinrich Maetzke - 25 February 1999 - Schloss Bellevue, Berlin

Summary of Panel Discussions prepared by COEUR Staff and Heinrich Maetzke
25 February 1999 - Schloss Bellevue, Berlin

 

•PANEL II


««Panel I


Daniel Tarschys
said that it was symbolic that COEUR's first meeting should take place in Berlin. After lunch in the East we deliberate in the West. Today we have two panels but we have discovered that it is impossible to discuss one part of Europe without discussing the whole.

In a way the European project is like Berlin, a huge construction site. Public debate has tended to focus on the material aspects of European construction. But there are other dimensions: culture, human rights, ethics. The first panel has demonstrated the importance of linking the two. "Europe is more than economy, Europe is more than fifteen".

Romano Prodi observed that EU enlargement is necessary but the problem is how to achieve it without disrupting the social structure. It must be explained to the man in the street. The EU is the goal for the East because of its success. For example Italian GDP per capita had once been 38% that of Switzerland, but now thanks mainly to Europe it stands at 77%.

Courage is needed for unpopular decisions. Italy had a hard time during the three years needed to join EMU. The EU needs to establish long term goals, not waste its energies on small goals. It needs to work on creating a common foreign policy and make clear that its economy is based on competition rather than cheese-making regulations.

EMU is important in that it has protected Europe from competitive devaluations following the Asian crisis. But something else is needed ? a stronger political union and stronger sense of identity. Europe needs to move from money to the sword. The Maastricht criteria are not a substitute for political union. Europe should combine greater diversity of personal choice with more common action. Europe needs majority rule or it will be impossible to enlarge the EU. If it paralyses decision making now, what will it be when the EU is larger? Andre Glucksmann has said that Europe is more interested in Duty-Free than in a collapsing Russia. This is a typical consequence of the unanimous decision-making rules.

Europeans today need new ideas to reach goals. Tinkering with institutions and reform, and the day to day management of business is all very well, but not enough. The continent lacks self-confidence, as indicated by the declining rate of births of both babies and companies. Europe needs new entrepreneurs with new ideas. Perhaps there should be a deal: the West could borrow its philosophy and ethics from the East and East could borrow its technology from the West. Otherwise both could end up borrowing everything from the USA.

Daniel Tarschys commented that the unanimity rule poses a dilemma for Europe. On the one hand it is responsible for the slow progress of European integration. On the other it helps to maintain popular support for the European project.

Alexandre Lamfalussy EMU has been a quantum leap and radical change in European construction. It means that Europe can count on continued price stability, which in itself is important given the history of inflation in Europe. The price of inflation is always paid by the weak. It also means that Europe is completing its economic unification project, thereby creating a tough competitive environment through the transparency of prices. Schumpeter referred to competition as "creative destruction". There will be a social cost to EMU and there may be reactions against the single currency and single market.

Can this tough environment and price stability be managed without political union? The answer is yes in the short term but no in the long term. But how much political union, and where and how, is open to question. By giving up monetary sovereignty it is difficult for nation states to retain fiscal sovereignty. Tax harmonization will be delicate. For most people monetary policies are abstract, taxation is not. The debate on this issue must be open and specific.

As a precedent has now been set in the field of finance the need for concerted action will arise in other fields, such as foreign policy and security. There is no alternative to political union but debate must be open.

Klaus Hänsch Europeans have become disillusioned with the EU. It is the victim of its success. We have peace, we have economic integration. It is beginning to seem unnecessary. Does Europe take a pleasure in failure? People are not against EMU, but are not sure why they should be for it either. Europe cannot keep solving the problems of the 1930s and 1950s. It must focus on the problems of the future also.

It is very easy and convenient to criticise the EU. Each European only asks what Europe has ever done for him as a citizen with his own narrow interests. Europe seems silent on the big questions of the day. All European Councils are presented in national terms; national ministers present a national view to the national media. If they win, they did it; if not, the EU is to blame. This not the way to create a European public opinion.

Agenda 2000 is all about the future of Europe, but the broad picture is seldom conveyed. The EU institutions are perplexing. They need faces. EMU should not be just about a market but about a way of ordering society. This does necessarily mean a written constitution. or a federal blueprint. But it does mean adding to the member states an organization of democracy at an international level. The European Parliament cannot simply be a copy of any national parliament. It is unique. Europeans from fifteen different countries come together bringing with them their own political cultures and traditions. It is amazing that it functions at all.

The next great challenge is the "Europeanization of enlarged Europe". This enlargement will not come free but is worth the price. The West will export political, economic, social and ecological stability to the East while avoiding importing instability from the East. But the EU itself must remain stable. It has already been enlarged several times and each time it has changed. European leaders in the 50s had the courage to set aside the ancient antagonism between France and Germany. Today's leaders have the first opportunity to bring about the unification of the entire continent on the basis of free choice.

Europe is a world power whether it wishes it or not. From this superpower people expect answers to political, social, economic and ecological questions. They also expect action. It is dishonest for politicians to complain about Europe being powerless on Monday and denying Europe that power on Tuesday.

David Puttnam At Oscar time every year we ask ourselves whether it really is possible for Europeans, or others, to create their own culture of the moving image, a culture built round an alternative set of ambitions.

This question has become more, not less, troubling as a result of the information explosion made possible by increasing digital convergence between the printed word and television, computers and the Internet. As we move from a society in which the chief characteristic of information is scarcity to one in which it multiplies seemingly without limit, images become the central means of conveying knowledge and understanding. They give shape to the fog of data, which surrounds us. Those who produce the images thus have a special responsibility because they really are tinkering with people's minds, imprinting images, messages and ideas, which may remain there for life.

American films of 40 or 50 years ago, while sometimes being sharply critical of American society, demonstrated that capacity of the Americans for a kind of infinite hopefulness, the "pursuit of happiness", enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Many offer a vision that reminds us that a just society has to be built around beliefs that bind its members together, beliefs that are themselves built on the pursuit of happiness, liberty, truth and justice.

The vast majority of films now made by Hollywood have no such ambition. Hollywood dominates the world's cinema screens, while it is itself dominated, solely, by the tyranny of the bottom line. Films, TV programmes and new media are all much more than fun, and far more than just so many new business opportunities; they serve to reinforce or undermine the wider values of society.

These new information technologies can be an invaluable learning tool, which has not yet been fully developed. Here is an opportunity, which Europe must develop. For, if the most influential component of the "entertainment" business has inexorably shifted abroad and Europe then allows the same to happen with educational and information resources, what can possibly remain of Europe's capacity to sustain, let alone develop, its cultural identity? There is, as the Russian film director Andrej Tarkowsky said, a connection between our behaviour and our destiny. In the end we will inherit the society we deserve.

Juan Luis Cebrián For the first time in its history, Europe is ruled by people who have never been to war. This is essential to understand the problems of our identity. For centuries Europe has witnessed confrontation between peoples, religions or races. The "right to be different" has usually been demanded with more force than the right to be equal, even in times when the latter was the most most visible revolutionary slogan. The expression of this right to be different has been based on a culture, which has too often been identified with a particular language. This also explains why newspapers have constituted one of the most nationalistic elements in every society.

The media do not reflect European values. They have become a self-satisfied reflection of society, normally reflecting only national interests. Thus most of the major newspapers are simply symbols of their own countries. It is hard to find any pan-European press except that published by Americans. Attempts to create European media have failed.

If English is the lingua franca, it is because of the USA. This should not prevent the creation of a European identity. Pilots and air traffic controllers use English for work, yet speak among themselves in their mother tongues. In the digital society, the supremacy of English is absolute.

Yet the paradox today is that the most nationalistic media are controlled by international conglomerates, which are, with the exception of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, all European. Often national government interests have no better ally than the supposedly neutral or apolitical attitudes of foreign owned media. The plurality of Europe, its multiplicity and diversity, which we all praise and promote, will finally be left in very few, quite uniform hands.

Jost Stollman has the feeling that globalization is increasingly pushing not only national but European identity into the background. What can be done to make the European project more relevant and attractive to Europe's citizens, especially the young?

Alan Watson (London) confirmed the impression that Europe's political leaders are still driven by national interests. While John Major was "battling for Britain" no one seemed to be "battling for Europe". Today's theme is "Europe, a culture of shared causes". Europe will not progress if it is only a culture of shared crises. Europe must try to develop the characteristic optimism of the USA. The EU has so far been a success story. David Puttnam said that fear sells. So does hope. Let us own the successes of Europe.

Hans Leenaars (Rotterdam) By introducing the single currency and doing away with exchange rates in Europe, an important adjusting mechanism has been removed. The only remaining mechanism is the labour market. If this is to work, there must be more labour mobility and legislation to make it easier.

Jaime Carvajal Urquijo (Madrid) referred to the Argentine debate about whether to adopt the Dollar as the national currency. Would it be possible for non-EMU countries to adopt the Euro as way to gain economic stability and credibility?

Coen Teulings (Brussels) assumed that politicians are the group of people least likely to enhance European awareness. They are by definition local minded people, elected on local agendas by local constituencies. This holds true for the press, which, by necessity mostly focuses on local concerns.

Immo Stabreit (Berlin) feels that Europeans are confused about the roles and representativity of the many European institutions including the Parliament, whose recent vote of censure of the European Commission was not convincing.

Juan Luis Cebrián could not agree with the notion that there is such a thing as a homogeneous Europe and a clearcut European identity. Immigration is changing that.

Alexandre Lamfalussy Europe's single market has encouraged European corporate mergers to match US corporations. Healthy competition within Europe should not be hampered by protective regulations.
Whichever country chooses to adopt the Euro will have to submit to the ECB's strict discipline.

Romano Prodi does not want to discard the unanimity rule entirely, as there is the problem of smaller countries sharing the EU with larger ones. The solution may be to devise a constitutional system similar to the USA, with the House of Representatives and the Senate representing the interests of the majority of the population and the states respectively.

Klaus Hänsch recognized that it is easy to be confused about Europe s institutions. Is national political decision-making any better understood? The failure of a vote of confidence in the European Parliament is no worse than in a national parliament. It is a matter of obtaining enough votes. He had strong reservations about concepts of European interests or identity, which mistake the EU for an enlarged European nation state. There can be no such thing as a European nation state. We must understand that we can continue to retain our national loyalties while feeling European.

David Puttnam disagreed with Juan Luis Cebrián and Klaus Hänsch. The USA have no problem embracing people from wholly different cultures and spheres of life. Europe must try to achieve something similar. In the USA, beginning with President Woodrow Wilson and continuing today, the film and TV industry have been the most effective means of describing to a very large immigrant population the concept of being American. They have done more to bind America together than laws.

Helmut Maucher again thanked President Herzog for hosting with COEUR such a broad ranging discussion on Europe at Schloss Bellevue. He especially thanked the sponsors who had generously made the event possible.
The debate on the broader aspects of Europe will continue through COEUR, by means of study groups and papers. All those present were invited to participate.

Frederic Delouche, Director of COEUR, in summing up, reminded the conference of the Treaty of Rome. The night before its signature, former Minister Jean-François Deniau - who had been prevented from attending the COEUR conference because of serious illness - had hastily typed out its preamble, on a borrowed typewriter. This preamble contained two short phrases, "ever closer union" between the peoples of Europe who "share this ideal". The spirit of those phrases is still alive today.
It was clear throughout the panel discussions that our friends from Central Europe are still idealistic and hopeful, but also disappointed. By contrast, the West seems jaded and hesitates to recognize and show pride in the EU's success. It will only be through recognition and pride that it will be possible to promote a European project. COEUR will work to that end.

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