Europe of solidarity and / or Europe of egoism?
On March 12, 2012 in the plenary of the National Assembly the second event of the series "European public talks and discussions at the parliament” was held. It was initiated by the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds under the patronage of the President of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva. The discussion went in search of the answer whether we live in a "Europe of solidarity and / or egoism."
Guest speakers were Kristalina Georgieva – European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Daniel Gross - Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies and Alexander Andreev - Editor-in-Chief of the Bulgarian section of “Deutsche Welle“. The discussion was moderated by Monika Panayotova – Chairwoman of the Committee on European Affairs and Oversight of the European Funds.
"I believe that Europe is a family and this family will cope with the crisis - despite the contradictions in it, or precisely because of those contradictions," highlighted the president of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva in her opening speech. "Being among the supporters of the EU, we believe that solidarity is the foundation stone, the main value of the EU, the skeptics would say that this solidarity is dictated by egoism, by the interest of every community member to feel safer in a big union of solidarity" noted Tsetska Tsacheva and added that the EU is going through turbulent times - economic crisis leading to a decrease in economic growth which worries the citizens of Europe. "It seems that skepticism increases, we observe nationalist movements that extend their influence and it seems that Europe is not as united as it was years ago," she said. "Today one could say that the EU has different families and each family experiences the unhappiness in its own way" stated the President of the parliament, paraphrasing the first sentence of "Anna Karenina" – “Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
"The way we answer the question "Europe of solidarity and / or Europe of egoism?" means which road we take – the road to prosperity or the one to gradual loss of positions," underlined the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response - Kristalina Georgieva in her address. "I believe in the European project, I believe that our children will live in a strong and united Europe," she noted.
"Today, 500 million Europeans form the number one economy in the world," said Kristalina Georgieva. She pointed out that if we take GDP in nominal terms, with its 16.2 trillion USD Europe comprises 26% of the global economy, U.S. – 23%, and Germany - 5%. Bulgaria is ranked 75th, according to IMF data, the smallest economy in Europe - Estonia – holds 101st place.
In her speech, Commissioner Georgieva stated that the solidarity on which Europe is built is necessary for all of us. The Commissioner noted that if EU wants to be the global economic leader, it should continue working on its internal integration. In this regard, the Commissioner added that a step in the right direction is the opening of labor markets to Bulgarians and Romanians, because "We are a plus for the European economy, not a minus."
Daniel Gross - Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) defined himself as a "euro realist" who recognizes that "all Member States think about their own good." In this regard, the Director of CEPS said that the euro itself shouldn’t be regarded as a unifying factor and an escape from egoism. The expert emphasized that more solidarity and integration are possible if each country makes efforts in its own home, i.e. "If they do their homework". According to Gross, solidarity is assuredly connected with increased accountability to the citizens.
The editor of the Bulgarian version of "Deutsche Welle" Alexander Andreev launched the idea for establishing the European United States; the signing of a new social contract with Federal Europe, rather than doing so with the individual Member States, as well as rapid deepening of the democratization of Europe, which is currently at an early stage. Mr. Andreev commented that "idyllic EU" is in the past, because the engines on which it was created – the security threats from the middle of the last century – are already gone. Therefore, the former EU is no longer adequate and the model needs reshaping.
The second “European public talk at the parliament” confirmed the expectations for an active and direct dialog with the civil society, business representatives, non-governmental organizations and academia on the most topical issues of the European Agenda. The proof for it was the discussion in which participated Prof. Ingrid Shikova, Head of Department “European Studies” in Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski". She pointed out an interesting trend: the word “solidarity” is mentioned more and more often in the official EU Treaties. It starts with the Schuman Declaration, where “solidarity” appears only once to reach the Lisbon Treaty which includes a “solidarity clause”. Prof. Shikova emphasized the importance of the correlation “responsibility – solidarity” and concluded that Europe is not a contract, but a state of mind.
Dimitar Bechev, Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, shared the idea that the technocratic model of integration has already been exhausted. Meanwhile, with the increase of resources for redistribution increases the need for accountability. According to Mr. Bechev, at present the intergovernmental decisions are being reached through political voluntarism. Responsibility for mistakes is always sought from the weaker states while decisions are taken by the strong. Mr. Bechev asked a question - should the crisis not be seen with its two faces, seeking the solidarity of the rich countries as well?
The Minister for EU Funds Management Tomislav Donchev, also expressed his position on the topic, saying what Europe needs most are concrete results. He added that the crisis has shown what the disadvantages of the political system are and expressed his satisfaction that the Cohesion policy is already considered an instrument for achieving connectivity, development and growth, rather than a means of charity.
The Deputy Chairman of the 41 th National Assembly, Georgi Pirinski, provoked the speakers with the question whether "searching for the basis for solidarity, we can ignore the differences".
The moderator of the second "European public talks" Monika Panayotova closed the debate, expressing confidence that the European idea and the egoism are incompatible, because solidarity is really the basis of the European project. Ms. Panayotova concluded that during the debate solidarity was examined from many angles: from the perspective of self-interest, individual responsibility and last but not least as charity.
Complete recording of the debate may be found at: http://parliament.bg/bg/evrodebati/3