|Luuk van Middelaar (sitting) spoke on a lunch conference organized by the Flemish-Dutch Association for International Relations-Different VIRA on "How to handle as a Union in a globalized world?" Standing is Willy Stevens, president of VIRA.|
If you get the chance to go to a lunch conference where Luuk van Middelaar will speak then you grab that chance too. Not only because he is an advisor and speech writer for Mr.. Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council of heads of government and therefore a bit president of the EU, but also because he looks in an original way to developments in the EU.
The EU is Mr.van Middelaar primarily a political project and so much more than the sum of profits and losses. It is a sustainable response to the history of the continent and the world around her. It is the only way to get Europe to survive in the world of the new powers.
The current European crisis is the right test case for this view. If the EU is nothing more than the sum of financial and economic interests, then this crisis is an opportunity for members of the EU to quit. There are of course political leaders who feel this way but most political leaders and peoples do not. For example a Czech woman spoke recently about the disgust in her country of Europe. When I asked her what the result would be a referendum on whether or not the Czech Republic had to remain a member of the EU, she had to admit that a majority would say yes.
The current leaders of the EU with the two leading European powers represented by Merkel and Sarkozy, clearly believe that too. More than ever they convince their inhabitants, that the EU is a political project that must go on despite all the problems. The European and world history, forcing European countries to continue. The former world power England is not so far yet. England still clings to its glorious past, but on the same time the country does not dare to leave the EU.
Because it is a unique project in history, for many citizens and political leaders it is difficult to understand how the project proceeds. Not unity by military power as in the past has been tried so often but by democratic cooperation with mutual respect for the independence of each country. That makes it a complex project that requires time and again to improvise.
Dutch, Germans and Austrians do not like to improvise. They prefer to rely on rules and laws, legal frameworks, detailed arrangements and transparent decision making. See for instance how Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager operates as a Dutch treasurer rather than as a politician. But no rules or legislation can provide a crisis. French, Italians and Belgians are more able to handle this. Van Middelaar correctly notes that for example the French diplomacy sees possibilities in a crisis to highlight the traditional French long-term geopolitical aims.
At the end of his speech Mr.Van Middelaar compared the EU with a convoy of ships. Such a convoy consisting of ships of various sizes, with different features and capabilities remains together, despite all these differences because they realize that there is no alternative. Van Middelaar rightly notes that this European crisis has deepened the understanding among the European population of the need for the EU. Thanks to the crisis the European consciousness in Europe is now much larger than before.