TEACHER IN RESIDENCE

Rooms with a view

Geert Mak and the future of Europe

Yesterday I visited one of the many parliament buildings of Brussels. I went to the building of the Flemish parliament to attend the event called the State of the European Union.

Pièce de résistence of the programme was keynote speaker Geert Mak, the Dutch best seller author of In Europa, who spoke about the future of Europe.

Mak’s view sounded a bit pessimistic or at least worried. According to Geert Mak Europe has made a substantial progress over the last decades but since the de facto rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon things have changed. European travellers seem to have become tired and they have lost track. Nationalistic issues and interests have come in the way and they prohibit countries giving up a part of their sovereignty for the benefit of the European Union.

There are many reasons for this standstill. The financial crisis e.g. has political consequences. Rich countries don’t want to pay for countries in trouble and voters from poorer countries don’t accept European interference to cut expenses. Elections have to be won.

Europe lacks strong and charismatic leaders. Moreover, the agenda of Europe doesn’t seem to appeal to common people. There seems to be a discrepancy between Europe’s idealistic values and the issues of everyday life. Democracy is at stake.

So, we seem to have come to a turning point in Europe’s history. Europe’s strength is its soft power to deal with conflicts, its tolerance, its civilization and respect for human rights. Europe has achieved so much, there is so much to lose, Geert Mak said. Let’s not throw away what we have achieved.

Also present at the meeting yesterday were the many youngsters of prize winning schools. Before lunch they had presented their work to the audience: essays, works of art and movies. I was impressed by the eloquent and intelligent presentations.

When I saw these young people, the future of Europe looked very promising after all.

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