EU Does Not Always Walk The Talk But The Commission Head Deserves Praise – OpEd

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By Simone Galimberti*

As Europe Day was commemorated on 9 May, many lingering questions remain: Does this really matter if you live outside Europe? Or even if you are part of an EU member state, will there be much of a celebration?

This is a mistake because the idea and with it, the principles, and values enshrined by the founders of the EU in the aftermath of the devastations of the Second World War, are relevant. And they matter.

I am talking about peace, freedom and respect for human rights. I am fully conscious that, with promoting such values, there is always a high risk of being criticized for being double standard, being hypocritical.

In many recent instances, from what at the beginning was a total, unconditional support to Israel; to signing multibillion Euro partnerships with autocrats and dictators in the Mediterranean; and to stop the flow of migrants.

And the EU often struggles to walk the talk.

With all its imperfections, the EU can be a force for the good of the planet. It has taken, despite some recent hesitations and missteps, some bold and pioneering steps, some of which are truly groundbreaking and potentially transformative.

From the New Green Deal to the first ever Artificial Intelligence (AI) regulation to a trailblazing initiative to hold multinationals accountable to legislation to reduce deforestations around the world, the EU has achieved a lot in the last five years.

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, the EU executive, deserves a lot of praise, including showing moral leadership during the COVID pandemic.

She hasn’t been flawless, including the fact that she is facing allegations of mismanagement and improper conduct while dealing with Pfizer boss Albert Bourla, the so called “Pfizergate” scandal.

Yet, she boldly advanced the idea of a more united Europe, and she truly made a difference in advocating for a strong response towards the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

If the EU stayed cohesive throughout this crisis, something that few would have expected, it is because of Ursula von der Leyen’ s relentless commitment to Ukraine.

European Parliament elections

In less than a month, the elections for the EU Parliament will be held. Unfortunately, the member states of the EU did not master the vision and courage to come up with a reform to directly elect the President of the EU Commission.

So, still we have the major European political parties, basically big “tents” organizations made up by the member nations’ parties, informally proposing their candidates in what is known as Spitzenkandidatensystem.

Though, it is far from being ideal, it is better than nothing. I would say but I wish that for the next cycle of elections, in 2029, the citizens of the EU could really directly vote for their President of the EU Commission that, de facto, is the most powerful job in Brussels.

The members of the next EU Parliament and the members of the next European Commission will have to tackle a variety of challenges in the months and years ahead.

Pushbacks against actions on Climate warming and biodiversity loss; the challenges imposed by the AI; the rise of the hard and far-right parties with their polarizing and nationalistic, we could call them “Trumpian” views of the world; a brutal world in Ukraine, a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and with it the conundrum of bringing peace to the Middle East and a far more assertive China.

Compounding all these difficult questions, there is the more and more alarming threat of misinformation and disinformation.

Any attempts by policy makers in the EU and elsewhere at dealing with these daunting and complex issues will be slow downed by this vortex of lies that is spreading on the internet.

Would the EU be able to continue to raise to the existing and future challenges? In matters of foreign policy, the EU is still way behind in having a unified foreign policy.

A silver lining from the ongoing crises, especially the war in Ukraine, is the fact that many skeptics finally got convinced on the need of ending the unanimity rule on the way foreign policies decisions are made.

Debt cancellations and reparations

There is also another issue that is not yet at the center of the debate but it should be considered: the case for reparations.

A few weeks ago, the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, suggested it should make amends for such “crimes” committed in the past. He proposed, among others, the possibility of debt cancellations to redress his country’s history with slavery and colonialization.

The new conservative Government now in power in Lisbon promptly rejected the proposal. I am wondering why such discussions are so divisive and polarizing?

Why can’t Europeans talk about them through reasoned centered deliberations?

Unfortunately, in an era turbocharged by social media and now AI-created deepfakes, such discussions are almost impossible to carry out.

As we can see, the EU’s journey has been entrenched with compromises and partial solutions and the EU has not always been up to the job. Yet, despite its imperfections, it is a unique experiment that should be promoted, with the right adaptions and adjustments, around the world.

Nations coming together by ceding, bit by bit, their sovereignty in the pursuit of a better future is a worthy political goal no matter the challenges and obstacles posed on the way.

Around the world, there have been several attempts at regional integration but many of them stalled and are on life support. Others entirely collapsed.

The 9th of May also celebrated the signing of the Schuman Declaration in 1950.

It’s the day in which the French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, proposed the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, the first milestone in the long journey of European integration.

At the time, Europe was starting to bounce back from the horrors and devastations of the Second World War.

In a time of so many uncertainties, in an era filled with anxiety and discord, the idea of Europe coming together is a reminder that people and nations can work together and pursue their best versions of themselves by opting for peace, dialogue and compromise.

*Simone Galimberti writes about Nepal, the Asia Pacific, the SDGs, youth-centered policy-making and a stronger and better United Nations.

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IDN-InDepthNews offers news analyses and viewpoints on topics that impact the world and its peoples. IDN-InDepthNews serves as the flagship of the International Press Syndicate Group

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