What would happen if the British voted for their withdrawal?
Should the British people vote for their withdrawal from the Union on June 23, 2016, the British Commissioner to the EU would have to resign from office the next day. The same would hold true for the 78 British MEPs. The leave of the about 1,000 employees of the Commission would have to be arranged. The same would apply to British employees at various European authorities. Even Europol’s director, the British Rob Wainwright, would have to be replaced.
Myth no. 1: National states are the right answer to the challenges presented by the 21st century
Implementing the international agreement on climate change, fighting Islamist terrorism, strengthening a stable global financial system, fostering peace in Syria and the Ukraine, handling the Syrian refugee crisis, imposing sanctions against Iran, Russia or North Korea, achieving a fairer income and wealth situation, shaping the digital transformation era and the fourth industrial revolution – none of these challenges can be mastered by one nation alone. International cooperation and close political coordination are absolutely necessary to master these challenges. The bodies of the European Union provide a very reasonable and democratic framework for reaching a common stance on the basis of the values and interests shared by all citizens of the Union. And no organization other than the Union is large enough to be really effective on a global scale. Its capability to act in terms of foreign policy may only have existed for a short time yet, but it has become considerably more powerful over the past few years. An individual national state would not be able to achieve the same results. What is more, even today, individual national states are already restricted by and bound to numerous international agreements and international law within and outside of the Union. More than ever, sovereignty has become relative in the 21st century. Absolute sovereignty, as postulated by British Brexit advocates, is an illusion. The world is developing on the basis of interdependencies.
Part I: the importance of the British referendum
There are days on which the lives of an entire generation hinge. Sometimes such days even shape an entire century.
July 28, 1914 was one such day. Back then, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. World War I started and Europe tore itself to pieces. European nations lost their role as global leaders which had been achieved during previous centuries. If Europe – if European nations and European citizens – fail to close ranks, it has dire consequences for all Europeans. This is one of the most important lessons learned from World War I. And even if our times are no longer about war and peace within Europe, this lesson could not be more topical.
May 9, 1950 was one such day, too; and it has left its mark on the lives of millions of people for more than half a century now. Back then, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed the introduction of the “High Authority”, a joint supervisory body of Franco-German coal and steel production. The plan was the origin of our Union we know today and the High Authority developed to become the precursor of the European Commission. What a farsighted plan! And how it speaks of French generosity! Only five years after the end of World War II, only five years after Nazi Germany had razed the whole of Europe and half the world to the ground and had committed millions of murders. Back then, Robert Schuman said that it would not be possible to make Europe all at once, or according to a single plan. He explained that Europe would be built through tangible achievements which first created a de facto solidarity. He was right back then and still is. His statement could not be more topical, either.
June 23, 2016 also has the potential for becoming such a day. It is the day on which the British will decide on their membership of the European Union. That day might also turn out to be decisive for an entire generation, maybe even for a whole century. And it is not only about the future of the British, it is about the future of all citizens of the European Union.
In 2016, the British people might have their final say on the UK’s membership of the European Union. The Finnish parliament will discuss a potential withdrawal from the Euro zone after 50,000 signatures had been collected in a petition. And the French people will elect a new president in the spring of 2017. Currently, France‘s most powerful political party is the Front National. Its goals are to leave the Euro zone and to re-impose protectionist tariffs as well as border controls.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
First, I consider it as a fortune to live – together now with nearly 500 millions of other European citizens and since December 1, 2009 – in a Europe in which fundamental rights are protected by one law. After nearly eight decades of hot and cold war, of ideologies like fascism and communism, the charter of fundamental rights guarantees freedom and human rights for all citizens of the European Union. A single view of the current world is enough to understand that even this is everything else than a matter of course. It is precious and worth to be protected – against all enemies.
Second, the crisis of recent years – since the revelation of the Greek deficit in the end of 2009 – has shown the overwhelming need for reform and development of our European Union.
Third, I do have a view in which Europe I want to live. More about this in the articles to follow. However, I do not see my views and ideas enough expressed or fully represented in current politics.
Fourth, the internet provides a direct and fast interaction as never before with all people who want to get involved. Time and participation are crucial for the renewal of our European Union.
Oh Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
What is a better start for a blog than music…?
And what is a better piece of music for a European blog to start with than Beethoven’s 9th…?
In June last year the Berliner Philharmoniker performed Beethoven ninth symphony in the Teatro Real in Madrid. “The orchestra was also granted a special honour: Queen Sophia of Spain attended one of the concerts and afterwards welcomed the musicians and their chief conductor. The concerts themselves were not only a musical, but also a European event: A German orchestra with a British conductor in Spain, in addition to a multinational ensemble of soloists with the soprano Camilla Tilling (Sweden), contralto Nathalie Stutzmann (France), bass Dimitry Ivashchenko (Russia) and an overseas guest, the Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser.”
If you do have access to the Digital Concert Hall and their wonderful archive, you can listen to it here.
If not, you might enjoy the New Year’s eve performance by the Leipziger Gewandhausorchester under the baton of Riccardo Chailly: