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Jan Peter Balkenende

What is at stake? At a time of rapid globalisation, in order to remain successful, nations have to act together even more intensively than before. We can only combat terrorism and international crime by joining forces. We can only secure jobs and prosperity through economic cooperation and by making rules that create the same opportunities for all. We can only avoid the dangers of climate change and rising sea levels by taking joint action. We can only tackle air and water pollution by acting together. Countries cannot solve these problems on their own: transnational challenges require transnational solutions. It is in our common interest to push Europe beyond simply the consolidation of national vested interests. We should pursue the reforms needed, display solidarity with less prosperous people both inside and outside the EU, and listen better and communicate more transparently with our citizens. The Union should do so along two lines. The EU must intensify and improve its implementation of the policies that will guide us through the coming decades. These are policies in the areas of research, innovation, international environmental issues, immigration, energy (supply and security) and the fight against transnational crime—indeed, all policy areas that stem from a globalising world and that, by their very nature, call for a transnational approach. However, this policy-oriented approach is at best only part of the solution, if not part of the problem. I’m fully convinced that the current debate on the future of Europe goes deeper. The European Union’s tremendous economic growth has made it possible to spread prosperity and stability to the new Member States. At the same time it has led to an increase in cultural, political and social diversity. As this diversity has grown, it has weakened people’s sense of belonging to a larger whole. The last few decades have been a time of spectacular growth

for the EU, from six Member States to twentyfive. But how many Dutchmen or Britons could find Slovenia on a map? And what percentage of Slovaks know where Belgium is? Moreover, immigrants now make up 10% of the Dutch population. In the cities, half of all young people are the children of newcomers. We see the same ethnic and cultural diversity in France, Belgium, Germany, the Baltic States and elsewhere. In other words, people don’t feel European. Europe is perceived as an abstract construct, as being distant and not representing the wishes of the people. Diversity is a good thing; it enriches society. However, it has a downside as well: it can lead to uncertainty and conflicting ideas. Sometimes it even leads to distrust and, as we have sadly witnessed, to violence. It’s not just the diversity of countries within the Union that has grown. Diversity within the Member States themselves has also increased dramatically. As I said at the Collège d’Europe in Bruges in April last year, our challenge now is not preventing countries from drifting apart, but preventing people from drifting apart. It is interesting to note that one of the EU’s founding fathers, Jean Monnet, mentioned this important element of successful integration. He understood two things quite clearly. First, peace demands our constant attention, even in times of peace and prosperity. For this idea Monnet is often quoted and praised. However, he put forward a second very important element as well: conflicts and violence can only be resolved if nations move beyond nationalism. Lasting peace only has a chance if Member States and nations are willing and able to cooperate and build something that stands above borders: transnational cooperation as a cornerstone for lasting European integration. His words are as true today as they were half a century ago. There is also another factor in the mix. My generation—the baby boom generation—grew up with an image of Europe as an economic enterprise: a business partnership. Far less

Volume 3 - Spring 2006



European View_Transnational parties and european democracy  

European View_Transnational parties and european democracy

European View_Transnational parties and european democracy  

European View_Transnational parties and european democracy

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