Pope Francis’ call for solidarity offers hope to a Europe shaken by internal and external challenges that can question its existence.
Why is it happening ?
The 27 heads of state and government gathered together on March 26 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of European integration. The declaration they signed represented a new starting point, incarnating the promise to re-launch Europe based on common strengths and efforts and conceived as the best arm to defend common interests and values. They celebrated the foresight and tenacity of the European founding fathers, to whose project, at the beginning subscribed by only six states, the 27 actual member states renewed their pledge of unity.
The EU has been facing important issues that, unfortunately, were compromising its very existence. The economic crisis caused by the sovereign debt crisis has enlarged the gap between those countries in the forefront of the union, exacerbated in turn by austerity measures carried out by Germany. This in fact has further penalized indebted countries and has in turn impoverished and denied middle class people the possibility of decent living conditions. However, most crucial was the immigrant crisis, which burdened only a few countries with the obligation of hospitality and which has fueled national selfishness and empowered physical divisions in those countries, resulting in refusing a rightful hosting. This has caused non-homogeneous integration and insufficient control of emigrants flows, which in turn has led to violence and crime both by EU and non-EU citizens.
Why does it matter?
The EU was shattered by these crises when having to face additional, external challenges originating from other countries’ policies such as Brexit, the return of exclusive national sovereignty fired by the Trump presidency, and the nationalist drive of Eastern member states. For example, the politics and rhetoric of Donald Trump risk breaking up possibilities for dialogue between different ethnicities, religions and cultures which threatens with a lack of future common ground between different political opinions and ideologies, compromising peace and justice for men. In addition, his nationalist politics has possibly given a platform to UK Prime Minister Theresa May to take a radical stance on Brexit with a return to a strong Anglo-Saxon independence from an economic point of view. The consequence for Europe is increased weakening accompanied by the reinforcement of nationalistic interests in Germany and France.
However, to these pessimist political ideas and particularisms arose the positive idea of a Europe at different speeds. The proposition is that if it is not possible to reach the same level of economic growth for all member states, a chance must be granted to those countries that are struggling to catch up with others to speed up their economies. Therefore, this new approach of multi-speed Europe is respectful of the different economic possibilities of the several EU countries, favoring more inclusiveness for the less economically strong member states and limiting the concept of an elitist Europe. In this regard, Brussels might see its fields of competence becoming limited on immigration, defense, market and consumption in order to give the opportunity to other countries to assume important assignments.
What can you do about it?
On the anniversary celebrations, Pope Francis, the porteño Pope, claimed that the European Union finds hope in solidarity. Hosting the EU Summit commemorating the Treaty of Rome, he cited St Paul and emphasized how Europe is a “family of peoples” where “when one suffers, all suffer”. In particular, he has warned the EU representatives not to reduce the founding values of the Union to solely economic and financial necessities. It is time for everyone to think about the EU not only as a political, economic and cultural reality, but also as a human community — not a set of rules and protocols but a way of life and inalienable dignity. In addition, Pope Francis underlined the value of solidarity as made of concrete facts and gestures that bring nations closer. Populisms instead flourish from selfishness which closes nations in restricted cycles, blocking them from looking beyond their own interests.
Therefore, Millennials should arrange themselves in manifestations in the name of greater solidarity in Europe, not conceived as a set of strict rules undermining the rights of human beings. In particular, Millennials should push for an expansion of the Erasmus program that promotes instructive ways of integration in a higher educational context. Former Italian Prime Minister from the centre-left Democratic Party Enrico Letta even proposed to extend the Erasmus formula to high school students to make them aware of the EU reality in which they live. All students should participate in and advocate for such exchanges to foment understanding, empathy, unity and solidarity and to become future leaders and proactive members of an ever closer union.Giulia Ciriachi briefs from Rome, Italy. She is a candidate for a Master of Science in International Political Economy and Development.
Giulia Ciriachi briefs from Rome, Italy. She holds a Master of Science in International Political Economy and Development.