A European Union flag is attached to a bicycle during a protest near the parliament building, which was holding the opening session after the recent election in Budapest, Hungary, yesterday. Recent election results indicate a continuous rise of populist movements across the continent.
In this period of economic recovery and relative stability, we Europeans are forgetting that not so long ago we stood on the edge of an abyss, and that our reality is still crippled by geopolitical and financial uncertainties, with record-high debt levels in Asia and America capable of triggering another worldwide economic crisis.
Two years ago on this day, we launched an appeal for a new European renaissance on the front pages of leading continental newspapers. Our main concern was to avoid the implosion of the European project in an unprecedented political momentum characterized by the rise of populistic and nationalistic sentiments. Our conviction being that only a sweeping movement gathering citizens and opinion leaders from across the political spectrum could generate sufficient political pressure to guarantee the unity of the 27 in the event the United Kingdom’s European Union membership referendum would yield a negative outcome.
European leaders had indeed agreed to David Cameron’s demands not to prepare a plan B since, he believed, preparing for an eventual exit of the United Kingdom could have accentuated the risk of a negative vote. Our appeal was then formidably received. Tens of thousands of citizens reacted across the continent. Heads of state and government summoned us and, most importantly, followed our double recommendation: remain united in negotiation and initiate work on a roadmap for the future of the Union. The presidents of the European Commission and Council asked us to lead a reflection on the contents of this roadmap and, generally, on the best way to articulate national and European sovereignty. The outcomes of this reflection were outlined in the report on “The European Way for a Better Future,” which was presented to them just a year ago.
The essence of our proposals has since been the object of substantial political adoption, by the president of the European Commission in his latest State of the Union address, as well as by French President Emmanuel Macron in his landmark Sorbonne and Strasbourg speeches. The European Parliament also took it on board. A number of our specific recommendations are now becoming a reality, such as the citizen consultations having started in certain member-states, the progress in defense research and development, the priority now given to artificial intelligence by the European Commission, the improvement of information quality, the modernization of the European social model, and the Erasmus in Schools project which will finally enable each European to personally experience the Union from a young age. This progress will however need to be supported by a budget enabling the democratization of Erasmus, the maintenance of an ambitious cultural program, and a lasting expansion of R&D efforts. We are happy for our successes, but remain worried nonetheless.
The wish for a stronger Europe expressed by our fellow citizens in the aftermath of the British referendum risks deflating if words are not followed by additional concrete actions. The latest electoral results showcase a continuous rise of populist movements. Making matters worse, respect for the rule of law and the fundamental values, notably media pluralism and freedom of speech, appear to never have been this endangered within the Union. Yet the latter is passively entering a new phase of lethargy, even though Brexit will be fully enacted in less than a year. Therefore, on this May 9, this European day, we call for a new revival from our leaders as well as from all citizens, opinion influencers, trade unions, and business organizations around the continent. We deem it indispensable for the June European Council to commit to a clear plan for the revival of the Union, made of concrete actions having a positive impact on citizens’ short and long-term prospects, and to a precise agenda for its implementation. If this was not to be the case, we will run a grave risk that the next European elections be marked by an unprecedented rise to power of populist forces. Accordingly, we encourage all Europeans to participate in the citizen consultations, in the hope they achieve to include even the most vulnerable and lead to a genuine consideration of all the different opinions expressed.
That said, it is our deep conviction that progress must be taken further, that we should collectively aim to be more innovative and ambitious in this unprecedented period of transformation. It is with this ambition in mind that we want to invent a new step in European democracy. Indeed, we offer to create a perpetual right to participation in the political life of the Union, and invite all to join us in building civico.eu, a permanent civic platform, transnational and multilingual, allowing citizens not only to be consulted but also to drive a direct civic dialogue making concrete proposals emerge to continuously feed European institutions.
Today’s digital technologies, the progress made in automated translation, and the developments in relation to AI, allow for democracy to be envisaged differently. This is in no way about putting representative democracy to rest but about complementing it, through a democratic tool enabling continuous deliberative participation. Today more than ever, we are convinced that our fellow citizens must be empowered to form a genuine transnational civic force.
Seventy years to the day after the Hague Congress, true founding act of the European Union, we call for a new congress of the European consciousness before the end of the year, assembling citizens, opinion influencers, and leaders from across the European spectrum, to start writing together a new page of our common history.
It is by equally entrusting swift and concrete advancements, a democratic renewal securing our fundamental values, and a gathering of good wills, that we will rekindle the trust between European citizens and European institutions in a spirit of renewed solidarity. This is the fundamental condition to enable the transformation of the Union into a great democratic, cultural, social, environmental, and industrial power, capable of decisively weighing on the evolution of our planet, the safeguard of its citizens’ interests, and the advent of a better world.
Signatories to the appeal
Guillaume Klossa (FR), CIVICO Europa ideator, corporate manager, author, and former sherpa of the reflection group on the future of Europe (European Council); Alberto Alemanno (IT), law professor, founder of the Good Lobby; Laszlo Andor (HU), economist, former European Commissioner; Lionel Baier (CH), film director; Miklos Barabas (HU), director, European House; Enrique Baron Crespo (ESP), former president of the European Parliament; Mars Di Bartolomeo (LU), president of the Luxembourg Parliament; Brando Benifei (IT), member of the European Parliament; Sylvain Bonnet (FR), corporate executive; Jean-Louis Borloo (FR), former minister, lawyer; Mercedes Bresso (IT), member of the European Parliament, former president of the Regions Committee; Elmar Brok (DE), member of the European Parliament, former president of the Foreign Affairs Committee, PPE, European Parliament; Philippe de Buck (BE), former general director of BusinessEurope, member of the Economic and Social European Committee; Thomas de Charentenay (FR), corporate manager; Daniel Cohn-Bendit (FR/DE), former president of the Greens group, European Parliament; Georgios Dassis (GR), syndicalist, former president of the Economic and Social European Committee; Piotr Dudek (PL), youth and universities coordinator, CIVICO Europa; Paul Dujardin (BE), general director BOZAR; Isabelle Durant (BE), former deputy prime minister, deputy secretary-general of the UNCTAD; Michele Fiorillo (IT), philosopher, network coordinator CIVICO Europa; Cynthia Fleury (FR), philosopher and psychoanalyst; Markus Gabriel (DE), philosopher; Christophe Galfard (FR), astrophysicist, author; Aart de Geus (DE), president of the Bertelsmann foundation; Felipe Gonzalez (ES), former prime minister, former president of the reflection group on the future of Europe (European Council); Sandro Gozi (IT), European affairs minister; Danuta Huebner (PL), former European commissioner, president of the Constitutional Affairs Commission, European Parliament; Ulrike Guerot (DE), director, European Democracy Lab; Alain Juppe (FR), former prime minister, mayor of Bordeaux; Charles Kaisin (BE), designer; Evika Karamagioli (GR), university professor; Mathieu Labey (FR), entrepreneur; Alain Lamassoure (FR), member of the European Parliament, former minister; Christophe Leclercq (FR), media entrepreneur and founder of EurActiv; Jo Leinen (DE), member of the European Parliament, president of the European International Movement; Andre Loesekrug-Pietri (DE/FR), founder ACapital, former special adviser to the defense minister, JEDI spokesperson; Robert Menasse (AT), author; Jean-Pierre Mignard (FR), lawyer; Joelle Milquet (BE), deputy to the Brussels region, former deputy prime minister; Alexandra Mitsotaki (GR), president ActionAid Hellas; Jonathan Moskovic (BE), founding member of CIVICO Europa, co-coordinator of the G1000 project; Ferdinando Nelli Feroci (IT), ambassador, former European commissioner, president of the IAI; Catherine Noone (EIRE), senator, president of the Irish citizens’ assembly; Johanna Nyman (SWE), former president of the European Youth Forum; Sofi Oksanen (FIN), author; Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins (PT), administrator of the Gulbenkian Foundation, former minister; Erik Orsenna (FR), author; Rosen Plevneliev (BG), former president of the Bulgarian Republic; Francesco Profumo (IT), former minister, president of the Compagnia di San Paolo foundation; Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic (NL/RS), general secretary of Europa Nostra for the protection of the European heritage; Jean Quatremer (FR), journalist and author; Francesca Ratti (IT), former deputy secretary-general of the European Parliament, founding member and president, CIVICO Europa; Maria Joao Rodrigues (PT), former minister, vice president of the Socialist and Democrats group, European Parliament; Robin Rivaton (FR), author; Petre Roman (RO), former prime minister; Taavi Roivas (EST), former Estonian prime minister; Wytze Russchen (NL), founding member of CIVICO Europa; Jochen Sandig (DE), director of the Sasha Waltz and Guests dance company; Roberto Saviano (IT), author; Nicolas Schmit (LU), labor, employment and immigration minister; Gesine Schwan (DE), president of the governance platform Humboldt-Viadrina; Denis Simonneau (FR), president of EuropaNova; Benjamin Spark (BE), artist; Wolfgang Tillmans (DE), photographer and plastic artist; Kirsten van den Hul (NED), member of Parliament; Rene van der Linden (NL), former president of the European Council Assembly, former president of the Netherlands’ Senate; Guy Verhofstadt (BE), former primer minister, president of the ALDE group, European Parliament; Vaira Vike-Freiberga (LAT), former president of the Latvian Republic; Cedric Villani (FR), mathematician, Fields Medal awardee, member of Parliament; Pietro Vimont (FR/IT), founding member and director of operations, CIVICO Europa; Luca Visentini (IT), general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation; Leendert de Voogd (NL), enterprise manager; Sasha Waltz (DE), dancer and choreographer; Wim Wenders (DE), film director