I’ve been a bit slow on the EU blogging front recently – it’s been hard to remove myself from the mire of HTML and website work. But this morning – via Nosemonkey – I have come across this essay by Timothy Garton Ash about the 6 themes Europe needs to start talking about in order to tell a convincing story for future cooperation, namely Freedom, Peace, Law, Prosperity, Diversity and Solidarity. There’s even a website dedicated to discussing the contents of the essay – European StoryÃ‚Â – although the discussion forums are not too riveting at the moment.
There are a few things that strike me as interesting about this. First of all, it’s always worth reading what Garton Ash writes about Europe. It’s eloquent, well argued, yet also pragmatic. Second, I appreciate his determination to give a public airing to these sorts of questions. If politicians won’t do it, then he’ll try.
However this is where we hit a problem. While Garton Ash’s ideas sound fine, I seriously wonder which of Europe’s politicians are really going to grasp any of these issues seriously. Is there a way that these ideals can shape what the European Union does (Garton Ash tends to refer to just ‘Europe’)? Is it really in the political interests of any politician to talk frankly about these issues? Tony Blair is about the only major European politician that manages to make aspirational speeches, and he’s on his way out. Merkel, Brown, Prodi, Sarkozy / Royal – are they going to be able to appeal to the hearts and minds?
In short, Europe needs some interesting narratives. But above all it needs some aspirational leaders who can connect with the people on these issues.