Long live Europe
The alternative to the free world of the EU and the US is China and its economic growth with dictatorial control of information and the denial of individual freedom
In the middle of the storm, with so many citizens draining the water from the boat without rest and between screaming and shouting, it is difficult to see how we will succeed, in the medium term. If we look around, the feeling of chaos is imposed by the ravages of the coronavirus all over the world, and the political upheavals that show the fragility of democracy are everywhere. Having said that, we should be aware of our strengths, which are many, and not pretend that the crisis we are experiencing is unique or more dangerous than those of the past. In fact, we are in a better position than ever before to face up to the upheavals of history of which we are a small part, and the statement is especially true for Catalans and Europeans if we manage to measure time beyond our ladder. This optimistic belief in the usefulness and meaning of the European Union requires, however, the willingness to look not only at the short term and read a little history. If we look at the current picture, we see a Europe with a widespread health threat and thousands of deaths every day, a slower than desirable vaccination that slows down economic recovery, countries in the East such as Hungary and Poland that challenge common values of coexistence, and a change or lack of leadership in key countries such as Germany and Italy.
Angela Merkel, who has been a factor of stability and prudence for Europe, will leave the Chancellery where she arrived in 2005, after the general elections that will take place on 26th September. Merkel's leadership has gone far beyond Germany and, recovering the spirit of what was the Franco-German axis of Mitterrand and Kohl, has saved some of the European Union's key decisions. For example, in the management of the refugee crisis and, having learned the lesson of the pain of 2008, in the promotion of the agreement to create the fund to combat the current crisis.
The new president of the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) elected on Saturday, Armin Laschet, will be responsible for the election candidate and therefore for Germany's weight in the EU after Merkel, a solvent and reassuring leader in stormy times. Laschet is president of the most populous of the 16 German states, North Rhine-Westphalia, and will not necessarily be the candidate for the Chancellery. In fact, the two favorites are Bavarian President and CSU leader Markus Söder and popular Health Minister Jens Spahn, Laschet's ally. The new president of the CDU is considered a priori a pragmatic conservative, favouring consensus. We shall see.
Italy is returning to domestic political instability as it manages a pandemic that has claimed 80,000 deaths from coronavirus. The intrigues of former Prime Minister Renzi, of Italia Viva, are once again a factor of instability in the EU's third largest economy, which falls to 9%, has a public debt of 160%, and expects 200 billion euros from European funds.
The reader may wonder where the optimism lies, then. It lies in the functioning of European institutions, the inertia of Merkel's leadership, and the comparison with the world.
The commitment to the EU should be clear in Catalonia. With a Spanish economy cut off by the effects of the virus, Catalonia and Spain have a historic opportunity with the European fund. Spain will receive 83,200 million euros of a total of 140,000 after the adjustments for the fall of the GDP to 12.4 % (Germany, 5 %). Total aid from the European partners will reach a maximum of 750 billion (390 billion in direct aid). The indebtedness of the European Commission, although difficult and in a context of governmental weakness in Italy and the Netherlands, is a historical milestone and should particularly help a country with 40% youth unemployment to straighten out its economy. Without the euro and Europe, Catalonia would have no hope of reconstruction today.
The euro and the shared values of an unequal but living welfare state and of coexistence in freedom are the EU's extraordinary contribution to our times.
The price of freedom
The comparison also enlarges Europe. Polarization (Madison's factional spirit) is growing in Europe with the extreme right, and it is true that the political crisis in the US is not new, nor strange, but it is very deep - as the assault on the Capitol shows. The price of freedom has always been high and, in fact, Madison wrote in The New York Packet, on November 23, 1787, that partisanship - polarization - is inherent to democracy:
"Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political fire, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency".
The European Union is welfare, peace, and freedom. Like the USA, despite all its problems and inequalities.
The alternative to the free world of the EU and the US is China and its economic growth with dictatorial control of information and the denial of individual freedom. If we are to compare, long live Europe!