09/05/2021

For a Europe that thinks of its citizens

2 min
A woman wearing a mask in front of the European Union flags raised in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

Yesterday was Europe Day. A day which, if it is not to end up like so many other "so-and-so Days", appearing on the calendar and that is all, has to serve to stop and reflect on the functioning of the union of 27 states and, rather more importantly, of 447 million people. The dimensions are quite different from those of the European Coal and Steel Community, which 71 years ago yesterday laid the foundations for the EU. But we must not lose the spirit in which that path began: it was not a question of forming a club of friends, but of facing a triple context arising from the Second World War: the economic (reconstruction), the political (to ensure that the Paris-Berlin axis did not break down again) and the social (to undo the suspicions and enmities created by decades of conflict).

And 71 years later we are still here, striving to ensure that the EU has a certain efficiency and is not a mere club of states that too often allows a good part of these 447 million inhabitants to feel that it is not theirs. Yesterday the ARA published a careful analysis with experts on the EU's response to the pandemic and today publishes an interview with the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli . The experts put forward a series of lights and shadows that come to say that the EU has improved compared to the 2008 crisis and that, although there are delays in the vaccines, there is also a lot of financial support. But also that the EU cannot give the image of moving from accident to accident, without strategy, and that too many political balances preside over its actions.

Sassoli sums it up in the interview: "The EU's lack of powers in certain areas has left our hands tied". In large part this is the heart of the problem: the EU continues to behave, after all, as a club of states that do not want to give up even a millimetre of sovereignty, even if this works against them.

In the case of Spain, we are seeing how the NextGen funds, despite all the negotiations and Brussels' demands, could turn into a large-scale handout by the state government that would only benefit the large corporations closest to it, and would leave the large productive fabric of SMEs, especially in Catalonia, on the sidelines or with an insufficient trickle. It is true that the interim nature of the government has its weight, but the bureaucratic and administrative architecture of the funds does not allow much more to be asked for. 

It is not just the funds. The Spanish state has been benefited by the European Central Bank with the purchase of 75% of the public debt in 2020. A very important relief but one which contrasts with the fact that Spain is one of the countries of the Union that has allocated less to direct aid. Once again, SMEs are the main victims. All this has to be added to a history that includes, for example, the Mediterranean Corridor, so blessed by Europe but held back by Spain.

Catalonia's European commitment is centuries old and constantly renewed. And for obvious reasons it coincides with the EU's goal of ceasing to be a mere club of states, of gathering powers that will untie its hands. It is a matter of getting down to it.

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