Wednesday, May 09, 2012

European Oratory

It is my habit, each Europe Day, to go back to what Robert Schuman actually said 62 years ago. I find it is one of the few pieces of true oratory in recent European history, as well as oddly prescient about the subsequent development of the Union:

World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it. The contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. In taking upon herself for more than 20 years the role of champion of a united Europe, France has always had as her essential aim the service of peace. A united Europe was not achieved and we had war.

Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries. With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point.

It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe.  The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.

The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible. The setting up of this powerful productive unit, open to all countries willing to take part and bound ultimately to provide all the member countries with the basic elements of industrial production on the same terms, will lay a true foundation for their economic unification. (...)

(I apologise for quoting the English translation. Since this blog is in English, it seemed like a good idea. The French original is here.)

Both the shadow of the war and protestant puritanism make such oratory a rarity in many parts of Europe. Most politicians I am familiar with couldn't find a passionate plea like this with two hands and a flash light. (Cf. my post on 10 Words from March.) Like flag waiving and hands to hearts, such speeching is something we leave to our American cousins, and even they are not as good at it as they think they are. (Am I seriously the only one who thinks that listening to Obama speak is like some kind of Buddhist meditation exercise - excruciatingly dull? The man pauses for a minute between every two sentences, and sometimes even after commas.)

That said, maybe someone, somewhere should give a speech on the occasion of Europe Day. It seems like a pretty fitting occasion. After all, it is the task of politicians to help voters make sense of the reality that surrounds them, rather than simply frightening the beejeezus out of them. Through any and all methods of communication, regardless of whether there is an election campaign going on, politicians should explain to voters what they are doing, defend their choices, offer a framework for understanding, etc. On Europe Day, the topic for such argument should be Europe. What do we have instead, in Europe-related news? The PVV in the Dutch province that receives more EU money than any other objects to having the EU flag flown outside the provincial parliamentthe British are having second thoughts about bailing out the Eurozone, and a whole laundry list of ordinary EU news.

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