I would like to thank beforehand the ministers and the mayor of Athens who have made it possible to be here, this evening, in this magnificent place charged with symbolical significance. I also want to thank all the speakers and participants who have come here in large numbers to launch the project Europe 2020 and to participate with us in this reinvention of Europe. I would also like to thank in particular all the numerous members of Prometheus Europe and those from the Prometheus Athens Club, in particular its president Constantine STEPHANIDES, who have created this event.
Without them, the Project 2020 would still be a simple idea. Whereas today, in this place buzzing with 2500 years of history and debates, this idea has become a component of the future of the European Union. Once again, in the name of Prometheus Europe and the thousands of European citizens who in the following months are going to participate in the project Europe 2020, thank you all for your efforts and your enthusiasm.
2500 years ago, in this same place, our hosts of today, the Greeks, invented democracy, a system which was going to become one of the pillars of European culture.
Today, in this same place, with this conference ” Reinventing Europe “and the launching of the project Europe 2020 on internet, we are going to try to combine this democratic tradition with the process of European unification using this new continental Agora which the internet might become.
But before we go any further, allow me to question myself, to question ourselves about this ambition which belongs to us : Reinventing Europe.
What legitimacy do we have ? What credibility ?
I believe we can find the answers to these questions by looking at history
. our history as a movement
. the recent history of the Union
. the change of generations
. the opinion of the Founders of Europe
– Our history in the beginning : because the preparation of this event which will take place in twenty years time, has been our history since 1985 ! We began in effect to prepare Europe 2020 13 years ago !
. With the creation of AGEE-EUROPE 13 years ago, we established a process of production of new European elite on an upright basis, having extracted them from the administrative way to train European elite, and having been therefore able to ” import ‘ Europe to all levels of our societies.
Nowadays there are over 100 000 with real representants capable of representing the community opinions from Helsinki to Athens.
. With Prometheus-Europe, during 9 years, we have developed our knowledge and our opinions concerning the community system and its necessary evolution, within the mark of transparency, towards democracy and efficiency ; all of which stimulating internal reactions within the system, against waste, corruption and opacity. We are read about, listened to, even understood after some months, at the highest level of the system : Member States, the Commission, parliament, Court of auditors…
We have also contributed to the emergence of a new generation of community employees, who are aware of the need for change and who adhere strongly to the three mentioned principles. And finally, we have built a world network unique in its kind, bearing in mind the relations between Europe and the other continents because globalisation means that from now onwards we can no longer independently think of the future if we want to influence it. Prometheus is today known from Peking to Istanbul, from Cairo to Lima, from New York to Moscow.
– The recent history of the European Union : Because we are sure that with the passage to the Euro by now scheduled for the year 2002, the European Union will enter from this date into a strong zone of social and political chaos.
The arrival of the Euro in the pockets of 350 million citizens will have the inverse consequence of brutally injecting 350 million citizens in a community system which works today with a few thousand real actors. We therefore risk of assisting to a democratic embolism of the system. If this chaos is not anticipated from today, it will not allow the creation of a constructive reform of the system. Now this reform is even the more necessary than in a few years time, within the years 2006 and 2010, the first wave of the enlargement towards the East will make itself evident, on the other hand, the East will bring in numerous community habits originating from the 50s and 60s. These are announced to be two major forcible shocks.
– The change of generations : because we have represented for more than 13 years, the new paths open for the first generations born in the European Community. Based on the essential realisations of the generations that have preceded us, but aware that the future cannot be built on the strict following of the methods, organisations and left over of the 50s and 60s.
What other generation ? We are the ones who are struggling and will still be there in twenty years’ time. There are people of different ages, different generations, different training who act to build tomorrow’s Europe. But they need a scope of action which will multiply their energy, strengthen their efforts, enriched their ideas. We need, we desperately need, the experience of our elders but within a new frame, which we have tried to create for 13 years. Not the other way round. Today, our generations have to prepare themselves to control a Europe that has already been built. There is no longer need to pursue the unity of Europe, but rather to know what to do with this Europe !
– The Founders of Europe: because the famous representants of the preceding generations who have paved the way before us towards the creation of a united Europe, have been encouraging us for years to continue along this new path. Since 1985 almost all the European heads of state, of government, ministers or commissioners have sponsored various of our activities.
Today there are still numerous European commissioners and ministers that encourage us. Moreover, on a more personal basis, I will quote the words of three historical Europeans with which I have had the chance to converse on repeated occasions : Mr MITTERRAND, when he was president, Mr BRUGMANN (founder of the College of Bruges), Mr GAZZO (founder of the Agence Europe). All three of them have told me repeatedly how important our action is for the future of Europe. Mr Mitterrand gave us decisive support in many projects and •listened to us when we asked him to publicly intervene in the unblocking of ERASMUS. The other two told me that our actions would constitute a crucial component in the years to come. Professor BRUGMANN told me in 1987 in The Hague in the third congress of AEGEE, and he repeated it in the IDE campaign “what you do with your colleagues constitutes the most important action for the future of Europe that I have had the occasion to see in the last thirty years ” and he added, ” believe me, I have seen many ! ” The generation of founders that we met at the end of the 80s, before they disappeared, told us : invent new forms of action, new movements. Ignore the old movements, dying and paralysed, stuck in the concepts and methods of the 40s and the 50s.
Therefore, for all these reasons, I think that we can reply in all honesty that we are legitimate, that we are credible. I shall go even further, thinking in terms of responsibility, we are responsible for this Europe’s future, because if we won’t worry about it actively, who will ?
2. Reinventing Europe is therefore our problem. So, how is Europe going to face the next twenty years ?
First, let me tell you a short story to illustrate my aim :
There was once upon a time, fifteen little men who spent years building a huge bus. It was a very ambitious project because the bus was truly very large. Then when they had finished it they made their extensive families get into it and the bus moved off. The problem then arose inside the driver’s cabin, thankfully protected by an opaque window, when the 15 little men realised that there was only one armchair, one large armchair of the same scale as the bus, not of a little man, there was only one big steering wheel, only one accelerator, only one brake… They tried to drive the fifteen of them, together, sharing out the tasks, but the bus took on speed and it quickly became evident that this solution was too dangerous. Arguments then began inside the cabin over what to do. The passengers began to feel the holes on the road, the sudden brakes, the abrupt swings of the steering wheel and the shouting. In spite of this, there was always a reassuring message from the driver’s cabin : ” Do not worry, everything is all right ” Nevertheless, the fear grew.
Well, the EU of the following years is this bus, in which 350 million passengers are seated ! With the Euro, the bus has moved off.
And I am very worried about the journey. A great fear has in effect creeped into me, little by little, over the past months. And I know that many amongst us share this fear.
And if history were to lead Europe into a old path when least expected ? It is sufficient to convince ourselves by remembering the magnificent text of Stefan ZWEIG, in his Memories of a European, in which he describes how before 1914 the rising generations were convinced that ” Europe had been created ” : planes, cars, telephones, tourism, peace after decades…. everything finally seemed to point to the creation of Europe. But after, we all know what happened ! however, if I here speak of generations, it is because i believe that they have specific responsibilities, those of facing the dangers of their times and materialising their potential. I have never considered one generation more clever than another, they are all equivalent in terms of human potential. Zweig’s generation in 1913, who must have been in their thirties, as many of us here tonight, was neither more nor less blind than we are to the course of history. But on the other hand, thanks to our better collective knowledge of history, we benefit from a slight advantage which we must use. This advantage, is to know how history can convey such terrible irony !
And, if I am worried today, it is owing to the anxiety that this fear might begin to adopt a specific shape following the recent political evolution’s in certain member states, it is our deep knowledge of the community system, in the light of our common history.
. I am worried because there are other elements than the democratic and open forces which here in Europe, have struggled for the unification of the continent. It is a project that has been also pursued over the centuries by the most opaque forces, the most perverse of our civilisation : the forces of ostracism, racism and antidemocracy.
. I am worried because our present community system is not ” anti democracy immune ” far from it. It is before anything else, an administrative construction, indeed, a bureaucratic one, in which the people do not have a place and decisions always come from above.
. I am worried because through the memory of our history both in the East and West, we have seen the incredible propension of the administrative and bureaucratic machines to accommodate themselves in the worst ideologies out of fear that they might lose ground.
. I am worried because tomorrow, with the introduction of the Euro, our people will be brutally propelled into a community system, into a system in which they have no reserved place, into a system which seems to them indeed inappropriate, dangerous.
. I am worried because tomorrow, even more so than today, the process of creating the community generates extremism which are natural consequences of increased integration and of the changes that come with it. The two common points of these extremism’s will be above all, antidemocratic, even more so than racist or xenophobic. Paradoxically, the second point in common, will be that of being pro-European. But of a dark Europe, rejecting everything that lies outside it and defining itself strictly on racial and religious basis. A Europe in which key policies will be repressive policies, a nightmare Europe for all those who support the community creation of these last decades ; a Europe that betrays the Treaty of Rome.
. I am worried because towards the years 2006-2010, amidst the problems which the Euro might face, in the period of expansion, the impact is going to increase and so is the importance of these anti-democratic movements.
They will accumulate in bizarre demago-political cocktails from nationalistic ideas with the aspirations to obtain an exclusive and authoritarian Europe.
. And if I am worried, very worried, it is because I do not see clearly what the actual community system will do if it is confronted in ten year’s time with nationalist votes in which Le Pen or George HAIDER, or Gianfranco FINI obtain 40% of the votes, and that this should happen in 6,8,12 member states or more. And I also rather not imagine the consequences should they come to power in these same states. And do not tell me that if economic prosperity is expected everything will be all right ! Moreover, I do not enjoy playing the roulette . …with the future of 350 million people, on the other hand, it is an erroneous idea, it would be worse if economic prosperity were not on the rise, which is not exactly the same thing !
3. Therefore, for me, for us in Prometheus-Europe and so too in this vast movement for Europe 2020 which is going to develop from this moment here in Athens both in the real world and the Internet, the challenges are clear, the choices too.
. We want a democratic Europe 2020, of which we have to democratise the actual communitarian system….because a non democratic Europe does not have a future except for novice dictators.
Democracy does not exist in as much as it never definite, only democratisation exists, an endless process which tries to submit to the choice of the citizens the power which each day takes a new form. Therefore, just as generations before us and countless generations after us will do, let us attempt this task.
. We want a transparent Europe, therefore we need to act, make proposals to simplify procedures, improve the knowledge of the mechanisms, because an opaque Europe does not have a future except for the Mafia.
. We want an efficient Europe, therefore we need to propose better methods, but we also need to watch over, to criticise waste, bad management, because an inefficient Europe does not have a future….except for corruption.
. We want a Europe which explores the path of lasting development, therefore we need to propose methods, economic and political tracks, which will ensure that in 20 years time, our environment will not be destroyed…..because a Europe which destroys its environment will contribute to the digging of our common tomb and will not be able to lead other countries into the paths to avoid natural disasters.
. Finally, we want a Europe in a world that might be serene, active, without hang-ups but aware of its history and its consequences….therefore, we need to contribute to prepare tomorrow’s world (reform of the UN, regional integration, try to master the savage forces : globalisation, terrorism, organised crime, illnesses….) because a disorganised world will not give a chance to a united and democratic Europe.
4. Method : 2020 seems long to go
But when you render it a fact, as we do with the Euro portraits in the web, you will realise that it is very near.
Your child who is today 13 years old, will then be 35. A young parent, at the initial stage of his professional and his family life. This is why there is a need to be concerned about the events from today to the next twenty years.
True, the project Europe 2020 is ambitious. But one does not look up to a continent and to the future without ambition. And we can count on a large number of supporters and partners in order to join this vast movement of Europe 2020, so different and plentiful as European society itself-
– Many are the European or national civil servants who work on Europe and aspire to a profound change in the system, a change in their work conditions, in their role.
– Many are the political leaders realise how the narrowness of the national administration limits their space to manoeuvre and increasingly cuts them away from the public opinion. There is a need to restore politics, a need to disintegrate the antidemocratic movements ; only the European level can give it a space for action.
– Many are the associations , the local authorities, universities, which are already involved in the EU actions or programmes, now aspire to be something else other than eternal grant beneficiaries.
– Many are the citizens who wish to be allowed to debate and organise with their fellow European citizens common interests.
– Many are the enterprises which know that it is in developing the ability of today’s employers and those of the future and teaching them to move within a European context, that they will be more capable of facing internal and above all, external competition.
– Many are the journalists who fell frustration because they do not understand the complex mechanisms of the European Union, and therefore resent that they cannot play their democratic role of opposition.
True, the project Europe 2020 is complex. But after 13 years we have built and developed the most complex and innovative European organisations. So, let us use this experience. The solution to this complexity lies in the multiplicity and diversity of the partners of the project Europe 2020. We do not pretend to provide all the answers today. We only hope that 13 years of action throughout the whole ofEurope have taught us to ask relevant questions and listen to the answers. It is precisely in this way that the introductory document for Europe 2020 was put together, as a set of organised questions. And believe me, It has taken us time to define and formulate these questions. It is an original method which we claim as modern. Now it is up to each one of us to add a stroke of paint in this impressionistic painting of Europe 2020 which shall be revealed in March 1999.
We will try to give a reasonable shape to this painting because after 13 years we have learnt how to try to combine in a successful and enriching way the diversity of countries and functions :
– we have learnt how to get to know the European Union, its peoples and its institutions, as well as our pockets.
– we have developed unique methods to unite Europeans, make them reflect and work together.
– we have created tools, new organisations in order to try and control this new European dimension, its space, its size and its complexity.
– we have partners from the new generationsform all the continents so as to understand, anticipate and try to orientated the influences coming form the rest of the world…… and so diffuse our own analysis.
– we have retained our own independence, from all institutions, from the state, form all political and religious parties. Today, this conference is taking place without subsidies. You have paid for yourselves to have this meeting. The intemet, owing to its low cost, will allow us to continue in such a way.
In conclusion, the project 2020 is necessary. Because history is never written. It is always full of potential that might or might not develop. One thing is sure, when we do not try to foresee what might happen in the future,or to oppose the dangers that we foresee, history always turns out in the least expected way.
The next 9 months are therefore going to develop thanks to our joint efforts (and let us not forget that other than those who are here in the Agora with us today, there are thousands of partners via internet of the project Europe 2020). The agenda Europe 2020 will constitute the first vision , originating from European civil society, of what might be the path for European union in the next 20 years. In March 1999, this collective vision will be circulated all over Europe, a few months before the elections of the European parliament and those of the new Commission.
The future already ought to have a short term impact because our generations no longer want the distant tomorrow’s, the future must staff now !
This new Parliament like the new Commission, will have huge responsibility : that of preparing the community system to the massive arrival of the people in 2002.
We hope that the project Europe2020 will help everyone in Europe who is worried about the future of Europe. We know that if this process of adaptation into the system will not have been fulfilled, a dark scenario will settle instead amidst he European crowds.
Our collective task is immense. But we do not have a choice, in any case we will have to create the Europe of 2020. What we are today proposing here and over the internet, is to try being actors rather than spectators.
Your presence here today, in this place where history was founded, assures me that our aim to reinvent the European Union with its democratic tradition as basis (thus the Agora in Athens), is well on its way. The scenery is marvellous, the actors are many and motivated. The project Europe 2020 can therefore begin.
Now, it is up to you and to European citizens to play !
Franck BIANCHERI, 24/05/98