Open letter To Europe's Future Leaders
Ursula Von der Leyen
The European elections of May 2019 delivered a clear message: a majority of Europeans are asking for a positive change. The new European Union leadership must now deliver the decarbonisation of the continent, address the economic and social challenges of digitisation and global competition, and promote European democracy.
President-elect Ursula Von der Leyen has made the “European Green Deal” one of her priorities. The leaders in the European Council recognised that climate change poses an existential threat to humanity. It is high time that action follows those words. Europe can take the lead, show the way to the rest of the world and even capitalise on its leadership. Provided that European leaders have the courage to discard compromise solutions, soft measures and silo thinking.
The success of the European Green deal will depend crucially on the coherence of its objectives and the consistency of its implementation. It can only be achieved by taking a comprehensive and holistic approach, avoiding by all means working in silos. The transition of the economy will only be possible if environmental priorities become the cornerstone of major economic policies, industrial strategies and public action. An “economy that works for the people” is an economy that prioritise social and environmental concerns and makes its ultimate goal the shaping of a decarbonised and sustainable European society. And people will trust European democratic processes again only if they are put at the centre of policy making so that they can have an influence on policies and can feel that policy decisions make a real positive difference in their lives. All these policies are not only interconnected, they are bound together by an inextricable onthologic relationship.
Europeans’ message of positive change must be heeded. An open and pluralist debate is the most powerful antidote to the icy winter of political thought and economic conservatism heralded by those who offer simple, and deceptive, solutions to complex problems.
In the spirit to contribute to this crucial conversation, Res Publica Europa, a transpartisan programmatic platform aiming to help the emergence of a credible and ambitious European alternative, compiled its “Proposal for Europe” last April (see here). It advocated, amongst other proposals, for a “Green Investment Plan”, a green technological roadmap, a European social contract, an “Invest in People” Fund as well as a radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, a decarbonised transport sector by 2040, European digital licensing, a common strategy in public procurements, a single fair and efficient taxation area based on shared principles and last but not least reforming the Stability and Growth Pact, protecting long-term and sustainable investments.
But in addition to the substance, we take the liberty to insist on the method. In the European Commission, as well as in the European Parliament and amongst Member States, intense cooperation and constructive contribution across services, sectors and levels of governance is crucial. All available tools, and probably additional new methods and workstreams, need to be mobilised to meet the challenges of transforming radically the European economy and meet the European New Deal challenge. A Green Deal does not depend only on climate, energy, mobility or environmental policies. Trade, research and innovation, social policies, competition, digitisation, all of them need to be brought in the discussion or this will not be a Green Deal but just yet another sectoral intervention, missing the bigger picture. Complacency leads to conservatism. Conservatism leads to impotence. Such show of weakness would directly impact Europe’s ability to set the tone globally, notably vis a vis our partners and competitors in China and the US.
The European project is one of reconciliation between old foes. It can also be the seat of a historic reconciliation between economy, ecology and ethics. Europeans demand a positive change, an EU they can relate to, whose goals and actions work for the people and our planet. This is the foundation upon which innovative policy ideas and new political platforms must be established.
A new collective strategic vision is needed in Europe now. Let us, then, make of the May 2019 European elections an opportunity to disrupt European policies with new ideas for an ambitious, inclusive and united Europe, accountable to its people and their environment. And let us hope that this debate will do justice to the generous promise bequeathed to us by previous generations while also addressing head-on the challenges of the new century.
Res Publica Europa