The European sentiment

A fundamental value for the unification process

A new European Commission has been installed. The European Council convened for the first time under the presidency of Herman van Rompuy, and last week was marked by a very busy agenda. Now that the Lisbon Treaty has come into force, providing for the renewed performance of European institutions, the new executive has taken office in Brussels, where it will remain for the coming years. Herman van Rompuy clearly said that economic reform must become the first priority. Indeed, the economic crisis highlighted the challenges that Europe is called to face in the coming years. With his very own sober and pragmatic style, EU President Rompuy will seek to persuade his colleagues, and all European citizens, that Asian emerging Countries’ dynamics, European research slowdown, the disquieting energetic dependence and ageing population trends require European thrust in order to prevent the Continent’s marginalization in twenty years’ time. José Manuel Barroso, for the second time at the lead of the European Commission for a five-year mandate, is expected to make similar statements. But he and other 26 Commissioners still need to develop a convincing political approach and a personal style. Many new Commission members are still unknown outside their countries of origin. Some can rely on the experience of a second mandate. Very few of them actually conveyed authentic European enthusiasm during the hearing before MEPs. The latter include French Michel Barnier, at his second assignment as Commissioner after having been in charge of regional policy during Romano Prodi’s presidency. Indeed, Barnier’s parliamentary hearing was very well prepared, and his conceptions of financial market regulation, calling for greater openness of common market services, were extremely accurate.However, his intention of boosting citizens’ attachment to the common market, of which he is now the responsible in the fundamental institution of European Construction, was rather unexpected. Increasing affective sentiment for the common market would be a priority of his engagement, he told MEPs; an accurate intuition, we believe.Who could have envisioned, upon the end of the Second World War, the progress of European nations’ peaceful cooperation? Who could have imagined that European integration would attain such high levels? Nonetheless, citizens’ attachment to European affairs is still very poor. In this sense, Michel is perfectly right in wanting to turn this proposition into a primary aspect of his assignment. But can one love a market? Whether it is single, common, or domestic, the market doesn’t trigger an emotional response. After the War the Germans were committed in the development of the “Soziale Marktwirtschaft”. The social teaching of the Church directly inspired the architects of this economic regime. The notion of “economic and social progress” is inscribed in article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty. Perhaps Michel Barnier would be more inspired if he relied on this notion. In fact, along with market economy, which indeed can be useful, if not indispensable, lies the adjective “social”, recalling mutual care and attention. It carries a message of charity and concrete support against life’s perils and threats, which could touch our own hearts. Having said this, a further reflection on the new European Common Market Commissioner is due. Philosopher Simone Weil, who converted to Christianity at the end of her life, wrote in her book ‘L’Enracinement’ that “European unification sentiments” ought to be nourished and fuelled. It was 1943, in the midst of the War. In peaceful 2010 Europe, it still is an urgent issue.

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