Euro­pean sol­i­dar­ity in a world of crises

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The end of the year is al­ways a time for tak­ing stock. At the end of 2015, we can look back on a year when Euro­pean sol­i­dar­ity – at the risk of sound­ing overly dra­matic – with­stood what may have been the great­est tri­als it has faced since the end of World War II.

Euro­pean sol­i­dar­ity was se­verely tested through much of the year by the Greek cri­sis – the eco­nomic and so­cial im­pacts of which con­tinue to be felt in the eu­ro­zone and through­out the Euro­pean Union. Since the start of the year, the talks on Greece have tried the pa­tience of us all. Much time and trust were lost. Bridges were burned. Words were spo­ken that can­not eas­ily be taken back. We saw Europe’s democ­ra­cies be­ing played against one an­other.

Col­lec­tively, Europe looked into the abyss. And it was only when we were at the brink that we were able to step back. In the end, the EU’s mem­ber states stood by Greece, com­mit­ments were made, im­ple­mented and ad­hered to, and a new pro­gram is now in place. Euro­pean sol­i­dar­ity pre­vailed, and trust has started to re­cover. The key now will be de­liv­ery on re­forms, and the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion con­tin­ues to sup­port Greece’s side with a new Struc­tural Re­form Sup­port Ser­vice, as well as by pro­vid­ing tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance at ev­ery step of what is still a long jour­ney.

At the same time, Euro­pean sol­i­dar­ity con­tin­ues to be tested by the refugee cri­sis. Ear­lier in the year, the Com­mis­sion put for­ward a com­pre­hen­sive mi­gra­tion pol­icy and took im­me­di­ate steps to man­age the cri­sis. We tripled our pres­ence in the Mediter­ranean Sea, help­ing to save lives. We fought back against the crim­i­nal net­works of smug­glers and traf­fick­ers. We showed sol­i­dar­ity by agree­ing to re­lo­cate among our mem­ber states those peo­ple most in need of in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion.

We have now started re­set­tling refugees from out­side of Europe, and are work­ing closely with Tur­key, which plays a cru­cial role in the re­gion. We have also launched a new pro­vide col­lec­tive so­lu­tions to prob­lems felt acutely and in­de­pen­dently by each EU mem­ber state. Do­ing away with EU asy­lum laws will not take away na­tional obli­ga­tions to abide by the hu­man­i­tar­ian prin­ci­ple and re­quire­ment un­der in­ter­na­tional law to of­fer asy­lum to those in need. On the con­trary, it is a com­mon stan­dard for the way EU coun­tries treat asy­lum re­quests that creates a fair sys­tem and pre­vents peo­ple from flock­ing to one place.

Sim­i­larly, a Euro­pean Border and Coast Guard that does not rely on in­di­vid­ual states’ will­ing­ness or po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity to com­mit re­sources will en­able us to re­store or­der and ef­fec­tively man­age the EU’s ex­ter­nal bor­ders. Here, too, the so­lu­tions are nec­es­sar­ily Euro­pean.

If I were to com­pare the time­lines for the refugee cri­sis and the fi­nan­cial cri­sis, I would say we are now in Fe­bru­ary 2010, when Euro­pean coun­tries still thought that the tools they had at the na­tional level were suf­fi­cient to ad­dress prob­lems that we now know re­quired a co­or­di­nated, Euro­pean re­sponse.

Euro­pean sol­i­dar­ity must pre­vail. The atro­cious at­tacks in Paris in Novem­ber were an at­tack on the Euro­pean way of life. But we will not con­cede de­feat. We will not give in to fear by re­build­ing walls so re­cently torn down. We will not con­fuse the per­pe­tra­tors of th­ese heinous crimes with those flee­ing in their wake.

Europe – the love of my life. This brave con­ti­nent. This no­ble peo­ple. A place per­ceived world­wide as be­ing safe and just. We will live up to that rep­u­ta­tion. We will show our re­silience.

Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion is a mul­ti­fac­eted and of­ten com­pli­cated af­fair. We do not al­ways get it right the first time. But if I could de­scribe Europe with just one word, it would be “per­se­ver­ance.” Col­lec­tively, we are stronger than the chal­lenges that con­front us. To­gether, we will unite in the face of that which seeks to di­vide us. We will per­se­vere in 2016. And we will thrive.

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