In 1918, Europe emerged devastated from a bloody war that left its divisions unhealed. In 1939, conflict broke out afresh, its roots in fascism and an economic crisis. It took decades of sustained effort and compromise for a new generation to finally offer Europeans what the leaders who had sleepwalked into two wars had denied them: a Europe of peace, prosperity and solidarity.
A century on, as our continent once again faces division and stagnation, we refuse to be a new generation of sleepwalkers. We must act now, or the European project will stall. Worse, it could be suffocated by nationalist and populist forces for whom the EU represents a historical anomaly that must be undone.
With eight months to go to European parliament elections in which the citizens of 27 countries will choose the Europe they want, we are launching an appeal: let’s reinvent Europe, to finally meet the expectations of its citizens and reclaim the original European promise.
Europe at the moment seems too often overwhelmed by challenges: ecological, economic or those linked to migration. It is overwhelmed by citizens’ expectations for less regulation and more action. It is overwhelmed by commitments that it can no longer keep because it lacks a common vision and effectiveness in its functioning.
Still, the European promise is not lost; it is just slumbering. Recent progress on the rules governing workers posted abroad and defence show that Europe makes progress when the political will rallies Europeans around a clear and ambitious project. And when it comes to taxation of the digital economy, we have only begun, but we know that a Europe-wide solution is the only way. President Macron’s Sorbonne speech embodies this ambition: it is now up to us to make it a reality.
It is not simply a question of overcoming the divisions that have led to the present impasse. Nor is it a question of continually reminding people that the Orbáns, Le Pens and Salvinis of Europe have nothing to offer beyond blaming the EU for all their evils. We must offer solutions.
That is why our plan to reinvent Europe is clear:
Instead of engaging with such threats as the “mass cleansing” spoken of by Matteo Salvini in Italy, “getting rid of Islam” by the AfD in Germany, or “ending Europe” by Marine Le Pen, we proudly proclaim the founding values of peace, freedom, prosperity and solidarity.
Instead of supporting calls to muzzle the justice system and political opposition, we demand strict respect for the rule of law and for democratic institutions.
Rather than accepting a divided and weakened continent at the mercy of the world’s other great powers, we are calling for a sovereign Europe capable of acting forcefully in areas where individual member states are powerless, in economic and monetary policy, security and defence, environment and agriculture, social policy, immigration and integration and digital change.
That is also why our method is clear: in our determination to reinvent Europe, nothing is ruled out. We are ready to reform the EU treaties if necessary. We are determined to move forward in spite of the obstacles, recognising that each country must move forward at its own pace. We want a stronger Europe and we will stay open to those who want to join us along the way.
We are determined to go beyond existing partisan structures if they act as obstacles. We are committed to reinventing Europe together with men and women who lead their countries, from the north and the south, the west and the east, who are passionate about Europe, and determined to invest in this historic project while others are content to recite incantations or play walk-on parts.
We now have eight months to convince the citizens of our own countries that Europe deserves this new project and that the citizens deserve this new Europe. Time is running out: we have eight months to get Europe to wake up.
• Christophe Castaner is president of La République En Marche!; Olivier Chastel is president of Mouvement Réformateur, Belgium; Dacian Cioloş is a former prime minister of Romania; Joseph Muscat is prime minister of Malta; Alexander Pechtold is leader of the Democrats 66 party, Netherlands; Matteo Renzi is a former prime minister of Italy; Albert Rivera is leader of Ciudadanos, Spain; Guy Verhofstadt is president of the ALDE Group in the European parliament and a former prime minister of Belgium