May 25th, 2020
According to western vision, Europe is known as the Old Continent. Throughout its history, its people have shown enormous strength to overcome the worst moments, and to establish their basic principles with strong and inclusive institutions. These institutions reflect their core values*: respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality, and the rule of law. This set of values and the institutions that represent them have served as fundamental mechanisms to improve the standard of living of their people.
Schopenhauer pointed out that “it is mostly loss that teaches us the value of things.” Regarding the teachings of history, it is said that the human being has “short memory”. This means that over time we tend to forget bad times, which is just a self-defense mechanism. To cope with this phenomenon it is important to “remember that we must remember”. For this, we need adequate intergenerational integration and to listen to the elders who are a reservoir of memory and wisdom. Europe has done well on this issue. They have not forgotten what it is to lose the realization of the values initially mentioned.
In the first half of this month, Europe celebrated liberation day, the end of the war, and also the 70th anniversary of Robert Schuman’s declaration**. At that time, the governments of Europe decided that integrating their economic interests was the best alternative to work together and prevent future war conflicts. This arrangement contributed to improving the living standards and pointed towards a more united Europe. The concrete proposal to achieve this task is established in the fifth paragraph of the declaration, as the “Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe. The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.”
Back then, steel and coal were the strategic resources used. Today Europe’s strategic assets are renewable energy and its advanced human capital. Also today people live longer, so we have more elders and therefore a greater reservoir of memory and wisdom to use in our favour. Adequate or sufficient intergenerational integration on this issue has allowed Europe to not forget, and at the same time, to advance their living standards. Europe marked its path to unity only after tremendous global conflicts of which it was the epicentre and were reached by escalating hate speech. It is important to remember the times when we have climbed that way to try not to repeat them. A development strategy built around these assets, i.e., renewable energies and advanced human capital, together with an adequate intergenerational integration, would allow Europe to continue on its path towards greater unity, to avoid warlike conflicts and escalations of a totalitarian tone, and to continue advancing its standards of living.
Being the continent that has gone the furthest concerning maintaining and expanding liberal values, initially mentioned, comes with the responsibility of constituting itself as a model of organization that the rest of the countries can imitate. It would be a mistake to “rest on the laurels” and risk future authoritarian regimes, because as Borges said, “tyrannies promote stupidity” and complementing what Voltaire said, “it is very difficult to free fools from the chains they venerate”.
* See Values at the European Parliament https://europarlamentti.info/en/values-and-objectives/values/
** The Schuman Declaration, May 9th 1950, Schuman was the French foreign minister. https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/symbols/europe-day/schuman-declaration_en