EU president Herman van Rompuy delivered a lecture at the EUI in November. A group of PhD researchers pinned a list of demands to the door of the church where he was speaking, in the style of Martin Luther.
I speak on behalf of our university based political collective. However, we act in solidarity with the masses of Europeans who are currently struggling to live, work and in many cases, simply survive under the unprecedented and extraordinarily inhumane and unjust conditions imposed upon them by the European political and financial powers. As both proud Europeans and academics at the EUI, an institution that best exemplifies the boundless possibilities of European cooperation, it is incumbent upon us to defend the core values that have been betrayed by those entrusted to uphold them.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union affirms that the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law.
Developments in recent times have unambiguously shown that these values have been and continue to be, disregarded by the European political elite, sacrificed at the altar of selective austerity and political expediency.
Unfortunately, the office of President of the European Council is the symbolic incarnation of the ever more blatant, democratic deficit at the heart of the European Union. The unelected and unaccountable head of a European people whose popular consent in the appointment was deemed superfluous, thus rendering the position void of any semblance of democratic legitimacy.
However, the crisis of democracy in the European Union is much more insidious than the simple appointment of a presidential figure head. The undemocratic ethos has infiltrated the very structures of the Union, evident in its consistent disregard for the expressed popular will of its citizens. A popular will ignored in the French and Dutch referenda and on two occasions in the case of Ireland. The ongoing deterioration in the standards of democracy has been most recently evidenced in the EU’s furious reaction to the Greek government’s effort to seek popular consent over the financial stranglehold imposed on the country. No longer are expressions of popular consent simply ignored, it is now even impermissible to consult Europe’s citizen body.
As the EU becomes ever less accountable to the people of Europe, it has hastened its drift away from its core founding values. There is no dignity in the calculated impoverishment of Europe’s most vulnerable citizens, there is no freedom in labour precarity and the dismantlement of public health systems, there is no equality in the rewarding of the financial sector for its recklessness and the collective socio-economic punishment of the working peoples of Europe. And there is absolutely no solidarity when the collective extravagances of a European financial and political elite are punitively extracted from the peoples of Greece, Ireland and Portugal and not from the instigators of this storm of poverty.
To conclude, we are of the view that another Europe is possible. We reject the false inevitabilities put forward by the shadowy edifices of the markets and rating agencies. We reject the apocalyptic menaces of the financial sector that are pathetically diffused by their political lackeys across the continent. Europe is the Europe of its citizens and not of a pompous self – appointed, fundamentally anti-democratic elite. Our Europe can and will once again be rooted in its founding values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity, constructed upon and protected by accountable and truly democratic political institutions.