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Europe: Between Integration and Integrism

- We need to realize that many generations of Europeans could only  dream of the Europe we live in today. A dream has come true before our very eyes: European order is based on human rights, the principle of solidarity and respect in mutual relations between states. The paradox of the situation consists in the fact that despite the obvious achievements we still feel an almost permanent dissatisfaction - commented Professor Roman Kuźniar during a debate held at the Gazeta Wyborcza. 


Another meeting in the "European Debates" cycle was held on 23 April 2013. It was organized by the Professor Bronisław Geremek Centre Foundation in collaboration with the Heinrich Böll Foundation  and the French Culture and Francophone Studies Centre of  Warsaw University . Gazeta Wyborcza was the media patron of the event.

The point of departure for the discussion was the publication last autumn of a  collection of essays by Bronisław Geremek titled Nasza Europa (Our Europe); it was the second publication  - after Głos w Europie  (A Voice in Europe) - prepared by the Professor Bronisław Geremek Centre Foundation.

In the essays written in 2002-2008 the author saw Europe as a just power, guided by the imperative of respecting human rights, though, simultaneously, he noted an increasing distance between the citizens of the European Union and the institutions that represent them. He called for broader involvement of Europeans in decision-making  and for deeper political integration.

In the introduction to the book Aleksander Smolar underlined: "In his endeavors and  writings Bronisław Geremek was always on the side of a common Europe and  always  on the side of hope. Naturally, he did not provide answers to the problems we are facing today, but in his thinking about Europe and history  he pointed to a path that we should follow to resolve one of the fundamental dilemmas of our continent: how to reconcile the rich diversity of nations and cultures with the need for a shared existence and joint action".


The debate participants:

Daniel Cohn-Bendit - Co-Chair of the  Group of the Greens  -  European Free Alliance (EFA) in the European Parliament

Roman Kuźniar - political scientist, diplomat, adviser to the President of the RP on international affairs

Magdalena Środa - philosopher, writer


Debate moderator:

Jarosław Kurski - Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Gazeta Wyborcza


At the beginning of the meeting, in line with  requests from the audience, the moderator elaborated on  the meaning of the term "Geremek's Europe" used in the title of the event. - It is Europe of a man who has witnessed the tragic consequences of  war. That  is why his empathy for the weak and his memories of the ravages of war awoke in him a yearning for a democratic Europe, for an European identity and  awareness - said Jarosław Kurski.

The debate participants sought to address the political and social vision  that Bronisław Geremek had built and co-shaped over many years. It is a challenging yet responsible task, particularly in the context of the ongoing economic crisis  and the distinct wave of distrust toward the common, European institutions.

Magdalena Środa underscored that she was enthusiastic about Bronisław Geremek's vision of Europe - a political conception, which,  based on mutual confidence and solidarity,  had its roots in the optimistic sources of humanity. However, the ties that prompted the formulation of the basic values of this conception were directly proportionate to the power of historical remembrance. -  Professor Geremek often remarked that  we already have a common Europe  but we still don't have Europeans - recalled Magdalena Środa. - Perhaps that quest for a civic formula in Europe should transcend the model of unity of national states. A cohesive educational strategy  should become an instrument in shaping  such an awareness.

The Europe we see today is a zone of law and responsibility for the negative consequences of the elements that deconstruct  the continent's social and political discourse, such as bloody nationalisms and wars.  - Thus, Europe is a dream, yet in the same sense - perhaps to an even greater extent - it is a construct , remarked Daniel Cohn Bendit. Thus, the fundamental problem concerns the future. Can we still draw strength by restricting ourselves to the lessons of that fulfilled dream? This is doubtful.  In a global world national states are no longer capable of  tackling the challenges of our times. - Geremek's European dream  needs to be transformed in the federative direction, the politician underlined.

The international affairs adviser of the Polish President  pointed to the obvious inconsistencies in the process of building an European awareness.  The future of the democratic model is not assured  precisely because of the divergent expectations: on the one hand there is the expectation of  closer integration, on the other  - expectation of greater  freedom and democracy.  Europe  also needs to be mindful of the international context. -  The radiation of its culture and achievements, a kind of  European prometeism , is an essential element in this - said Roman Kuźniar.

The most heated exchanges concerned the vision of Europe that was not so much supra-national as non-national. What is to be done when  European mechanisms function poorly,  by reason of false compromises?  The greatest enemy of European awareness is precisely the nation state; the politicians -  bound by their opportunistic analyses of the election calendar - are attached to it, but the citizens are definitely not. - The new political correctness in Europe  is permeated with fear, politicians are afraid of referring to "the European nation" - Magdalena Środa noted. Meanwhile, we need the courage to formulate the unambiguous choice: it's either a common Europe, or  the nation state. In the age of globalization  there are no independent nations, just as there are no sovereign markets. The nation state is not the object of our emotional life but the subject of political power. Fortunately, the process of building the European awareness is gradually moving ahead  - and this includes awareness of  the mechanisms of government. Thus, we have reason to believe that Geremek's Europe is still possible.


Jacek Głażewski