National awareness should not lead to hostility, contempt and discrimination The fight against nationalism is a major challenge
Commissioner Günter H. Oettinger
Commissioner Oettinger held a Citizens’ Dialogue in Luxembourg with Prime Minister Bettel on May 6. The Dialogue took place in the Centre Culturel Tramsschapp with 260 people in total and was placed under the theme of “Nationalisms challenging democracy”. The event was attended by stakeholders, especially unionists, the diplomatic and political community, the general public and many German citizens living in Luxembourg.
Asked by the moderator how European values can be better communicated, both Commissioner Oettinger and Prime Minister Bettel admitted that “the EU is not easy to explain” and that “mistakes have been made”.
But they nevertheless agreed on the fact that member states usually appropriate the EU’s successes and simultaneously blame the EU when things go wrong. They stressed the need to develop “a Europe that works better and can be explained more easily”.
Me Oettinger underlined that we have to become aware of our common values and fight for them. This common European heritage should be defended in the upcoming election.
Commissioner Oettinger noted that nationalism is on the rise in Europe but also in the United States, in Russia and China. This had to be taken seriously and combatted. Free movement especially does not exist on every continent and has therefore to be defended against nationalism. This was a major challenge. Commissioner Oettinger said he believes in a Europe based on free movement and quality of life.
As to the possibility of simplifying EU institutions and regulations, he explained that it would not be impossible but difficult. Tax policy especially is not easy to harmonize since this is a subject where national cultures are very different. The unanimity principle would make things even more difficult.
Some participants wanted to know whether nation states are still needed. The Commissioner strongly defended their existence and said that „those who want to destroy the nation states have to be fought”. Subsidiarity is very important and has to be respected.
Wherever Europe can do better (defense, new technologies), there should be more Europe but nation states have their own identity and language and should never been given up.
He added that national consciousness is good to educate children but this awareness does not mean one should be hostile against other nations.
The Commissioner exposed what he thinks Europe is: a guarantee for peace. That is why it needs an army to fight against terrorism and make the continent secure and capable to challenge China or America.
He expressed his concerns about some negative developments in Poland, Romania and Italy where EU procedures and freedom of the press have been violated.
He added that the EU has the possibility to encounter that through strict accession criteria and stronger tools that some member states refuse to adopt. That is why it is important to give strong mandate to european parliamentarians and vote for people who will stand up for european values.
In conclusion, Commissioner Oettinger pointed out that while the benefits of the European Union are not always sufficiently highlighted, it did a really great job.