In the midst of the Corona crisis, two very special anniversaries offer us the opportunity, despite current events, to take a step back from everyday life and to remember: the liberation of Europe from Nazi terror on 8 May 1945 and the birth of Europe as we know it, only five years later. When Chancellor Merkel talks about the fact that we are currently facing the greatest challenges since the end of the Second World War, this not only says a lot about the current situation. It also shows that we can look back on a period of peace that has now lasted 75 years and from which all Europeans have benefited greatly.
Since the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950, a mere idea has grown into an alliance that has given the continent not only peace but also prosperity and social security. Not only have former enemies become friends, but the division of the continent was overcome after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Success can, however, become a danger if it is taken all too for granted. For years now, Euroscepticism has been growing. All too often the question is asked only what Europe can do for you, but rarely what you yourself are prepared to do to ensure Europe’s success. If states rely on Community solidarity but are less and less willing to share their values, the Alliance is at risk of growing erosion.
In this context, Europe is more important than ever. Crises like the present one show that it is good when friendly states help each other. But even beyond the crisis, Europe sees itself in the midst of a world of ever-growing global powers and economic blocs, especially in America and Asia. Only in an alliance can the EU states find a hearing for their vision of a peaceful, social and sustainable world. Germany alone is also not significant enough. So there must be no fragmentation. Europe must continue to mature if the success story is to continue.
This requires further steps towards integration, especially political integration. A permanent wrangling over competences between nation states and a supranational EU will not work. The states will have to give up further competences, but not in favour of a European hydrocephalus. Subsidiarity must be lived more strongly at all political levels, but this also requires greater trust among the partners. The United States of Europe could be a long-term political goal. That may sound unrealistic, even unrealistic at this stage. But is the idea really so much more courageous than just five years after the war the desire for France, Germany and others to build the common house of Europe? Europe needs Europe, today as much as 70 years ago.