Ignasi Riera

The Europe of Tomorrow
Ignasi riera1
'The euro is a metaphor for the Europe that we have, but not for the Europe that we want. Because this Europe with its single currency does not even have a constitution!' writes Ignasi Riera
One icy day around noon - snow lay on the ground - I came to Reus, a town not far from Tarragona. The teachers of the IES/Baix Camp there had invited me and asked me to speak about the future of Europe. I was impressed by the attention that the students paid to my remarks: the topic was, after all, not exactly riveting: neither was it simple.

At the same time, however, I felt that these very same young people, who are about to finish secondary school, will be the ones whose votes decide what kind of Europe they benefit from - or become victims of. We have to realise that the future of Europe will fundamentally affect and alter all our lives. In Reus, for instance, this meant the following: whoever talked of Europe also had to talk about the future of growing peas and beans, and whether agricultural subsidies strengthen the infrastructure or not; also had to be aware that these girls and boys will have to compete in the labour market with girls and boys educated in North Rhine-Westphalia, Edinburgh or Lombardy, even with those who live in Budapest, Prague or Cracow.

To make this easier to understand, I always say that there appears to be, on the one hand, a Europe of the EU, of the European Union, and on the other a Europe of UEFA. And this means that Barca, our football team in Barcelona, has to test its strengths against Dynamo Kiev or Besitkas from Istanbul. It means that a certain Catalan woman from Súria, representing Spain in an international competition - with a noble Spanish accent and for Eurovision, of course - does so in countries whose names had previously only appeared in crosswords: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.

In fact - and we all know this - Europe now has a single currency: the euro is a metaphor for the Europe that we have, but not for the Europe that we want. Because this Europe with its single currency does not even have a constitution! What is the significance of this? There is a European Parliament of high moral authority, but of weak powers where the drawing up of laws and setting of values is concerned, when this should be its prerogative as the government of an entire continent. Because the current situation is such that this Europe - which centuries ago invented democracy in its all possible forms as a mode of government - can neither use its Parliament to set in motion nor, where necessary, criticise its own actions as a government. Add to this that there is no constitutional court that could pronounce a binding verdict if anyone wanted to know whether a decision of the European government is constitutional or not. Where this applies to the common defence policy, the situation becomes even trickier: it is urgently necessary for Europe to develop its own defence policy, which will allow it - without currying favour - to focus its defence intentions on the tasks facing its armed forces, as and when required by the constitution. American meddling in European defence policy and the lack of loyalty shown to Europe by the Aznars, Blairs and Berlusconis are hollowing Europe out and virtually turning it into a colony! This Europe, which used to be a colonial power itself - and what a power!

What is more, the condition of the welfare state in Europe is most worrying because there are - according to the European Parliament - around fifty million people living in poverty in the EU and because poverty is defined as 'social exclusion', a fitting definition that encompasses more than just the financial aspect. Following the integration of new countries into the European political unit, there will be even more poor people. How will we, who are inside already, position ourselves towards the demands for subsidies made by the new poor?

In the current European Parliament many languages are in official use, which, where common documentation is concerned, requires hoards of translators and causes massive expenses. And we rightly complain that some languages do not have official status: this is true of Catalan, a living language in the daily life and culture of Catalonia as well as beyond.

In future the number of languages will no longer rise! If we transfer the original idea of ecology - namely, the protection of threatened and dying species - onto the realm of languages, then Europe has to take resposibility for the transmission of all of this living diversity. This is its cultural inheritance for the enrichment of the united Europe: to defend, cultivate and hand down this intellectual treasure to future generations.

Finally: will the Europe of tomorrow consist of types of states that are long out of date? Will it be a Europe of the regions? Of communities? Of peoples? Or will it indeed be an entirely new Europe, fascinated by all that is new and at the same time enamoured of its common heritage?

Yes: many questions in this rather belligerent climate. From the mouths of very young people - pupils - of a province in Catalonia, of a town where there is a House of Reading, the town of our General Prim and philosopher Gabriel Ferrater.

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