18:00 . Sometimes I compare the idea of Europe with that of the Catholic church: Europe is only good when it’s far – just like the religious belief almost. The moment you get closer, you say you want to grasp it, but then it feels like you cannot get serious about it, because it is too hard! So let me ask this: How can we achieve European democracy? Do we really want to achieve it?
Let’s have suggestions, because let’s be clear, I do not have answers but only suggestions. Today, if you want real European democracy, then you need to abandon 28 economic ministers and 28 foreign ministers and so on. But if this happens, then people say : ok where do we place our national power? our people?
The problem is that today, European democracy comes with this personal price:
if you look at the previous years, we had one market, one currency, now we are saying let’s have one democracy with the European institutions and the Parliament particularly. Well structurally, when you had one market, there was a strong economic driver for it. But for democracy… there is no economic driver. It is only the citizens that may or may not want a new form of democracy. There are no benefits but costs to this and therefore it is becomes more difficult to achieve because : who wants to pay the price?
We could cynically say just like in ‘House of Cards’”Democracy is overrated” and as long as the market keeps people happy and stable, people don’t care. But, if the market cracks a little bit, then people care! There was this moment of fear with the financial crisis in 2008. It may come again!
Most importantly – are we doing this thinking in Europe together or against each other? There should be a convergence on these things: sometimes it almost seems to me that citizens are more adventurous than leaders. I don’t understand, and this is obviously subjective – but I see a big door open of a society willing to pay this price for democracy. Why can’t we all simply use this door?
Ulrike is a German political thinker and founder of the European Democracy Lab (EDL), a think tank dedicated to the future of European democracy.
A bit of a summary (bu her own words) of what has been her relation to the EU:
‘I first worked on the “Schäuble-Lamers” (paper on core-Europe of 1994) – it was a paper produced because the CDU said – we have this massive treaty now (the Maastricht treaty*), which means we need to write a paper. I stepped in the office of Karl Lamas, my previous boss, in 1992 – and because you never know what to do with your new assistant – ha see I was a parliamentary assistant just like you! (she smiles) then Lamas told me: look, we need to have a paper on this. I feel like since then, this has pretty much been my job – I am always either researching or writing a paper about Europe, both most of the time.’