Joint article by M. Thierry Repentin and M. Michael Roth [fr]
« Franco-German Council of Ministers – Joint article by M. Thierry Repentin, Minister Delegate for European Affairs of the French Republic, and M. Michael Roth, Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office. Published in the daily newspapers Frankfurter Rundschau on 17 February and La Croix on 19 February 2014. »
Paris, 19 February 2014
Europe, a mutually-supportive union
In recent years Europe has been undergoing a profound economic and social crisis. Europeans are still suffering the consequences of it. The unemployment rate, particularly among young people, is reaching intolerable levels in many EU countries. Doubt has taken hold. Populist movements are stoking the fears of many of our fellow citizens. Europe is being picked out, wrongly, as the scapegoat for all our ills.
As European affairs ministers responsible for cooperation between Germany and France, we are not resigning ourselves to this. Quite the opposite. Europe is not the problem, it is one of the solutions. We need a stronger, more mutually-supportive, more prosperous and fairer Europe.
We must restore meaning and vigour to a mutually-supportive Europe. Solidarity is both an ideal and a value, a method and policies. We must act to bolster what makes Europe unique: that indivisible link between a union of values and a welfare state system.
For a long time, Europe was merely a subject for fine speeches. Its ambition barely concealed the inadequacy of its achievements and of the resources allocated to it. Today we must revive growth throughout Europe – but mutually-supportive growth that leaves no one by the wayside. We’ve started along this path, through the June 2012 pact that put growth and employment back at the heart of the European project, through banking union, which will protect savers and place responsibility on the banks, through the inclusion of a social dimension in Economic and Monetary Union, and through the agreement on the posting of workers, which creates a fair balance between economic freedoms and fundamental social rights. The fight against youth unemployment has been reflected in the personal mobilization of heads of state and government, and by the allocation, for the first time, of a budget of €6 billion in 2014 and 2015 to combat this tragic problem.
We shall have to continue making progress in the coming months. We shall play an active role to guarantee economic and social convergence from the top downwards. We shall, of course, be very vigilant to ensure that the social dimension is not the poor relation of European integration. We shall advocate to our European partners the introduction of minimum wages defined at national level. We need more ambition for social and societal cohesion.
In periods of economic and social crisis, the risks of a breakdown in the fundamental values on which European society is based are greater. We must tirelessly uphold these values – human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality – because Europe’s very identity is at stake. Whenever they are attacked, Europeans’ confidence in their common project is eroded, and the example Europe sets for its neighbourhood, both to the east and the south, is altered. One has only to leave Europe to appreciate this. The people demonstrating in Independence Square in Kiev, and those risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean, all have a “desire for Europe”. Our values create aspirations. This is also why we are open, too, to a political mechanism being drawn up which aims to more effectively ensure that our values are respected within the European Union, without weakening the existing instruments.
The Europe we are upholding together is both one of concrete solutions and one which compromises none of its values. Democracy, growth and solidarity – this is the trio which we intend promoting in order to boost Europe, restore confidence to its citizens, and allow each generation to contribute in a practical way, as convinced Europeans, to a better world. This is the European dream which guides what we do.