Politics & Economics

The Vulnerability of Institutions, Not Just European

February 2024
By Gianni Pittella

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The scene of tractors invading Brussels and knocking down a statue in Place Luxembourg, just a few meters from the entrance to the European Parliament, often comes to mind these days, evoking emotions, fears, and reflections.

I won’t delve into the motivations behind the protests; what strikes me is the sense of vulnerability of the institutions, not only the European ones, the loss of that charisma that made them inviolable.

To focus on European weakness, one must wonder why, despite the courageous responses to the pandemic (with the mega 750 billion euro plan) and also the very recent decision to support Ukraine with 50 billion euros, even preceding the United States and with the favorable vote of the pro-Russian Orban, the charm and respect are blurred.

It can’t just be the farmers’ complaint asking for more attention in implementing the energy and environmental transition, nor the persistent bureaucratic framework and the rules of operation and governance that make decisions too slow, nor the timidity towards a profound reform of the stability pact that includes fiscal capacity.

I believe that the point is more general and concerns the “sense”, the perception or lack thereof, of the European mission.

The enthusiasm for European construction, starting from the Coal and Steel Community to our Union, was born from the sense of that project.

Everyone could understand and share that after two wars that had decimated Europe, it was necessary to build an insurmountable dam, bringing together the values, rights, and duties of peoples and governments in the framework of lasting peace with no return.

Today, in the face of the invasion of Ukraine and the dangers of escalation in the Middle East, that historical imperative is very much current but is not enough in the eyes of the citizens.

It needs to be associated with common powers on foreign policy and defense and accompanied by a new, explicit, and shared mission.

Today, the sense of the European project is measured by how it faces the epochal changes we are experiencing.

Artificial intelligence, the governance of migratory flows, how to make the energy and environmental transition, and which world order to contribute to, these are, in my opinion, the issues on which the European Union can renew its vital momentum, perish, or simply muddle through while corporatisms and populisms challenge it, careless of its ancient blazon.