Debating Europe from first principles – a new force in Romanian politics

Sometimes, opportunities come along unexpectedly, and when, two weeks ago, the opportunity to go to Timişoara came along, I grabbed at the chance, without really stopping to consider what I might find when I got there. And Eastern Europe does, beyond the classic cities such as Budapest and Prague, have a bit of an image problem given the effects of war and communism on the architectural heritage.

I was there because a new Românian political party, the Uniunea Salvați România (Save România Union), was hosting a conference entitled “The Future of Europe is the Future of România”, and the morning sessions consisted of a series of presentations on how Europe works, how it is structured, and it was interesting to see how a group of youngish activists, with little previous political experience, were keen to put their political thinking into the context of wider European activism.

With the conceptual stuff outlined, the stage was set for a more lively afternoon session, which was to consist of speeches from distinguished visitors, who would then take part in a panel discussion, joined by Uniunea Salvați România‘s President, Dan Barna.

The panel was made up of;

  • André Gattolin, an En Marche member of the French Senate
  • Baroness Ros Scott, Vice President of the ALDE Party and a former President of the Liberal Democrats, and
  • Vula Tsetsi, Secretary General of the Greens/European Free Alliance Group

Ros Scott spoke first, and outlined a liberal vision for Europe and for the European Union, but did not shy away from expressing her sense of anger that, at a time when countries are seeking to collaborate in regional blocs, the United Kingdom seems determined to go it alone. She spoke of a liberal approach to the issues that face us – migration, international terrorism, populism – and concluded with a call to arms;

Crises bring back new opportunities. So, reject the sapping politics of pessimism and the dream stealers who tell you that nothing can be done. Remember that it’s too easy to heckle from the sidelines — step up yourself and create a new politics of optimism.

In a passionate, if slightly scattergun, speech, Vula Tsetsi addressed some of the challenges for Europe, the fight for social justice, the need to prevent tax evasion by the wealthy and by multinationals.

And finally, André Gattolin talked about the rise of En Marche, and their desire for radical reform in Europe, of making Europe work better for its citizens.

The discussion which followed generated some really interesting comments from the conference delegates, about how gender equality can be ensured, about the impact of Brexit, and there was lively but respectful disagreement on the best way of handling difficult issues amongst the panellists.

At the end of the event, a resolution was adopted, and the first point stands out for its directness of purpose;

We firmly believe that our place is in the midst of the family of European states, at the heart of the discussions on the future of the EU and as an active part in the processes and transformations that bring an “ever closer union.” Romania is Europe, and Romanians are European citizens, who must benefit both from socio-economic opportunities and from the advanced values ​​and active citizenship that this status entails.

One can’t imagine any British political party saying the same thing…

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7 Comments

  • Peter Martin 27th Nov '17 - 9:33am

    “……… our place is in the midst of the family of European states, at the heart of the discussions on the future of the EU and as an active part in the processes and transformations that bring an “ever closer union.” Romania is Europe, and Romanians are European citizens ………….”

    This all makes sense if everyone is clear what it all must mean. A “family of European States” has to mean what it does in America with “family of American (USA) states”. A “European citizen” has to mean essentially the same thing as USA citizen. It can’t literally mean “American Citizen” because that would include Canadians who have a close relationship with the USA without being a part of it.

    So Romanians have to decide what they want. Furthermore they have to decide if they are likely to get it. Its no use them wanting a truly united EU if they don’t think the big players like France and Germany are going to go along with the idea.

    The EU has to become one country. The rule has to be: one country, one taxation system, one government, one currency, one people.

  • Small point, but important to us of Czech heritage: Prague isn’t in Eastern Europe, it’s Central Europe (eg further west than Vienna)!

  • Peter Martin 27th Nov '17 - 3:24pm

    @ Mark,

    You’d get the same reaction in the UK if you tried to tell a Welsh or Scottish person that they were the same as an English person. That’s not the point. The UK has a single government which is in charge of the single currency with a single taxation system. So maybe my “one people” may be somewhat debatable, but nevertheless, most of us do have a mix of Scottish, Welsh and English in our ancestries. “One people” is an expression that the authority of the central government is recognised.

    If I thought that the authority of a central government in the EU would be recognised then possibly, if the right safeguards were in place, I could be in favour of the EU as a single country too. But there isn’t. Even those who claim to support the EU don’t want that. In the UK they don’t want the euro. They don’t want Schengen.

    Most importantly the Germans don’t want to share out their wealth, income and political influence with the Italians, the Greeks, the Spaniards, etc. If everyone is so pro EU why not? Its just like the richer States of the USA supporting the less affluent ones by direct Federal spending. It’s just like one vote for President counting the same everywhere in the USA. Subject, I know, to some distortions of their electoral college.

    We can disagree with the USA over lots of issues. But when it comes to building a country they’ve known how it needs to be done. They know the Federal Government needs to be in overall charge. If there’s any dispute between California and the Federal Government, the Federal Government wins. Period – as they like to say. Europe needs the same system too – or else it just won’t work.

    Can you imagine Germany wanting to hand over its authority in the same way?

  • Red Liberal 27th Nov '17 - 9:16pm

    I’d love for a British political party to explicitly advocate for the creation of a federal Europe.

  • @Red Liberal.

    That would surely split the Liberal vote. 3% each.

  • Little Jackie Paper 27th Nov '17 - 9:26pm

    Mark Valladares – ‘the Romanians I have met this weekend believe that Romania has a future in Europe as Romania, not as a colony or a province. They will stand up for their independence as a sovereign nation just as keenly as the British do’

    One wonders what the Romanians you met this weekend then made of CVM – a decade on and still there. Just about the only positive thing to say is that the EU didn’t make the same mess with Croatian accession.

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