It almost seemed a bit cynical: One day before the day of German reunification, one of our Europe sweaters was in the post. A return as part of our rebuy concept. Not a child’s size, as is so often the case, but a rarely worn sweater for adults. A reason for the return was not given. And yet the blue sweater with the twelve yellow stars seemed to whisper: Sorry folks, but nobody wants to wear me right now ... ¯ \ _ (ツ) _ / ¯
Sure, Europe is in crisis mode, and has been for years. Financial crisis, refugee crisis, climate crisis, corona crisis, and also crises in foreign policy such as in the Middle East, in Libya, with Putin, Erdogan, Lukashenko, Trump. And then there are also various crises under our own roof: Brexit, dwindling democracy in Poland, Hungary, an increasing shift to the right in almost all member states – to name but a few trouble spots. The EU Commission in Brussels has also been trapped in crisis mode for years: it reacts more and more often than acts. In doing so, she sometimes stumbles over her own feet – as was the case most recently in the debate about sanctions for the Belarusian ruler Lukaschenko, in which little Cyprus made the whole of Europe unable to akt. For years, one crisis after the other has appeared. And there is no end in sight. On the contrary: Voices that prophesy the collapse of the EU are getting louder, as are anti-European national-conservative voices.
What is left of the great European idea from which the EU was founded in 1993 and for which it even received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012? From the canon of values to which all 27 member states committed themselves in the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009? There it says in Article 2:
“The values on which the Union is founded are respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to all Member States in a society characterized by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men."
Ouch! Just looking at the EU's refugee policy, reading these lines is extremely painful. What has the securing of Europe's external borders to do with respect for human dignity, which accepts that people on Europe's doorstep in the best case scenario live in misery and in the worst case drown in the Mediterranean Sea? If Europe were not only to pay lip service to Article 2, but also to formulate consequences, then Moria would not first burst into flames – and then go down in the rain, because the refugees would have long since been distributed among all member states. Then there would be no lazy deals with a Turkish autocrat who doesn't miss an opportunity to defame the EU. Then no Kremlin officials will be allowed to enter the EU as long as Russian opposition members are poisoned or shot. Then Arab states would not be able to shoot civilians with German weapons. Then the EU countries would take effective measures to stop global warming. And so, at the end of the day, Europe with its bold values currently does not seem to be worth more than the paper of the treaties on which they were drawn up. Just as little as our symbolic sweater. Or not?
It is of course easy to lament the crises in this world, to point the finger at Brussels and to shaming Europe in frustration. There is of course no simple solution to Europe's problems. In spite of this, or perhaps because of that, it is more important than ever to show the flag for this alliance. Because this blue flag with the twelve stars embodies a vision that seems completely out of focus in the ongoing crisis defense mode. The European vision must finally sparkle and unite people again – it had the potential for this back then and it still has it today. Because the European idea is great – and Europe has already done so much that we can undoubtedly be proud of. So yes, put your sweaters back on - big and small folks. That we explain to our children what they are wearing and what it stands for can never be wrong. No matter what crisis Europe is currently in. Because let's face it: There is no alternative to freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.