Chairman FECIF & VOTUM
“Spirit of optimism in Europe”
There is a spirit of optimism in the air. Across Europe. Even though all 27 EU member states are in the midst of the final phase of fighting the pandemic and the infection figures do not yet allow a final signal of relief, rising vaccination rates finally promise a timely ray of hope - after more than one year of a state of emergency.
The pandemic was a 'world's first' for many of us - and the current crisis, at the latest, has highlighted like a bright spotlight where Europe has been faltering for some time. While the self-employed, small and large companies switched to widespread home offices within a few days, organized masks for their workforces and introduced shift models, procured rapid tests and Plexiglas screens, government institutions - Germany in the lead - showed a worrying inertia and incompetence in crisis management.
The list of failure is long. Digitised administration is nothing more than a badly told joke. Digitisation in education - especially in the schooling of our children, the next generation - is not much better. Approval processes are slow and sluggish. Local, state and federal politicians have, for the most part, shown a political horizon that reached no further than the country's borders. Located in the heart of Europe, Germany in particular has painfully experienced what it means for regions close to the border when the barrier falls again.
Last but not least, the vaccine procurement has shown our common dilemma in a tragic way: an idea that is praiseworthy in principle - that of sticking and acting together - has failed mercilessly in its implementation. While Great Britain reopens pubs and bars due to vaccination rates of over 50 percent, Germany decides on nationwide curfews and further lockdown measures. Europe has disgraced itself on the world stage for all to see.
What to do? The crucial thing now is that we learn from it - that politicians learn from it. In Berlin, in Strasbourg, in Brussels. The post-Corona period must now be used effectively to send a clear signal in the direction of ending bureaucratisation. Declarations of intent are no longer enough; now it's time for action!
How is this to be done? What have most politicians forgotten in the past decade? The answer is simple: putting citizens at the centre of all action. The citizens of Europe must be convinced customers of the EU. Convinced customers who, ideally, leave a '5-star rating' because of their good experiences with the community of states. Even if some professional politicians may not understand it: the citizens of Europe are not supplicants who have to beg their rights from the state. They are Europe's stakeholders. Stakeholders who need to be satisfied. With a powerful EU, with a digitalised administration, with processes that are as lean as possible.
Yes, a community of states cannot be managed like an international corporation. That may be true. But that should not mean that the community of states forgets what is actually at the heart of its actions. It is about 450,000,000 people who need to be convinced of this unique opportunity that is the European Union.
There is a spirit of optimism in the air. It is time for politicians to make use of this. Time for politics to finally act. Time for an EU 2.0!