After the historical turn Europe took in 1990, the world witnessed a profound change in the direction of democratisation. A new change of the world happened around 2010, which resulted in a new geopolitical configuration. And following the 2020 pandemic, the world changes yet again, towards a direction given by the variable geometry of the superpowers.
The anticipation that the world has entered a cycle of continuous change was fully confirmed (details in A. Marga, Schimbarea lumii. Globalizare, cultură, geopolitică, Editura Academiei Române, Bucharest, 2013). Nobody can escape these changes that can fit within the biography of a generation.
However, although it is the host of one of the most promising projects in modern history, the European Union embraced the shortest path – that of slowing down innovations. The new generations of European decision-makers do not reach to the level of Jacques Delors or Romano Prodi, let alone the visionary figures before them. As an effect, the European Union is no longer merely the promise of the nineties, but rather, a reality that is impressive, but full of unachieved goals and swamped with challenges in the context of a new world.
My thesis is that it finds itself before another turn. Put in the simplest words, the European Union will either fundamentally reorganise its institutions (the parliament, the council, the commission, the administrative apparatus) and its relationship with the composing countries, or be the victim of the failures that will continue to grow and create conditions for any direction.
It’s not just the “anti-Europeans”, who constantly oppose the European Union project; it’s not just the “Euro-sceptics”, with their mixed feelings about it – it’s not just these two categories that affect the evolution of the European Union, as it is superficially believed. There are other approaches regarding the European Union of our days that are not in any way profitable for the European cause.
One approach is that of the lyricism alienated from modernity, which sees “European-ness” in almost all eras of history, but is not able to specify the actual situation of the European Union. This approach uses obsolete metaphors and applies them to the current difficulties. The second one is the red tape that emerged among the servants of the new organisation, reducing Europenisation to a mere application of short-reaching technicalities, while ignoring realities. The third one is the new ideology of unionism, supported by poorly trained political activists who replace analysis by euphoria and sustain a propaganda that is contradicted by reality.
My option remains the one that I presented in the books that I published in the area of Europenism (Filosofia unificării europene, Apostrof, Cluj- Napoca, 1998, extended in editions of 2003, 2005, 2006; Die Philosophie der europäischen Einigung, Cluj University Press, 2009; The Destiny of Europe, Editura Academiei Române, Bucharest, 2011; Ordinea viitoare a lumii, Niculescu, Bucharest, 2017; România în Europa actuală, Libris, Brașov, 2019; The Sense of our History, Editura Academiei Române, Bucharest, 2019; După globalizare, Meteor Press, Bucharest, 2019). It is the option in favour of considering the facts, in favour of rigorous conceptualisation, on the territory of philosophy and social sciences (economy, sociology, law, institutions, etc.), to enable a vision to be articulated based on the materials provided by experience and on a multi-disciplinary view. Only with a solid factual basis and rigorous conceptualisation and vision can future be anticipated in a realistic manner.
Responding to the invitation of President Emil Constantinescu on behalf of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilisation (Bucharest), I take the challenge to propose an outline on the future of the European Union – here within the limits of a conference that would serve as a foreword to further debates. This future, however, cannot be established without taking into account the European Union project and the present of the European Union. Hence, without falling into historicist lyricism or usual bureaucraticism or euphorism, I will proceed to a systematic approach, focusing on the nodes of the topic. I will therefore address the following aspects, one by one: 1. The specificity of European culture; 2. The prerequisites of European unification; 3. The lasting roots of Europe; 4. What was achieved through European unification?; 5. The “global society” and its trends; 6. Societal diagnosis; 7. Current challenges of the European Union; 8. The history to come; 9. The European Union among the superpowers; 10. Problem solving scenarios; 11. From the rule of law to being ruled; 12. Democratisation as a solution. I will outline alternatives and analyse deeper into defending a point of view.
1. The specificity of European culture
Europe is given a varied range of connotations. It is the proper way even nowadays in essay writing, with its many feelings, sometimes grasping partial aspects of the European culture. The time has come, however, for an attempt at more systematic approaches, to meet the needs of continuously emerging necessities for conceptual clarifications, in order to establish a rigorous concept, substantiated by the comparative studies of today.
To cut straight into the essence, I would note that Europe has brought about some historical innovations, which actually gave it its cultural and historical specificity: a production technique based on modern science; an output-generating economy; a rational administration; a law that promotes the individual endowed with inalienable freedoms and rights as a subject and as a purpose, the sovereignty and the generality of the law; an approach of deriving political will from the public debate on topics of general interest; a spiritual culture grounded on investigating and transforming reality to fit the purposes of man (Andrei Marga, Filosofia unificării europene, 2006, pp.44-52). All these have contributed to Europe’s magnificent historical success - and, of course, to its prestige.
However, one cannot avoid the question today, of whether this potential is indeed converted into realities. Do the Europeans of today live up to these innovations? Does Europe have any relevant initiatives? Does Europe take those innovations that made it stand out in history forward into the future?
2. The prerequisites of European unification
Certainly, the creation of the European Union was one of the most important events of post-war history. Few are the events that can stand next to it: the Americanisation of the world after 1945; the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Eastern socialism as an organising ideology, the emergence of China as a superpower.
However, the united Europe did not appear instantly, neither did it appear without some precise political requisites. This is not the place for history, but these requisites are worth mentioning, so that we can fully understand what the launching of the united Europe brought into play.
Winston Churchill at first, and then Robert Schuman deemed that, as a first step, Europea
unification would entail the French-German reconciliation. Now, just as before, modern history passes through the way and the magnitude of the French-German relationship.
We remember that, out of a devastating war, invaded by Germany at one point, France emerged on the side of the winners, as an occupying power of Germany. Through unconditional surrender, Germany was divided into occupation zones, subject to the decisions of the winning powers. In 1949, the western occupation area proclaimed the Federal Republic of Germany, which, in terms of historical succession, was actually Germany. After the drama of the war, there were reasons for the French-German relationships to be tensed.
Beyond many people’s expectations, these relationships took a deep historical turn, due to both parties’ understanding of the new world. For the French, it was clear that the markets that could propel a competitive economy could no longer be the traditional markets and that a “challenge” - within the positive meaning of the term - was being raised by the American example, against which no country could stand while remaining within the traditional framework. On the other hand, it was clear for them that the growing power of the Soviet Union and its advancement into the middle of Europe placed the issue of western security on new grounds. For the Germans, it was also clear that a viable Europe would only be a Europe of reconciliation, under the terms of mutual respect. On this ground, indeed, it was only together that the French and the Germans could provide a market for a competitive economy, and it was only by association that they could assure their security.
Modernisation itself was no longer possible without an association with other European countries, even if that meant reducing the possibilities for independent movement. The French committed to the alternative that it was “either modernisation and dependency, or independence and decline” and chose to follow the path of the first solution. Great Britain chose to opt for the same direction. Italy was open as well. Other countries, too, perceived that it was only in association that the basic challenges of post-war reconstruction and development could be dealt with.
In the case of many industries, profitability was not possible to achieve without the gradual emergence of a true economic pole - Europe. Internal demand was - and is - no longer enough to stimulate production.
However, the movement towards wider coordinates did not only happen in the economy. International policy showed a tendency towards globality, pushing against and, eventually, pushing through the borders of ideologies - a tendency that could be seen very clearly during the repeated oil crises. In any event, with the countries acquiring nuclear weapons, and given the rivalry of the military blocs that characterised the decades after the war, it had become almost clear for all the states that “security in relation to the other only exists together with the other”.
European countries had to become aware that they were no longer powerful enough to give the direction of the evolution of the world, but still, if they unite, they would be powerful enough to defend their own evolutions and hinder disadvantageous global evolutions. The alternative was either union, through agreements and, therefore, stability and progress, or confrontation, with the risks that come with it.
Generating knowledge sets conditions for the rationalisation processes and, in general, for the reaching of a competitive efficacy of activities. In many areas of knowledge, however, such generation implies costly investments in the medium- and long run, which can only be made profitable within the context of an extended market.
After the war, the world has become bipolar, with the US and the USSR being the superpowers the interaction of which was, in fact, organising the relationships in Europe. The United States started from the assumption that, in the post-war structure of the world, the “German issue” was the crucial issue. America was explicitly oriented towards supporting the Europeans in a way that would make them create and strengthen a united Europe themselves. First, the Europeans in the western sphere of influence and then, under the appeal of the West, the Europeans on the East of the continent!
3. The lasting roots of Europe
Against the background of perceiving the aforementioned necessities that made the basis of the European Union project, Europeans understood that Europe represents a culture and a civilisation that shapes its identity by activating its cultural memory. The present continuously carries the traces of the past, so that life in a Europe that only belongs to the present, separated from any past, is not only impossible to imagine - it is also virtually impossible.
There was a long history of efforts to derive Europe from one unique source – Catholicism with Novalis, the consciousness of individual freedom with Hegel, the pre-eminence of the individual in organising life with Coudenhove–Kalergi, the nurturing of “radical reflection” with la Jan Patocka, the “holomer” with Constantin Noica and so on. With Nietzsche, the view changed for the better: Europe is no longer coming from one unique “tradition”, but from multiple traditions: “Greek culture, born from Thracian and Phoenician elements, Hellenism, philo-Hellenism of the Romans, their Christian empire, Christianity imbued with ancient elements, elements which, in the end, generate scientific cores, and philo-Hellenism which results in philo-sophism: as much as there is belief in science, it’s Europe” (Nachgelassene Fragmente, 1878). In any event, it was with Nietzsche that the approach of the “sources” of Europe, with its willingness to recognise a plurality of sources, has started.
Joseph Ratzinger got farthest with such characterisation of Europe (Europa – verpflichtendes Erbe für die Christen, 1988). The famous theologian identified four “heritages” of Europe: “the Greek heritage”, “the Christian heritage”, “the Latin heritage”, “the heritage of the modern era”. We are today on this course that proves to be realistic and prolific.
Denis de Rougemont, in turn, showed that “Europe was not born from the conflict between the East and the West, but rather, in the very complexity of those interlinked tensions, the poles of which can be symbolically called Athens, Rome and Jerusalem... Athens is the discovery of the individual ... Rome is the creation of the citizen, Jerusalem is the revelation of the person”. Some historians reasonably distinguished between the “roots (les racines)” of Europe, namely Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, and the “components (les composantes)” of Europe, such as the “Indo-European heritage”, the “Celtic contribution”, the “Germanic influence” and others.
The discussion remains, however, about the sequencing - in chronological terms, before all - of the “roots”. Some historians (Georges Duby, L’Europe au Moyen Âge, 1984) deem that, at the beginning of the first millennium and up to the 11th - 13th centuries, when the Europe that is relevant today emerged, “Jerusalem is the centre. The hope and all eyes turn to the places where Christ has died, where Christ has ascended into heaven”. Other historians (Rémi Brague, Europe, la voie romaine, 1992) defend the thesis of the Roman precedence, arguing that the language and the infrastructure that harboured the emergence of Europe are owed to the Romans. Theologians argued that “the Europe that comes to life in the second half of the first millennium is a reality where Christian roots are like the water that causes the fertility of the lands, the peoples of which shall come together around a Path (Camino) that goes beyond the borders and brings the guarantee of a singular unity” (Eugenio Romero Pose, Le radici christiane d’Europa, 2006). Christianity was decisive.
From a historical point of view, it is clear that the view in which Europe is reduced to one of its roots or heritages generates no results. In actuality, the European culture draws its main resources from the Epistle to the Romans of apostle Paul, from the Bible as a whole, from the science and the philosophy of the ancient Greeks, and from the law and the achievements of the Romans. The Jerusalem-Athens-Rome triangle is the triangle of Europe’s fundamental, lasting roots.
4. What was achieved through European unification?
In the reality of today’s world, the European Union is undoubtedly one of the superpowers that participate in setting the course of history. After centuries of conflicts, the continent started to regain its unity, and the citizens started again to feel that they belong to “Europe”, besides belonging to their own nation. The unification that started with the Treaty of Rome (1957), continued in Maastricht (1993) and expanded later on allowed new life to emerge on the continent.
The renewal that the European Union brought in the life of the Europeans is particularly vast. It now entails the general frames of life in particular, but it is felt in the life of every individual citizen.
A long period of peace came upon the continent. Borders have become mostly symbolic, and a lot of people were able to see land other than their country. The workforce was able to opt for various opportunities. The infrastructure on the continent was upgraded. Large resources could be channelled towards goals shared by the member countries. Development gaps were reduced and compatibility was achieved between various sectors of activities, starting with education. A certain unity of vision and action was achieved continent-wide. In many aspects, the European Union counts as a distinct entity.
5. The “global society” and its trends
Today, however, we are at a time when profound changes have happened in the modern society itself. Production technologies are no longer just mechanical and electrical, but also incorporate genetics, electronics and computer science; political economy went beyond “national” and embedded social sciences, from sociology and psychology to management and conduct; nation states are challenged from the inside (civic movements, minority actions, etc.) and from the outside (integrationist processes, terrorist attacks, etc.) (expanded in A. Marga, Metanarativii actuali. Dezvoltare, modernizare, globalizare, Gând Transilvan, Cluj-Napoca, 2015). These changes had an effect in what is traditionally called the “international community”.
As a matter of fact, the most outstanding sociologist of the second half of the 20th century, Niklas Luhmann (Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft, 1998) suggested that the society, in its traditional sense, dependant on the political economy of the state and on the national state as the last instance of decision-making, should be integrated in a wider concept – the concept of the “world society (Weltgesellschaft)”. One of his arguments was that even some powerful state units of the 20th century came to crush as a result of their inevitable belonging to the “world society”.
In any event, nowadays, taking into account the “world society” as an “environment” is purely a matter of being realistic. Economy, security, communications and scientific research are no longer just “national”, not even just continental - they are global.
Today, the “world society” is understood especially within the terms of the theory of globalisation and deemed to be a market expanded to its maximum, but it is much more than that. For instance, it includes levels of development, orientations and leading values, distributions of assets and of access to decision. It means “communication”, but it also means sharing rules and values (ethical, legal, religious), cognitive products (scientific and philosophical), and evaluations (from those that have to do with immediate action to metaphysical ones). It has its own institutions, the so-called “international organisations” that are endowed with decision-making and intervention power. It is also secured by armies of the various associations of states, powers and superpowers, and it does include the use of force. The “world society” is itself on a path of development and moving through a history during which it itself changes.
The reality of the “world society” challenges anyone to leave self-sufficiency and complacency. And the European Union needs today to evaluate the situation of the world and establish new approaches. At least three characteristics of the world are new in relation to what we inherited as generations of nowadays.
The first characteristic is the wearing-out of the confrontation between eastern socialism and western capitalism. After more than a hundred years, this wearing-out comes in. No man of sound thought nurtures today a systematic nationalisation of property. Nobody sees the state as a mere guardian of rules anymore. Social solutions are no longer the prerogative of the socialists and the East, just as capitalisation of private initiative and market economy has extended beyond the West and the liberals and the Christian-democrats. Asian countries have been impressively successful in embracing market economy and the rule of law.
The second characteristic is that the modern design of society advances in history – despite national-socialism and its satellites and their attempts to annihilate it. However, a new type of societies has emerged. Private property, market economy, the rule of law, individual freedoms, pluralism, democracy, information, communication, the quality of life prove to be interconnected in much more complex ways than the 19th and 20th centuries would have thought. It is around them that the new competition of visions will be launched.
The third characteristic is that individual freedoms and human rights will prevail in the years to come, and the issue of development – both economic and institutional – will keep its precedence. There will be differences in approaches – China, for instance, insists that political, economic and social rights be taken together, as per the proclamations of the United Nations (see Liu Jie, Human Rights. China’s Road, 2014) – but there will be claims from each of them.
Terrorism, however, challenges the solidity of the open societies. It will take advantage of the possibilities to strike that come with the “digital era” and try to coagulate the dissatisfied entities of various places. The civilised world, however, can resort to the path of the explicit collaboration between the US, China, the European Union, Russia and other countries to stand against such dangers. The significance of “liability”, as an ethical and legal value, will increase. “Blocs” are no longer deemed to be a prerequisite for solidarity.
6. Societal diagnosis
The diagnostics given to the European societies of the last decades and even of today are not pleasant. For the European consciousness, they remain alarming.
We remember right away that Hegel saw history as a “progress of the consciousness of freedom” and therefore, as an advancement towards freedom. We have this advancement today, but we don’t have an expansion of freedom. As a forethought, Max Weber left for us the terrifying image of the “steel-hard housing of submission”. Herbert Marcuse spoke about the “uni-dimensional society”, where what is possible is absorbed and de-structured by what is.
Fact-based diagnostics which are worth debating are being developed. For example, the “asymmetric society” (James Coleman), the “moral vacuum society” (Giles Lipovetsky), the “society of cynicism” (Peter Sloterdijk), the “chaotic society” (Gianni Vattimo), the “society of lies” (George Șerban, Wolfgang Reinhardt), the “invisible society” (Daniel Innerarity), the “society of risk” (Ulrich Beck), the “infantile society” (Alexandra Viatteau), the “society of indifference” (Alain-Gerard Slama), the “narcissistic society” (Hans-Joachim Maaz), the “kleptocratic society” (Sarah Chayes). Topics for reflection emerge from the need to integrate the “knowledge-based society” with a “wisdom-based society” and supplement the “communications society” with a “communication-based society” (details in A. Marga, Societatea nesigură, Niculescu, 2016). After severing sciences from values, the “knowledge-based society”, which Hegel was already having in mind, promises nothing but an expansion of knowledge and a technical mastering of things. As long as the “communications society” expands information, but without creating the framework for communication, we cannot expect anything new.
My diagnosis is that we will live in a world full of evolution alternatives and various opportunities, but more uncertain. This is not new in history. The existing certainty has been lost several times. After all, Leibniz’s certainty that we live in the best of the possible worlds was ruined by the Lisbon earthquake (1755). The certainty of the Illuminists that people act notably based on reason was invalidated by World War I. The certainty that the market economy will be a flawless economic framework was dissipated by the recessions of 1929 and 2008. Adam Smith’s certainty that, once free, the peoples will make wise decisions was contradicted by the failed transitions to democracy. The certainty that democracies bring peace to societies was questioned by democracies slipping towards dictatorship in the period between the two world wars and towards formalism in the more recent times. The certainty that, in their fights, people see other people’s lives as a limit and do not become beasts was dismissed by Auschwitz. The certainty that, after 1989, the world is heading toward societies of civic freedoms and democracy becomes more circumstantial every day. The certainty that good always wins was shaken by the proliferation of nuclear weapons. These are just some examples.
The European societies of today are not short of sources of uncertainty. The lack of vision of decision-makers, the obsolete understanding of politics as a mere fight based on a “friend-enemy” scheme, the crisis of parties, the organised avoidance of public debate, Bonapartist tendencies, the sinking of the reforms, the deadlock of the judiciary, the erroneous selection of representatives and the decline of vocational training, the emergence of new political myths are just some of them.
Uncertainty, however, is no reason to be pessimistic. It will be possible to emerge out of the current uncertainty - however, not with some comfortable, opportunistic views, but rather with a deeper probing of the realities and by readjusting accordingly.
7. Current challenges of the European Union
The European Union has accumulated some heavy challenges, which it needs to solve today in order to secure its future. I described them in detail in another work (A. Marga, Destiny of Europe, 2011), so I will just summarise and mention the most stringent ones here.
What I have in mind is the following: 1. The demographic decline results in a diminishing share of indigenous population. On the other hand, the post-war tendency of Europeans to migrate towards other continents continues and, with it, the brain drain it generates; 2. Poverty and social discrepancies are increasing again, although the level of development at which they occur is different from the past; 3. Major decisions of Europe are slow to be adopted and they often remain ambiguous or uncertain. In some countries, Europe is going through a crisis of leaders tailored for the new historical contexts and topics; 4. Instead of mobilising new energies, pluralism paralyses decision-making and anonymises liability. In many places, democracy is practised as some sort of technique of periodically selecting representatives who then elude public control; 5. After coming into power, administrations are designed as some sort of purpose per se and are rather blind to the citizens’ reactions. Juridical, moral, administrative systems have lost the consciousness of their meaning and turned into rigid skeletons that are difficult to invigorate. 6. The future is colonised by fear, and negative futurism, coagulated around the statement “let’s not change what is, because it might be even worse!” has occupied many minds. 7. The process of political decision-making is closed for the overwhelming majority of citizens, who respond through political and civic apathy. 8. For an increasing number of Europeans, life boils down to work and, possibly, consumption. Money is perceived as a meaning of life, instead of a means to act for personal and public benefit; 9. Deprived of vision, education turns into a technology for building competences. A decreasing level of professional quality is in store for Europe in the near future; 10.Values are operationalised, if not transferred to mere subjectivity. The ethics of work and the passion of creation have become less intense; 11. Religion is seen with suspicion, while alienation, solitude and violence are spreading around; 12. Techniques of acquiring and exercising power that originate in the 30es are picked back up, while the democratic rule of law is reduced to the rule of law of other periods; 13. A topic of world history in the past, Europe is nowadays absent or merely represented in the process of geopolitical decision-making; 14. Already for some decades now, the dynamics of other cultural areas have started to surpass it.
In the Europe of nowadays, we are not looking at the alternative of “either humanism or barbarism” that Husserl was envisaging at the end of the 30es in Europe. We are not looking at the post-war dangers either. But nor are we in a reassuring situation.
8. The history to come
Capturing the history in the making and the history that is coming has become almost imperative. In my opinion, in order to grasp the direction of our current history, we need to watch the evolution of four sub-systems of the current modern society – economy, politics, administration, culture and, of course, the interaction between them.
As far as economy is concerned, we are at the dawn of neo-liberalism, but the solution of the “naturalisation” of the economy is slow to come about. The reaction of the best economists – Paul Krugman (Conscience of a Liberal, 2007), Joseph Stieglitz (The Great Divide, 2015), James Galbraith Jr. (Wachstum neu Denken, 2016) – is symptomatic. Globality is the framework of life nowadays; globalism remains an ideology, while globalisation, as designed since the nineties, is in need of correction.
As a result, post-globalisation emerges as an actual possibility (expanded in A. Marga, După globalizare, 2019). That is because the advanced societies are already seeing difficulties – related to the distribution of burden and benefits, access to decisions, keeping risks under control, motivating citizens – that are not solved by globalisation. On the other hand, globalisation expands the market on which products are capitalised to the maximum, but it cannot stop other spheres from expanding (such as personal or institutional autonomy, private life, community life, inner life, for instance), and it encourages addressing topics such as needs, lifestyle, meaning.
The problem nowadays is not marketisation, but rather the illusion that marketisation is the only mechanism for socialisation. It is not the social state that is the source of difficulties, but its malformation towards the right wing, by those who want to annihilate it, or towards the left wing, by those who do not refine it (Reinhardt Cardinal Marx, Das Kapital. Ein Plädoyer fur den Menschen, 2010). The “invasive state” of bureaucratic socialism is not a solution, and neither is the “frail state” of classic liberalism (Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, 2002); what is required is a deep reconsideration. Each state taking responsibility for itself is already emerging as a new solution.
Sciences continue their evolution, guided by the horizon of application, within which discoveries are made. The geography of nurturing science has expanded (Hu Angang, China in 2020. A New Type of Superpower, 2011), but it is still not known what the system of sciences looks like. With the unified theory of nature, in the form of the transcendentalist hypothesis (Carl von Weizsäcker, Die Einheit der Natur, 1971), the string of debates over physics being the unifier of knowledge has closed for the moment.
However, sciences do bring about profound changes of vision. Naming a few will suffice. The theory of autopoietic systems (Humberto Maturana) showed how cognition creates its elements before any contact with the environment. The theory of language use showed that objects cannot be named without identifying them (Peter Strawson), that we cannot assign logic predicates without including ourselves in that assigning (Shoemaker), and that we cannot prove anything before understanding it (Noszik). After Einstein wanted to reduce time down to space, it is nowadays accepted that time is autonomous, and the debate is about the historicity of the laws of nature (Lee Smolin, Time Reborn. From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe, 2013). Peirce’s idea of understanding uniformities as a result of evolution literally comes to light. The limitations of life (evil, famine, suffering, disease, death) take the forestage, and the overt re-writing of the history of obstacles, rather than of success (Susan Neiman, Das Böse denken. Eine andere Geschichte der Philosophie, 2004) begins. The application of data processing to medicine encouraged a joining of efforts to decipher the genetic code through epigenetics, and the matter of “gene packaging” now becomes key in therapies. Overcoming all limitations of life is not possible, but many people’s lives can be extended (Johannes Huber, Länger leben.Medizinische Perspektiven und ihre Bedeutung für Gesellschaft, 2004). After the region that gets activated when the person bonds to others was localised in the brain, the oxytocin was identified and an “instinct” of altruism - the basis of empathy, actually (Paul Gilbert, The Compassionate Mind, 2009) - was circumscribed, Darwin’s paradigm of “survival of the fittest” starts changing.
In politics, some believe that, within the context of a “world society”, people should do what they are told from the centre. Vulnerable intellectuals in particular are looking for support outside and nurture this erroneous deduction. It has become clear, however, that it is within the national framework that one of the prerequisites for the possibility of democracy lies (Pierre Mannent, La Raison des Nations. Réflexions sur la démocratie en Europe, 2006). “Political correctness” is claimed again, but at the same time, criticisms against it have started. Diversification is back on the map of democracy: the “liberal democracy” of America inspires most of the world, but the European “post-democracy” (Colin Crouch, Postdemocrazia, 2003), Russia’s “guided democracy” and China’s “democracy of specific colours” are present as well. Democracies raise the issue of meritocracy (Helmut Wilke, Demokratie in Zeiten der Konfusion, 2014). Democratisations are promoted, but the difference between dismantling authoritarianism and building democracy is still difficult to grasp (Guillermo O’Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule. Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies, 1986). The latter cannot be achieved without democratisation.
Military capacity is growing, but who has more weapons is less important; what is more important is the destructive force, which is huge on all sides. Nuclear proliferation could not be stopped - not even controlled. The world is not short of centres of major conflict.
Regarding the administration, we are at a point where the states, even while complying with classic jurisdiction (Hans Kelsen), have leaned towards moving decisions from democratic consultation to leaders. Decisionism (Carl Schmitt) has spread; lately, it claims its origin is “complexity” (Luhmann), but the issue of legitimacy has taken the forestage, at least in law and in theories of politics. The use of electronics and IT has weakened the frontiers of private life. Objectively, it can no longer preserve intimacy, since it depends on the competition between technology, which extends surveillance over people, on one hand, and law on the other hand, which is the last standing tower of the defence of private life (Eric Schmidt, Jarel Cohen, The New Digital Era. Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, 2014). Coordination within the global system requires new negotiations. A new migration of peoples is happening subtly, with jihadists of various causes recently hiding amidst its waves.
In terms of culture, the comprehensive meaning of culture gains recognition: culture includes literature and advanced technology and systems of law and justice and public debate and reflectivity and arts, religion and philosophy. In its profound sense, multiculturalism, as a strategic solution, is still in force.
The respectable culture of China takes the floor, with its language spoken by two billion people, its longest history, its most widespread presence on the globe and its impressive innovation. We are witnessing the decline of occupational training in Europe (Alan Greenspan, The Age of Turbulence, 2005). Although projects such as PISA and Bologna could have been beneficial, their implementation fell within the narrow frameworks of neo-liberalism, which shortened their wings. We see a re-emergence not only of the need for religion, but also of the sharing of religion, which remains ambiguous, while terrorism is there wanting to exploit it. The prospects of the institutionalisation of Christianity in China (David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing, 2016) trigger consequences everywhere in the world.
It is possible to anticipate that the history to come is a history where economy will guide political decisions, sciences will have a growing impact, military force will have a great share. The world will be a place where democracy will have a hard time defending itself in extended conflicts, and where the “cultural turn” of the civilised world, making culture the primary source of development, will continue. Each of these sub-systems, however, will play an irreducible part. Therefore, an accurate description of the world to come tends to show a variable geometry, with continuously shifting planes, where the problems of one sub-system will show up wearing the clothes of another sub-system. Every now and then, however, any of the sub-systems will play a decisive part, which makes generalisation no longer possible.
9. European Union among the superpowers
The world we entered in 2010 is a world of nations re-affirming themselves, a world where superpowers have the greatest impact on and, to a great extent, control over events. We will live in a world of variable geometry of relationships between countries, a world that depends on the superpowers (more details in A. Marga, Ordinea viitoare a lumii, 2017), where decisions will have to be made.
In economic terms, the United States will continue to be the technological avant-garde, the most wanted partner with the most considerable capacity to renew itself. America is organised based on principles that support the highest level of dynamics in the society – principles combining individualism with democracy in a way that, as we know from Max Weber, cannot be repeated. America has unique accumulations that confer it its primacy. Not long ago, the prominent role of first-rank universities (Fareed Zacharia, The Post-American World, 2012) in ensuring the vigour of the American society was rightfully evoked.
More than ever, the United States moved large amounts of dollars outside the country and, after 2007, they display their crediting needs. America remains, however, the land where investments have the best rate of return, the land most appealing for capital ventures. The dynamics of foreign investments in the American economy is an indicator of that.
For several years now, China is not only the country that has seen the biggest change, but also the country that has brought about the biggest changes in the world. In 2009, it has become the greatest exporter of all countries. China, however, needs raw matter and energy resources way beyond those available within its borders. It needs markets to sell its products, after recently having regained the position of the greatest manufacturer of the world. It is not surprising that the presence of Chinese investments, personnel, initiatives in the development of African countries ranks right after the US, while in Europe and the two Americas, Chinese capital and banks are in a constant process of strengthening. China struggles with improving the per capita production index and, of course, the technological level. It now works on strengthening its internal market by increasing consumption, which will generate consequences all around on the globe. The fact that every fifth human on Earth is Chinese, and that an increasingly prepared population acts for modernisation has huge implications in the world to come.
The US cannot be equalled, in the near future, in terms of their economic force; in terms of their production volumes, however, they rank after China, and both countries come across as economic superpowers. Incomparable employment – over 780 million workers in China, compared to 448 million in India, 157 millions in the US, 111 millions in Indonesia – confer particular prospects for China in the movement of the world’s economy.
The two economic superpowers are joined by the European Union, who is the greatest exporter of the world. The case of Greece, however, signals that discrepancies in the development within the united Europe require solutions that the current neo-liberalism is unable to provide. Eastern Europe remains an unsolved problem, because the unprecedented migration of population from Romania, Bulgaria and other countries is not the solution per se. It has become clear that, as the very advocates of privatisations (Jeffrey D.Sachs, La fine della poverta. Comme i paesi ricchi potrebbero eliminare defitivamente la miseria dal pianetta, 2005, pp.140-157) have pointed out, applying the “shock therapy” without investments able to ensure competitivity cannot produce results in real time. In Central Europe, countries such as Hungary and Poland lately look for solutions for energy and financing on their own. What the European Union obviously needs is to renounce austerity, to continue the democratisation, and to cut down the red tape - and, from the beginning, institutional innovation and new criteria in selecting decision-makers.
The most spectacular development of education nowadays is seen in China. The US continue to have the most powerful education system – at least through their performances in scientific research, technological renewal, the force of specialisations, profitability of production. With a tremendous speed, China has switched from a country stricken by illiteracy to a country where school dropping rates are lower than in some European countries (Romania, for instance). Already in 2015, China was operating with more than 33 million students, over 22 million pupils in vocational schools, 290 million people engaged in continuous education, a population of higer education degree holders of 145 million people, and unrestrained opening towards modern educational solutions. The prospect of becoming “The World’s Leading Human Resources Power” (Hu Angang, China in 2020. A New Type of Superpower, 2011, pp.80-94) is near. Europe is still to deal with leaving behind the errors caused by the neo-liberal rollout of the PISA and Bologna programmes (see Julian Nida-Rümelin, Klaus Zierer, Auf dem Weg in eine neue deutsche Bildungskatastrophe. Zwölf unangenehme Wahrheiten, 2015) to be able to reinforce the advantages of its own education that once gave it its primacy.
The same repositioning is seen in science and technology. The US (with 1.5 million) and China (with 1.9 million) were the countries that, already in 2009, had more than one million researchers working in research and development. There were 20 million people in China and 17 million people in the US with higher level education in science and technology. In terms of research production, China has overcome England, Germany and Japan in 2008, which led it to become the second force in the world, while the distance from the US decreased from 9.5 times in 2000 to 4.3 in 2007. In 2007, China has overcome Japan in the number of computers in operation, and reduced the gap separating it from the US to 3.2 times. With more than 300 million people connected to the Internet, China has moved to the first place.
In military terms, the US and Russia stand out as nuclear superpowers, with incomparable intervention and discouragement capacities. However, after a certain level, there is no longer any practical relevance in comparing capacities, since striking capacities are devastating. China is growing rapidly by articulating its naval fleet (with ship carriers and nuclear submarines), aviation (including spaceships and satellites), and the most cutting-edge long-range weapons. Recently, China has joined the race in manufacturing large capacity aircraft. France and Great Britain continue to be nuclear powers that justify their claims for a global role.
One issue that emerged is the change in terms of war making. One can have the most sophisticated weapons, without being able to annihilate the attacker, who will slip through urban agglomerations, IT and banking networks and, on top of that, is ready to die in a devastating explosion. With this context in place, controls see a rapid development – controls of banking networks, communication networks, mobilities. Thus, secret services has gained precedence in the nowadays societies. In this matter, the superpowers have the lead, but Germany, Israel, Great Britain, France also show some force.
In political terms, the US will continue to exert the greatest influence in the world. Their position is secured by the verified strength of their democratic institutions, its participation in ending world wars and other conflicts on the globe, their economic, military and cultural pre-eminence, their capacity for renewal.
China, however, with its programme of institutional change at the same time with restructuring the economy – as Hillary Clinton herself (Hard Choices, 2014) noticed – attracts countries that have engaged their own development. The opening-up towards the world, learning from best experiences, employment of unparalleled workforce, contacts with various countries (500 million Chinese tourists visit other countries about every four years), acquisition of foreign languages (French analyses claim that 29% of the Chinese already speak a second language) ensure the propelling of the most populated country. In addition, the diplomacy of “harmony” has its indubitable appeal.
Through its resources and tradition, Russia maintains extended relationships on the globe and seeks to attract using the diplomacy of “balance”. Other countries too, although without displaying any comprehensive ambitions, attract natural resources through a high quality of technological thinking and quality of life, recently through a wise opening up to migrants (Germany), intellectual traditions (France), trained diplomacy (England), know how (Israel).
A powerful economy is not possible without having the market as a regulator. A market economy is not possible without democracy, although market economy does not necessarily generate democracy. Democratisation is not optional. It is visible that the western countries operate with liberal democracy and a powerful national state. Satellite countries operate with liberal democracy, but the states, in some cases, remain fragile.
The Russia of today has adopted “the third way”, between the authoritarianism of the Russian tradition and the western democratisation (Richard Sakwa, Putin. Russia’s Choice, 2008). After the difficult years preceding the creation of the Russian Federation, the reintegration of the society around “national unity, patriotism, and a powerful central government” steps up again, and with it, the articulation of a solid state power (Steven Lee Myers. Putin - der neue Zar. Seine Politik – Sein Russland, 2016, p.231-232), rejecting “dictatorship” and “totalitarianism”, but seeking to stand above liberal democracy.
The China of today keeps the idea of “democracy with Chinese traits”, but deems that, “even with Chinese traits, democracy cannot be separated from elections and competition. Consultative democracy is, of course, very important, but consultation does not equal an exclusion of the elections” (Yu Keping, How to Achieve Orderly Democracy, in „Beijing News”, 13 July 2014). China systematically embraces the “balance” between “democracy and the rule of law”, “consultation and equality”, “participation and order”, “efficiency and justice”, “individual rights and public rights” as part of the “democratic development”.
Anyway, the differentiation of democracies is a visible trait of the current world. This differentiation is processed with a more or less polemic approach in the international relations of today. Democracy – as Norberto Bobbio eloquently showed (Il futuro della democrazia, 1995) has, of course, a set of minimal criteria, and the relativisation of the past will no longer apply.
There are three things that do not allow for relativisation. First, not any democracy is compatible with development. Joseph Stiglitz has rightfully argued (La globalizzazione e suoi oppositori, 2002) that neither “frail” governments, nor “invading” governments produce results within the context of globalisation. Second, governance and governing cannot replace one another. Without the frame of democratic governing, governance dissolves democracy (see A. Marga, Guvernanță și guvernare, Un viraj al democrației?, Compania, Bucharest, 2013). And third, liberal democracy itself only produces results if it relies on meritocracy. As it is obvious in many cases nowadays, personnel selected in improvised ways, almost corrupt or landing offices as a result of some accidents of history, surely weakens even the most liberal democracy.
Those who oppose democracy or make it an instrument are not negligible in number or in force. Just like in the past, some of the “elected ones” undermine democracy. History provides enough examples to enable us to say that democracy never wins forever; democracy requires democrats to maintain it. It is successful when practised not as a mere technique of periodically electing representatives, but as a “way of life” (John Dewey).
The Euro-American culture continues to realise its advantages that brought it to be the centre of the culture of humanity – the focus on the “good life”, on truth verified by experience, on social life framed within universal rules, on communication and performance. However, for the first time in history, the Euro-American culture comes across a culture – the Chinese one – of unusual magnitude, harbouring the second most spoken language on the world and displaying a number of competitive achievements.
Chinese culture is spread nowadays, among other things, by a network of Confucius institutes, unequalled in terms of their magnitude and organisation. In 2015, there were 475 Confucius institutes operating around the globe in the Hanban network, with 851 Confucius classes in 126 countries and over 100,000 Chinese specialists assisting the operations. At any time, more than one million students from other countries learn Chinese. The result of the realisation of the remnants of a long history (it is only the Jewish culture, among the peoples whose culture was preserved until the present times, that can stand next to it!), the Chinese culture sinks into general education in more and more places in the world.
The European Union owns a capital of values which, by tradition, are most appealing. What makes its specificity is not only historically relevant, but remains a guiding mark of humanity. However, the “immigrant crisis”, with its tragedies, showed once again that things are not in order when it comes to claiming Europe’s Christian affiliation. It is not the fact that Europe is concerned with its own defence that is alarming here, but rather, the surprising absence of wise coordination.
The split that happened in the 19th century, between defenders of the human rights and the pretenders of changes in the society deepens yet once again. The two have come to be in different hands. Enjoying ever wider recognition in the post-war era, human rights have become, from a legal point of view, the foundation of the democracies of the present times, and changes in the society tend to take them as such.
A debate emerged in the US and Germany on reconnecting democracy with meritocracy. It was argued (Stefan Halper, The Beijing Consensus, 2010) that, with the prognosis of the general triumph of liberal democracy invalidated and the “end of history” in place (as predicted by Francis Fukuyama), the meritocratic form of leadership that Confucianism proposes will have to be taken seriously. A point was reached where “meritocratic” leadership – meaning, recruited based on competence and political decision-making capacity – was balanced against leadership recruited based on marketisation and the budgets of electoral campaigns (see Daniel A. Bell „China and Democracy”, in Christian Science Monitor, 24.12.2012). One step further (Helmut Willke, Demokratie in Zeiten der Konfusion, 2014), it was concluded that democracy needs to revisit strategic capacity and systemic learning capacity. In this way, the communication between the models of democracy makes it on the agenda.
The united Europe is confronted with an unexpected challenge regarding recognition. For instance, American research signals that the progress of Europe’s institutional achievement is too slow (Glyn Morgan, The Idea of an European Superstate, 2007). From China’s point of view (Yu Sui, China in a Changing World, 2015), Germany, France, England, Italy are visible, but the European Union is rather not. From the Israeli’s point of view, Europe has not stepped sufficiently away from its past (Yirmiahu Yovel, Dark Ridle: Hegel, Nietzsche and the Jews, 1996), and it is, therefore, hindered from the inside.
It is clear that, with the “world game” established at this time in economic, political and military terms, there is a comeback, for the moment, to the world of three, defined in theory by Helmut Schmidt or Henry Kissinger. The US, China and Russia now have the lead when it comes to strategic-military arrangements that directly impact on the global order. The other candidate, the European Union as a whole, with no external policy in place and no army of its own, will only matter intermittently. Germany or England or France will tip the scales of solutions, while Poland, Italy and Spain cannot be ignored.
How will the three superpowers relate to each other in their areas of direct contact? How will they relate in the global space?
The case of the relationships at the borders has changed. In 1973, the United States were able to capitalise China’s desire to stand out, within the context of not only the ideological ambitions between the Soviet Union and China, but the frictions at the border as well. The landscape is now different. The Chinese say that the Treaty in force between the two countries ensures “good neighbourhood relations, friendship and cooperation”, and favours “model relations for great powers” (Yu Sui, op.cit, pp.309-312). In exchange, in the South China Sea, the US and China have a problem, one that Hillary Clinton did not avoid: China wants to recover some islands, while the US are bound by treaties with the other countries of the region, which are afraid of China’s magnitude. On the other hand, NATO’s expansion to the East is seen by Russia as an entering on the belt of its own security, while China sees it as a manifestation of what it criticises – “hegemonism”.
This kind of frictions can generate various scenarios for the years to come. Despite the occasional polemics, I find the scenario of negotiations more likely. China needs peace outside its borders in order to ensure a high pace for its economy and its institutional development. Russia needs time to modernise its industry and rebuilt its status. The US want to avoid international groupings that would favour, even if indirectly, terrorism and other threats. That is why the direct contact of the three could affect, every now and then, but will not change global interaction.
The superpowers need to address the current world order. The US defend a “world order” written in treaties, but would like Russia to accept it and China to lend a hand in defending it. Russia does not accept the existing order, as it deems it is not favourable to it, but it does not have the power to force any decision, even though its insisting aspiration remains a direct discussion with the US. China has separated its external policy from rivalries of visions and rejects the “unipolar world”, but does not overlook the fact that, without the support of the US, a “new world order” is not possible.
The superpower that will manage to mobilise allies in the global space will prevail. Germany is gradually climbing towards the status of a superpower. Besides the countries mentioned already, other important countries will be Japan, India, Turkey, Brazil, South Africa, Poland - countries that are regaining, or gaining for the first time a status of powers. Their position will have a significant weight. Adding to this will be countries like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, which will influence the events.
There will be no lasting unilateral victories in the space where the world order is decided upon. After all, the population growth has brought new generations on the stage everywhere, and their options remain open. On the other hand, the aspiration towards something else is widespread in the generations that are active nowadays, but not without precaution. The force to change the state of facts is distributed. Most likely, it will be a world that will invoke multilaterality, an agitated world, but with no clashes at the level of the superpowers. Each of them knows very well that there is too little to gain from such clashes.
Nowadays, the search is for the drafting of a new American approach – an alternative to what George W. Bush represented: a unipolar, unilateral approach, and international relations interpreted as an application of neo-liberalism, but also an alternative to the “containment” policy of Barack Obama. China presents its theory of a “new type of superpower” and the “win-win” strategy as part of the “Chinese dream” that the world is starting to get used to (see Hu Angang, China in 2020. A New Type of Superpower, 2011). Russia extends the cooperation with China on the global stage and seeks to continue the Sochi agreements (2015) between Russia and the US.
10. Problem solving scenarios
My thesis is that, above all, the current European Union needs to integrate the fact that the major source of difficulties and setbacks is in the precariousness of its own solutions and in errors. These are not small and not few either. They now require lucidity, competence, and action.
From a certain point on, the expansion was detrimental to the integration, rather than expanding it. Institutional development was replaced by market expansion. Workforce displacements were encouraged, creating an even greater burden for the countries that lose specialists. The “caravan capitalism” and the invasion of second-hand products in the East are counter-productive from the start. Subsidiarisation is stagnating for several years. Liberality and meritocracy have come apart. There are no more responsible analyses, and the authoritarianist slips of some countries are praised, rather than called by their name.
Not only the expected “end of history” did not happen, but the change of the world does not stop at all. The pressure to democratisation (Pierre Mannent, La Raison des nations, 2006), the international re-orientation of Great Britain, Germany and France (Andreas Wirsching, Demokratie und Globalisierung, 2015), the nations re-affirming themselevs (Carlo Masala, Welt-Unordnung, 2016), the entering into the “variable geometry of superpowers” (A. Marga, Ordinea viitoare a lumii, 2017) and, above all, the urgency of the re-opening towards creation (Roger Bootle, The Trouble with Europe, 2016) cannot be faked.
With few exceptions, the most radical and new proposals in terms of alternatives are, in fact, negative. Some Irish historians talk about “Euro exit” as if, should the Euro zone be isolated from the rest of the European countries, the old Europe of conflicts would not return. Reducing the European Union down to a common market is not a solution either, because the gaps in development and the tensions return, and Europe cannot capitalise its historical advantages. Turning some countries into mere outlets by claiming neo-liberalism is not a solution, because that supports the decline of democracy, with all its poisonous consequences.
The European Union remains a project above its alternatives, but it is now at the crossroads. It cannot stand up to the difficulties and the setbacks without institutional innovation to turn the principle of subsidiarity and the democracy into life forms. The new European infirmities – the “post-democracy” (Colin Crouch) or “post-democratic authoritarianism” (Habermas) – are preparations for crisis.
For these reasons, it is not the dogmatisation of a reality about to change that should be nurtured, but rather, lucidity and openness. Especially that dissatisfaction goes up to the level of decision-makers. After the UK prime minister, officials of the highest rank from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Italy, France demand a change of direction. German historians see the post-war narrative of the unification as reaching its end (Andreas Wirsching), and the “exit” is already in the speech of the political actors, not only in electoral campaigns.
In many countries, there are people who are interested to keep the positions they acquired in the bureaucratic apparatus or in the Darwinian economy that has occupied the European Union. They only see two alternatives: either following the current organisation of the European Union with no discussion, or regressing into ethnic nationalism, which they mechanically ascribe to those who hold a different opinion. They no longer consider the third alternative, which is to reorganise the existing European Union - in fact, the true, incomparably better alternative.
Expressed in a straightforward manner, the European Union can no longer defend itself, other than changing its current organisation through democratisation. The reflex fear of the re-establishment of national identities, of the national state has no base, as long as the procedures are democratic and the guiding values, starting with human dignity, are the universal values.
Interestingly, this point of view recently returns in the writings of Europe’s most important economists. And if the economists feel the need for democratisation, we can tell how stringent this need is among other citizens.
Recently, the lead economist who is Thomas Piketty, together with his collaborators, diagnosed the situation in a rather indubitable manner and proposed the first steps towards its democratisation. The prerequisite is that a “government” of no legitimacy operates secretly in the European Union, composed, eventually, by the finance ministers of the Euro zone and by various bureaucrats. They operate outside the European Treaty, outside the European Parliament and with no accountability to the national parliaments. “The powerful and, at the same time, untouchable government of the Euro zone developed effectively in the blind spot of the possibilities of political control, which is a black hole of democracy” (Thomas Piketty et al., Pour un traité de démocratisation de l’Europe, 2017, p.9). Nobody actually controls what is decided at the level of the European “executive” – not the European Parliament and not the national parliaments. And crises are an implacable consequence.
With that, the crucial challenge for Europe is to revert to the “representative democracy” – at least in the Euro zone. Re-establishing and expanding the functions of the European Parliament will not be enough; the entire “European project” will have to he reconsidered. “On this road, which might be very long, stands the creation of a Euro zone Parliament for a political and cultural struggle that reaches far towards a democratisation of the <European project> and a reorientation of the policy conducted on its behalf” (p.13). A “treaty for the democratisation of the leadership of the Euro zone”, centred around the “conditionality of democratisation”, as part of the basic Treaty, will have to be signed. The sooner, the better!
The European Parliament will be the first to feel the effects of the reorganisation. The “Parliament Assembly of the Euro zone” will emerge. Four fifths of it will be composed of members of the national parliaments, according to the political distribution inside each of those parliaments and the procedure decided by each parliament, and one fifth will be composed of members of the European Parliament. The delegates of the parliaments of the countries that are not in the Euro zone will have the possibility to participate in the proceedings of the Assembly as guests. Other states will have the possibility to join the “treaty for democratisation of the leadership of the Euro zone” as soon as they are integrated into the Euro zone.
For the lucid minds, it is more and more obvious that the range of solutions for the current Europe is narrowing. Thomas Piketty and his collaborators understand that. For instance, the expectation that the current organisation and the existing institutions will prevent crisis is a utopia.
The expectation that Europe will stand out when the US, Russia or China will face challenges does not produce any results either. Europe can stand through time only through its own economic, social, political, cultural results. Again, time requires big steps, not mere improvements. Anything less than democratisation, taken in its core sense, leaves Europe in the way of crises.
The modellings that we can make show a number of consequences for reflection. I will synthesise some of them.
The first is the widening of the view. History did not stop at the Reich, at the victory of communism, or at neo-liberalism. History does not end, because it is not the solutions of the past that will prevail in actuality, no matter what the resistance will be - but rather, the solutions of an open future.
The second consequence is the strengthening of the autonomy of science, philosophy, religion, which should not stop us from recognising the need for them to cooperate in order to produce solutions for today’s problems. Each one will need the others.
The third consequence is that chances for new visions appear. Schönberg said that, in a music piece, the idea is more important than style, and we can only agree with him today. It is about the idea that comes from finding oneself. “Mon jeu est a moi”, Constantin Brâncuşi said, and with that, he gave us a key not just for understanding his work (see Sorana Georgescu-Gorjan, Aşa grăit-a Brâncuşi. Ainsi parlait Brâncusi. Thus Spoke Brâncusi, 2011), but also for taking a stand with the world.
The fourth consequence comes from the re-updating of the “philosophy of public life” in a world where everyone’s life depends on decisions made in institutions. We are not to expect solutions from providential leaders, from subjects in large format, from external assistance or from anyone else. Nobody can replace what those citizens actually need to do.
The European Union will be under the pressure of reorganisation (see Jochen Bittner, So nicht Europa!, 2010). It will seek to capitalise on the considerable advantages using the federal formula (see Anthony Giddens, Turbulent and Mighty Continent, 2014). In any event, without profound reorganisation in the sense of democratisation, the fate of the European Union will be in danger.
There is a repetend that accompanies geopolitical reflections of the last decade. According to it, after returning in the front lines after 1989, united Europe allegedly stepped back in the second row of the decision-makers of today.
The former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt himself (see Die Mächte der Zukunft, 2006) pointed out that, without developing its own foreign policy, the European Union will not be able to play any major international part. The European Union failed to accomplish the goal of the “Lisbon Strategy” of becoming the most competitive organisation of the world, and all that is left to do for it is to follow the cycles of the global economy (Alan Greenspan, L’Era della turbolenza, 2007). In fact, Europe lost its primacy in education, and it has a lot to do to be able to compete with the United States. The danger in Europe is not recession, but an “endless recession” (Hakim El Karoui, Reinventer l’Occident, 2010), sourcing from an enormous public indebtedness for which no solution was found. Asia moved into being the “pivot” of American politics (Hillary Clinton, Hard Choices, 2014) and remains in that position.
However, this is not only about opinions; it is about facts as well. For instance, the “Arab Spring” came as a surprise for the European authorities, who did not suspect what was happening in Tunis, Tripoli or Cairo. The “Syrian conflict” showed the incapacity to complete a solution. The “Ukrainian crisis” was managed slowly, and no solution is in prospect yet. There is no courage to see the reality of the Middle East as it is – with threats coming from minute groups looking for access to the most sophisticated weapons and blatantly forging the history of the region. As for the events in Africa, European participation is much more reactive, after years of the press of the African capital cities accusing European NGOs for depleting resources. Not to mention South-East Asia or South America, where Europe only intervenes after others have already had the initiative.
11. From the rule of law to being ruled
A paper in Der Spiegel (14 August 2020) asked a profound question: Rule of law or being ruled? It is a very topical question.
Everybody was able to notice the insistent claiming of the “rule of law” at the level of the European Commission in the past few years. The opinion would be worth praising, if it were accompanied by an understanding of the rule of law as a juridical fact composed by respect for constitutional rights and freedoms. But some tend to understand the rule of law as someone’s policy, rather than as the enforcement of the law, irrespective of parties and people. As a matter of fact, the allegation that some are out of line with the rule of law did not, until today, rely of any analysis of how the state operates as a state, which analysis would, of course, be most welcome.
The effect of this understanding that falsifies situations is the systematic violation seen in some states – in the recent years, in the name, taken in vain, of the freedom of justice and citizens’ rights and liberties. It has already been forgotten that the post-1990 constitutions provide for a “democratic rule of law” – not just a “rule of law”, which, in some way, some dictatorships had too! Lately, during the pandemic, the health emergency is converted by some into a political and military emergency and a limitation of democracy. Instead of being truly a rule of law, the state has thus become an instrument by which rulers are created, alternatives are destroyed, and citizens’ needs are put aside.
In any event, it is this importance that the “democratic rule of law” has for a dignified human life, it is this history that one should start with when assessing the state of facts in our times. What I have in mind is three strings of events.
The first is that, with the interventions of the Court of Karlsruhe and of other European law professionals, it has become clear that, when taken seriously, the rule of law is not the instrument of someone who got in the position where they make decisions in the state. No legal entity, irrespective of their position, is more “entitled” than other to produce evaluations in matters of law.
That is why it is not Carl Schmitt, who, as we well know, has subordinated the rule of law to circumstantial decision makers, but rather John Rawls, who saw it as an expression of the democratic contract, that one should take into account. Otherwise, it is not democracy that is achieved, but rather, perverted forms of “democracies with a leader (Führer)”, as we can see in countries where the “head of state” or the “post-democracy” have returned to life.
The second string of events has to do with the circumstance that there is a need for new solutions felt throughout the European Union. We can debate on the state of the justice in one country or another, but we are then merely immersed in illusion, thinking that the current vision of the European Commission is the final word. Rightfully, German, British, Polish and Hungarian journalists, as well as Romanian journalists have asked the Community bureaucrats some difficult questions. This vision is lately lacking proper information about the countries, impartiality, and clarification, which is inevitably conceptual. The most outstanding philosophical personality of today’s world, Jürgen Habermas, who made law the foundation of the vision on Europe, noticed that “politics embarrasses itself if it moralises, rather than relying on the law of the democratic law maker, which is mandatory” (Zur Verfassung Europas. Ein Essay,2011, p.99). It is this law that is, in fact, the only legitimate one.
Any person sound of mind is in favour of the independence of justice. But there is still a long way to go until the independence of judging. In actuality, independence of judging will not be reached with obedient justice makers who are not appointed by public resorts, but by political actors (governments, presidents, etc.). Neither will it be reached with poorly trained justice makers, coming out nowadays from poor study programmes.
There are, of course, justice makers who are aware of the measure of things, but many are not. It is actually visible again nowadays that some have ruled under orders and, years later, confess that they were forced to rule in that way. Many treat the court of law as their property, and court ruling as something that is of their choice. It is not understood that ruling in justice can only be just if it goes along with the way in which it was obtained.
With its well-known realism, Der Spiegel tells us that we are in an uncomfortable situation. And it is right. But the existing rule of law can in no way be the end of history, because it belongs to groups that have their own particular interests and views. The public interest is far from that, and it demands to be restored.
It is clear that globalisation, the current genetics-based medicine, and digitalisation create change. But, grasped in depth, they in no way require a liquidation of the person, the traditional family, the political pluralism, the democracy, the national framework - the humaneness of humans, as a matter of fact. When understood well, the expansion of the rights and freedoms of people actually aims at institutional frameworks.
How can one stand against the pressures of today in making a case in justice? In my opinion, only by taking the rule of law out of the political confrontation and democratising it. No one is a protector of the rule of law more than others, and each and every one has rights just like everyone else.
12. Democratisation as a solution
The truth that the reason for the diminishing relevance of the European Union is not only foreign policy and defence. The European Union lost because its internal policy has reached to a halt. Before gaining new weight externally, the European Union needs to change internally – it needs a reorganisation on the lines of democratisation.
What does this mean? All European analysis of the European societies of today – beyond the empty lyricism of some anachronistic minds, the usual optimism of the bureaucracy and the propaganda for the naive, advanced by the decision makers – puts forward alarming diagnoses. Almost all analyses signal that the road is actually a dead end. These diagnoses – no matter how we look at them – say something about people’s lives.
Unfortunately, institutional formalism is now happening in the very European Union. That is because, for more than ten years, very few were interested in the essence, that is, in the citizens’ space of positive assertion. In actuality, before the current state of facts, the “left wing” has remained stunned, while the views of the “right wing” are of short breath; the political controversy is too far away from the needs of the citizens (Armin Nasehi, Die letzte Stunde der Wahrheit, 2015).
Anyway, it is not the “lifestyle” ensured by social security policies (as Zbigniew Brzezinski is quick to state in Strategic Vision. America and the Crisis of Global Power, 2012) that makes the vulnerability of Europe. The problem is the inclusiveness and the productivity of the united Europe - and this can no longer be solved without institutional reforms and a new commitment of Europeans themselves.
There are four specific issues that will have to be opened and addressed with new ideas in the European Union: the issue of how to relate with the Brussels authorities; the issue of bureaucracy; the issue of personnel qualifications, and the issue of elections.
In one country or another, democratic changes can be faster or slower. But neither autocracy, nor external pressure resulted or can result into democratisation. Democratisation is something that the citizens of that country can do. That is why the democratisation and the democratic rule of law require not the action of groups that claim to be representative, while, in fact, they only represent themselves, but the self-determination of the citizens.
The amount of bureaucracy that now exists in the European Union entitles us to a question: could it be that the European problem by excellence is not the “social state”, in actuality, as the improvised right wing of the last decade is fast to believe, but rather bureaucratisation? Could it be that large resources of the European Union are actually swallowed by a suffocating bureaucracy? Could it be that the bureaucracy itself is offensive towards anything else, or towards outside competitors, because it seeks to be left to its doings?
We expect Brussels to produce solutions of joint policies of the countries of the European Union, solutions that would be more clairvoyant than those that one country could produce. The expectation, however, is too rarely confirmed. And the reasons are at hand. A historian (Tony Judt, Postwar. A History of Europe since 1945, 2005, p.796) rightfully noted that The Europe of today is the ground of crucial debates about the state of facts in the world, but the authorities do not take any interest in them. European decisions are made while ignoring deeper arguments.
Politics is understood as a fight between people and between parties for positions, rather than as an accomplishment of community projects. Politicians are seen like actors in a Darwinian selection, rather than as servants to the public interest. More seriously, countries, with notable exceptions, send second-hand, third-hand or seventh-hand personnel to Brussels (with the peak achievement being to send wives, daughters, girlfriends, protégés etc.!). Aren’t we already living what some European thinkers of the highest rank were anticipating – the fact that the institutionalised elite of Europe no longer has the professional, civic and moral magnitude it used to have? Might we be in a situation where heads, maybe sometimes managers make it to the top, but not so many leaders - and the heads themselves spread the erroneous impression that there are no alternatives?
Free elections in the European Union happen according to democratic procedures. But the result that comes out of them is for the moment unsatisfying: Europe loses its global relevance, crises – financial, economic, administration, creativity, motivation crises – are overwhelming, and more and more people just withdraw to their private life. Apathy becomes burdening, in an era when the general competitiveness and, as a matter of fact, security itself depend on the participation of the overwhelming majority of citizens. Shouldn’t we see what is behind the apathy that is present in some countries? Could it be that, beyond everything, we should raise a debate on how elections are understood?
Virtually, it is about distinguishing between the “functional significance” of the election – namely, giving a majority the opportunity to make a better decision and send someone else on the benches of the opposition – and its “deliberative significance” – namely, to take the will of the electors and integrate it into the decision. Elections are not done – as, unfortunately, it seems they are done – merely for the purpose of establishing some representatives who should no longer be bothered afterwards. The “deliberative significance” of the vote should become something of concern for the democrats, in order to take elections out of the mere ritual they risk turning into. That is the only way in which the circle of decision makers, which already tends to close on itself, can get another breath, and the damaging apathy around it can diminish. The global relevance of Europe depends on the vitality of its democracy. But democracy is only vigorous when the elector is sure that his or her vote finds an expression in the general will.