Being an optimist by nature, I will tell you that I believe the EU has a future, “says longtime researcher Alberto Martinelli.” I am also optimistic that people have recognized the threat and resisted it in the last European elections – they did not vote massively for parties who wants to create chaos in the EU, “Martinelli continues, but points out that moderate politics has only one more opportunity:” If concrete measures fail again, extreme political events will return – stronger than ever.
Society, its roots, identity, democracy, social responsibility, governance and global relations. These are all areas where the interviewee, Italian academic Alberto Martinelli, has dedicated his life. Today, a meritorious professor at the University of Milan with a doctorate from the renowned American University Berkeley is the author of many books and essays, and among his – at European level and beyond – recognizable works is the deepening of “European identity”.
In recent years, this topic has not only hired scientists but has become a hot political topic – especially with the migrant wave. While part of the public argues that “European identity” and lifestyles need to be protected, on the other side of gender we find people who see the threat of nationalism in every mention of terms such as values or identity.
They exaggerate both, says the interviewee. And while each side is blowing in its horn, healthy communication has died down, which must be done – according to Martinelli, according to Martinelli, a key current EU challenge – migration. These – so expert – do not, in themselves, threaten the values of the European continent, its way of life, or its future, if we are clear about what kind of policy applies to refugees, what kind of economic migrants, how integration works. It also emphasizes – European institutions should act differently, and Brussels would need its financial resources to better implement European policies.
However, the responsibility for all this to happen is not on the shoulders of some “imaginary people far in Brussels” but the task of the voters. “If we cannot choose the best leaders, there is something wrong with us,” said the interviewee.
The European Union is a link of quite different nations, countries with different histories… is it possible to speak of a common, European identity?
We certainly have common roots that are related to the concept of modern European civilization and are not tied to the different countries as we know them today. These include philosophy, Christianity, the rule of law derived from the Roman Code, and later we are bound by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution and their civilizational achievements.
Then there is the key issue of personal identification. Here we can also rely, to some extent, on Eurobarometer statistics, which show that a large percentage of people in the EU identify themselves as Europeans, given their national identity, of course. So: Italian – European, Slovenian – European. It could be said that European identity is part of an individual’s “multi-identity”, which can be felt as part of a city, a country and a wider community. For example, we can be Europeans, Slovenes from Ljubljana. We live in a complex world, so identity is also complex.
How has identifying people with connections changed during the existence of the EU?
A lesser known fact, but the EU was not raised by a majority but by a minority who believed in integration. People tired of the horrors of war, of course, wanted peace, but for the most part, quietly watching the events after the war, they were not massively active players.
However, there were some enlightened leaders, both politicians and economists and other intellectuals, who gained mass consensus with media support. The economic component, growth, was instrumental in this. However, when the conjuncture began, the consensus and enthusiasm cooled.
Today, public opinion towards the EU is quite critical. Partly because people are very knowledgeable today, more educated. I think that having a healthy and quality public debate is key. Things need to be talked about. Support for a European project will always fluctuate – depending also on the global crisis, the crisis in individual countries, but at some general level, I think that most Europeans still believe in the EU and integration, and this should be kept in mind as it is an obligation.
Namely, clear evidence of this confidence is the last European elections, where parties seeking a breakup did not win. They lost. Also, because many people recognized that there was a threat to the EU, so did some who would otherwise not vote. They recognized the threat and responded. Of course, this means that the elected must now prove themselves.
Isn’t it a coincidence that all of these issues arose on the day in connection with the migrant crisis?
Not a coincidence, but of course an understandable phenomenon. Some parties’ attitudes towards migration are less well understood. Let’s take the Italian League as an example. They claim that they want to protect European values, a European way of life, and in the same breath are attacking the European Union, which is in fact a symbol of the values of this continent.
Our values are strong enough, they have strong enough roots, they can integrate the people who come to us, people who differ from us in culture, experience. Migration is a phenomenon that needs to be addressed by politics, it is a political issue, there is no doubt about it. At its core, however, the arrival of migrants does not threaten our way of life, nor our values, nor our institutions, if we are aware of one thing – social integration must be done thoughtfully, consistently. So – migrants are not a threat in themselves, but problems can quickly arise if marginalized. And this is a key problem in the work of politics that is fueled by the incitement of resentment and hatred of refugees and migrants in people.
What would be the right approach to the issue of migration? In many cases, extreme political phenomena have received support mainly due to the fact that they have spoken about this challenge at all.
Just look at Hungary, where the government preaches about fighting an external enemy and, on the other hand, does not increase the freedom of its citizens, but actually restricts them more and more. This is no more but less democracy – otherwise it is still within democracy. Closer European ties mean more democracy at national and local level.
A rational policy in this area could overcome the problem. And by the way, we’re clear – that’s the problem. Don’t think I underestimate the challenge of migration. Absolutely not. This is an area where too many mistakes have been made to afford new ones. Central politics, especially left center politics, made the huge mistake of calling for everyone to accept that everyone is running away from war, as this is not true. But with some sensible migration and integration policy, the challenge can be managed for the benefit of all.
You mentioned integration. There are several opinions here on how to approach this issue, and some past solutions have subsequently yielded questionable results …
First, we need to regulate the basic areas of these people, to ensure the personal stability of the person and his sense of inclusion – work, housing, inclusion in the education system, healthcare and social life. There should also be incentive mechanisms for a person who adheres to all this to acquire citizenship over time. Of course, according to the law, not by turns.
But all this is not something that individual Member States can handle. This is a European challenge. And in fact, this is at the moment a crucial test of the European Union. The European Union must find a way to jointly address the issue of migration. Otherwise, conflicts will arise within the Union.
Conflicts also arise, at least in part, from differing views on migration between countries that categorically reject migrants and / or require not only integration but assimilation, and countries that, according to critics, implement the concept of multiculturalism to a degree of subordination to people coming.
I think our values are strong enough to survive migration. Looking at the world – our rule of law, democracy, the European model of market economy, which also has a strong social component, are still ideals that are so attractive to people from other parts of the world. But let’s be clear. People who come in need to be integrated in this. Really integrated. Of course, we can understand and respect the specifics of their identity – just as we respect the specifics of individual EU member states, but integration is a serious matter. But some European values cannot be negotiated with people who come. Multiculturalism does not mean that someone who does not respect our basic principles will come here, and we will allow it.
I reiterate that I think our values are strong enough to survive migration. Looking at the world – our rule of law, democracy, the European model of market economy, which also has a strong social component, are still ideals that are so attractive to people from other parts of the world.
But let’s be clear. People who come in need to be integrated in this. Really integrated. Of course, we can understand and respect the specifics of their identity – just as we respect the specifics of individual EU member states, but integration is a serious matter. Some European values cannot be negotiated with people who come. To begin with, respect for women, their fundamental social rights, what institutions in our country decide certain matters, and so on. We cannot debate the separation of state and religion, freedom of the press…
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