Why Europe ? Why Europe ? Or, more exactly, why the European Union ? Why are 27 European states – they were six at the beginning, they will be more in the future – doing their best to work together, to carry out common policies, to obey common rules, at the cost of many conflicts and controversies ? Is it really worth making so many efforts ? The question could be put this way : what is the added value of the European Union – the European institutions, the European policies – compared to national policies, to national decisions ?
This question is still at the centre of many discussions in Europe. It was raised in particular a few years ago by the German chancelor, Angela Merkel, just before she took over in 2007 the rotating presidency of the European Council. Aware of the growing euro-scepticism in Germany and elsewhere, she asked this simple question : why Europe ? What's Europe for ? What is Europe's raison d'être ? What can we expect from a united Europe ? She believed that it was necessary to answer this question in order to respond to the eurosceptics, to adress their criticism and to provide people with good reasons to believe in the building of a European Union.
This question – why Europe ? - was obviously in the minds of the French and the Dutch voters who said no to the Constitutional treaty in 2005. It was in the minds of the Irish voters who said no to the Lisbon treaty – and then said yes. It was in the minds of many people, according to the polls, in a good number of European countries, who would have probably said no if they had been asked. These people, in France, The Nederlands and elsewhere were not opposed to the institutional reforms put forward by the European leaders but they just could not see what the European Union was able to bring to their daily life.
They could see what they thought they were losing in terms of democracy, of sovereignty, of national responsabilities. And because they did not understand why it was necessary to abide by European rules instead of national rules, they became quite suspicious towards the European ideal, and this feeling of distrust triggered a serious backlash against the European Union. So the question deserves to be answered : do we really need a European Union and which kind of European Union – how closely united ? Is Europe the best level to tackle the big issues of to-day and of to-morrow ?