‘Let’s celebrate cooperation and togetherness’

Sunbd Desk || Published: 2020-05-09 03:25:51 || Updated: 2020-05-09 03:25:51

This year, like last year, May 9, Europe Day, falls in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when people around the world celebrate kinship and the spirit of togetherness. Europe Day too stands for solidarity and celebrating the spirit of community.

My commitment to Europe as an idea and political project has a very personal background. One of my grandfathers was persecuted because of his political views, his belief in the independence of our country; my other grandfather died as a young soldier; my parents were born in the bomb hails of the war; and I grew up not far from the Iron Curtain, which prevented us from seeing friends and relatives on the other side. And there are many families which suffered a far worse fate than ours. It looks like ancient history now, however it is not … it all happened in the last three generations … and yet it is almost forgotten.

Today, on the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, we need to remember what European integration means and the role of the EU in the world.

This notion of solidarity is a direct response to the nationalist rivalries that led to World War II and plagued Europe in the centuries before. The “contrary spirit” of antagonism, as Robert Schuman called it, needed to be replaced by the notion of solidarity and unity. For the founding fathers, this vision of unity had to start with pragmatic solutions, like pooling resources and setting up common institutions, rebuilding Europe, and giving hope to its peoples after 1945.

Despite the many problems and crises we have been facing and are facing today, when we look back at the achievements of European integration I believe that it is and has been successful.

The EU received the Nobel Peace Prize not because it is a peacemaker around the world, but because it is a very successful peace project: among the member states of the EU we have enjoyed the longest period in history without a war. Therefore, the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration is the moment to remind ourselves of what the EU is all about: peace, solidarity, democracy, and a common space of the rule of law.

In recent days the binding spirit of the European integration idea has been called into question, and borders have re-emerged, but not only between states but also within the countries with quarantine measures taken at the level of regions or cities depending on the severity of the disease. In a crisis like this, the nation state, sometimes the region or the city, is the first responder.

Very quickly the European Union, institutions and member states together, as “Team Europe,” came in with a very strong coordinating role.

This coordinating role started with very practical matters like bringing 550,000 European citizens back home; making sure that the protective gear – gloves, masks, ventilators etc. – can be procured on a global level; keeping trade flowing, trade between the member states, trade between the EU and third countries; and introducing the concept of green lanes at borders so trucks can easily cross and goods can easily flow. Now the EU is focusing on protecting jobs, making sure that companies can continue working. The European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank and the Commission are joining forces to make sure that the economies that have suffered in Europe and across the whole world can get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

We work together, and only a few days ago the EU called on the international community to come together to pool resources to find a vaccine. Close to €8 billion was pledged, which will now be used to support the necessary research and development.

Pooling technological, scientific, and financial resources to address a global issue is the best way to show cooperation, and I am happy to say that Turkey is a part of that.

Going back to where I started, Schuman was not thinking small when he called for European solidarity 70 years ago; fighting COVID-19 is a stark reminder. I am convinced that we should think as big and as creatively as Schuman – and act in that spirit. The COVID-19 crisis shows us again that we need to stand together and work together with Turkey, an EU candidate country but also a strategic partner in many areas and historically, geographically, and economically intertwined with Europe.

May 9, 2020 is the best opportunity to mark and celebrate this cooperation and togetherness. Europe together works. United in diversity, it nurtures its commonalities and the differences of its peoples, national identities, languages, culture, and traditions. Its strength is in its cooperation, dialogue and mutual respect.

Happy Europe Day, Turkey!

[ The writer is an ambassador and head of the EU Delegation to Turkey ]


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