Are we sustainable ?

, par Katharina Natter

Are we sustainable ?

The European Union is not an entirely defined system, but one that is still in its building process. This is particularly clear if we consider the Lisbon treaty which tries to give the EU a concreter form. Is the EU a sustainable project, a project that has a promising future ?

What do 100 young Europeans do when they meet during one weekend in Berlin ? They talk about sustainability. But what does sustainability actually mean ? Is it something more realistic than an ambitious mix of hope, future-oriented projects and dreams ? And how do the notions sustainability and European Union interact ? Most participants of the 8th International Berlin Seminar this weekend have an opinion on this issue :

Tommaso, an Italian participant, laughs after I bombarded him with my questions : For him, sustainability is a concept enabling itself to maintain its fundamental structures and components. The official definition states that sustainable development “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

So far so good, but what has the European Union to do with that ?

Öyestan who has travelled here from Norway is very enthusiastic about the whole EU-project and considers that Europe definitively needed a cooperation of this kind – and got it. Öyestan would even be positive about changing his Norwegian nationality into a European one.

Concerning my question about a probable European nationality replacing the national one, the opinions are split. Johannes for example, who is a student at the HSoG, thinks that he has a double identity, the European one covering the national one. For him, the two levels of his citizenship do not exclude each other, but still he does not want to give up his German nationality.

Most of my interview-partners mentioned the essential role of the EU which is still the preservation of peace. At this point I deepened more into the subject of the EU enlargement – which is a very controversial issue, as I noticed during the interviews.

Mark lives in Estonia, but has the Russian nationality. Still, he takes part at the JEF-meeting in Berlin this weekend. His feelings about being European are mixed. For him, EU’s task for the future is mainly to deepen the existing cooperation. This is a trend which I generally observed : the wish for a better cooperation between the EU institutions. Here, Mark brings up a very interesting point : it is true that the impression of a EU concentrating much on the quantitative integration exists – meaning one enlargement following another. And often, the qualitative integration gets lost. That is where the EU should invest in itself (develop further), try to harmonize the different living standards that exist in the EU, try to find a new way of decision-making and try to give the EU a unique representation towards third countries.

Karola, the head organizer of the Berlin Seminar, states her position concerning the EU-enlargement. And she is not alone with her opinion : The sensation of getting too fast in the European integration is a wide spread worry. For Karola, the EU should at first find a work-rhythm with 27 members – which is everything else than easy – before accepting new members in order not to get into a chaos or even an impasse afterwards. She even criticizes the way in which some Copenhagen Criteria were neglected during the eastern enlargement of the EU, for example corruption - without of course questioning the necessity of this enlargement. Tommaso shares her opinion and points out, that enlargement is still one of the main tasks of the EU.

Thanks to her marriage tactics, Maria Theresia - a very famous Austrian queen during the 18th century – managed to avoid war, to maintain peace on the Habsburg territory and to enlarge the kingdom. In the same way, the EU sort of offers a membership to some countries in order to get the opportunity of political peace and economic growth and therefore to bridge the national conflicts for their own advantages.

In this sense, the EU enlargement is more than necessary, even essential, but demands cooperation from both sides : the marriage proposal of the EU is linked to some conditions and to a transfer of national sovereignty that is unavoidable - a funny parallel between the EU enlargement and an important part of Austrian diplomacy.

This article was prepared during the international Creat(iv)e Europe seminar on sustainibility in Berlin end of February 2008 and first published in the PolitikOrange printed seminar publication.

Image : Sustainability Without Compromise, source : Flickr.

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