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Europe With Soul

Zoran Đinđić

Thank you for your invitation, it is a great honor to be with you here today and thank you for the interest you have shown for this theme. I would also like to express my gratitude for the special responsibility entrusted to me, being the last speaker to decide when the dinner will start.

Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, said that the “small” countries, and I would add “poor” countries as well, have the opportunity to pull the trigger, and I promise I will not abuse such true fact: I will speak briefly and try not to keep you long from the enjoyment that follows.

I have to make another digression, although I am well aware I should skip it. Nothing is free, not even in Switzerland: by listening to my speech, you will pay for the forthcoming pleasure. I will try not to make the dinner too expensive for you. The fact that I speak in Switzerland today makes it somewhat easier for me to have a critical discourse about European Union, which would be rather harder on me if we were in England, and even harder if we were in France. In Switzerland, we may consolidate ourselves and send a message to the EU that it should do better to attract us into its family.

This evening’s celebration academy has been motivated by a very important event, and not merely for formal reasons: in 1946 Winston Churchill held a speech on the occasion of which we have joined together to have a nice dinner in remembrance of his life and work, but it was also motivated by some substantial issues or otherwise, we could not gather such personalities. There is a continuity in one great idea, the idea of permanent peace, as Immanuel Kant defined it in Europe and there is a problem of making such great idea true. There are many reasonable people in Europe but during the past two centuries, there has been little reason in it. Between the great idea and its realization, there is a gap and a task for each generation to bridge that gap in a reasonable way.

In 1946 when Churchill held his speech it was not beautiful. He spoke of “European tragedy”. The War had only ended, Europe was devastated. Churchill, a great strategist and realistic politician spoke in one speech about European tragedy, using words that are not commonly heard from a politician, only to continue by saying: “Europe without bondages or boundaries is possible, with people who are happy, in which there is prosperity and where freedom rules“. In my opinion that is a real Utopia that had been built by European history on parallel tracks, while on the other tracks of reality, the civil, religious and various other wars continue to happen.

Today we know that it has not remained just a Utopia. Today we know that sometimes one needs to escape into the future in order to accept an unfortunate reality. Sometimes to think realistically does not mean to accept reality as given, but project it into something better. And sometimes that seems to be the only way out from misfortune. If we remained with our sense of reality only, we would manage misery throughout entire history. Today we know that the vision of European unity, European family, “The United States of Europe” became very much real and that Europeans, the members of the so-called essential European people, 50 years after the war may sit together at the same table and say: “We did a great job”. But still there is a question whether entire Europe is present at that table?

The same would happen for instance, where a family who survived a tough period during which brothers and sisters fought with each other, built a nice house, and said: “We have a wonderful house“. The question is whether it is really so, or maybe in the vicinity there is a swamp or a depot of garbage, source of disease such as organized crime, drug smuggling, maybe in its close surroundings there is this plague that may undermine their healthy, beautiful life. And if it turns out that the neighborhood is exactly like that, than it can no longer be called a lovely house, because a house does not end up with a yard. It is essential that entire surroundings is given due care, in order to live in stability and peace.

Speaking of turbulent times today – given that in 1946 when Churchill gave this famous speech, times were turbulent in Europe – such turbulent times today do not imply Germany or France, German princes and Russian emperors and others who created Churchill’s history, but instead, we mean the Balkans. The situation in the Balkans is similar to the one in Europe in 1946/47. It may too be described with the word “tragedy”. Its infrastructure is destroyed, four, five, six wars have ran through, many of them being the civil wars, meaning that they were accompanied with dreadful incidents drawn by hatred. The question is: what now? How to make this region populated with 50 million people reach its “perpetual peace”, stability, prosperity and freedom? The central Europe hopes that it would be a natural process, provided that certain preconditions are met. Certain criteria have been set and they predominantly refer to economic and financial matters, the plan was set up to the period of ten to twenty years, and the ones who fulfill such criteria may join the train by clinging to the engine as wagons and all that is happening more or less with elegance.

I would rather challenge such optimism. I do not believe that it is that simple. I agree that things have come back to normal in the Balkan region, we may now travel, do business, the reforms have been initiated, all the governments elected during the past three or four years have been elected through democratic processes: some of them are not fully pro-European, but they have been elected in a democratic way and that is something completely new in the history of these countries. But if we speak of structural stability, permanent stability, it is far from Balkan reality. Let me make two digressions concerning this topic. One speaks about the nature of states and state creations that emerged on that area. If the problem is viewed without any intention to send political messages, if we focus on the current situation only, we will immediately be able to spot several non-conventional states. Without any intention to make judgments, the impression is that those are not conventional forms of states. We are in the midst of forming the state of Serbia and Montenegro and I hope it to be formed by the end of the year: there is no such state in the world. It is not enough to say that it is normal to have something that no one else has and that this is an experiment. If it were one country only, that would be fine, but there is also Bosnia. If you read the papers during the past two or three days, you must have read many concerned comments asking the question: “what holds this state together? Can this state survive without external interventions?” That is exactly the key question for the stability of the region. In the end, there is Kosovo. The question of Albania-Kosovo-Macedonia triangle: what happens if in two or three years time from now, Kosovo becomes independent? Would that start a chain reaction in which one third of Macedonia would become questionable? Will that process send a sparkle to Bosnia? What will happen with this region in that case? What costs will Europe have to pay? That is not a threat, I do not tell you: “do take care of the Balkans in order not to be forced to pay more in the future.” No, my only point is that, thinking strategically, as taught by Churchill, we must take into consideration different options, including those that are not affirmative and try to find answers – to the developments that may not eventually be positive. And instability of the Balkans will inevitably affect the stability of Europe.

The question is how to overcome the disintegration processes, the lack of cohesion and integration in this important region? The answer is similar to that given to Europe in 1945. We need a big idea and big vision, something that leads us forward, something bigger than „business as usual“, bigger than calculations, economy which in my opinion is crucial. For most people this is the matter of identity. It is about the soul and not material goods, while in my opinion, the idea of European integration is huge – if it does not succeed, the Balkans will face hard times. If those 50 million people lose hope that they will ever become members of European family, then I do not know any other big idea that might sustain.

We have had two big dreams during 19th and 29th century, and both were very costly for the nation, whilst eventually they proved wrong: the communism and nationalism. They were the answers to animosities among nations, states, religions. Those were two huge driving ideologies that in the end provoked negative forces among the people. The question is: what should a driving idea be like to provoke the positive side in the people? We should not abandon the faith in the existence of an idea having such power. You cannot motivate people with insufficient assistance, incomplete support to their development, with a little of this and a little of that, any of it is unsatisfactory. These people need to cling to a meaning for existence, not only individually, but also in their collective lives. European integration may take upon itself such role, if it develops into a vision, instead of remaining just a bureaucratic concept; if a visionary and capable management takes lead in Europe, the management that will understand that European future will depend on the way the entire European continent shapes up, instead of focusing on several European countries only; if we soon start with building up the comprehensive vision of Europe, than we will be have that powerful tool I spoke of, in our hands; because any love, almost any love lasts for some time and then starts dying out. I am not aware of your own experience, but this is the standard. The eternal love, that unfortunate love that follows us until the day we die existed in middle ages. In 21st century, when one love fails you, one seeks for another. If Europe remains that bureaucratic as it proved to be during the past years, the people whose love is not responded to with warm feelings, will seek for its replacement; and the first best, or first worst solution is, of course, the nationalism. Because, great loves are rare and it is dangerous to promote European idea without sufficient energy involved. The idea of nationalism, although wrong, is strong and easily replaces other ideas, which only means that we are at the beginning of a new horrible phase in European history, again.

Without the entirety, Europe will not be stable and will not be able to play the role in the world history. My message is the following: it is of course true that the positive forces in the Balkan countries are decisive, but we also need the positive energy to come from Europe. Such energy must not be limited to material one, it must contain idealism and emotion. I may have the wrong impression, since I do not live in Central Europe, but it seems to me that Europe itself and the idea of Europe is gradually being narrowed down to protocol, bureaucracy, procedural matters. There is a deficit of European identity in Europe alone, and in order for it to give us some more hope, it has to create that positive energy. Europe itself has to know why the European model is better than any other. That is why this combination of solidarity, freedom, market economy, born in Europe, seems better than any other elsewhere. I do not see much enthusiasm about this project and I do not see many people in Europe trying to persuade the World that European model is good and that it is not only about economy or development of cities, that it is not only about reaching quality standards, but that this project equally involves soul. We do need European soul, and we have one, in spite of not being the EU members.

Zoran Đinđić speech at Churchill Symposium at University of Zurich, Switzerland on 10 October 2002.

We  publish this text on the occasion of 13 years of the assassination of  dr Zoran Đunđić, Prime Minister of the Republic Serbia (2001 – 2003).

We deeply thank the “Zoran Đinđić Foundation” for this text. 


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