Published on: 09 May 2016

Op-ed by Minister Bushatu published in the daily Panorama: "May 9th and the Europe we want"

66 years ago, the statement of French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman served as a starting point for laying the foundations of the project now known as the European Union.
 
At the core of the European project - impossible for the skeptics and difficult even for the most optimistic - stood not only economic cooperation but also inalienable objectives, such as peace and security.
 
The establishment of a community based upon the rule of law, an all-inclusive society accompanied by material prosperity, made EU the most enticing and successful political project.
 
After the end of World War II, the EU focused on the protection and consolidation of peace, democracy and human rights, the generous contribution to development and solidarity, fight against epidemics and implementation of high standards of food safety, environmental protection and climate change. These are some of the values and principles which bound the vision and project of the EU, making it an attractive model not only to countries of Central and Eastern Europe living under tyrannical regimes, but also to other continents.
 
66 years later, the European Union, in many instances, resembles a crisis management unit. The democratic crisis rooted in populism and technocracy, in the superiority of the intergovernmental method towards the communitarian, thus expanding not only the gap between west and east but also north and south of Europe, has turned the model of welfare state into a history of the past.
 
The financial crisis, the unsolved crisis of Greece’s debt, Ukraine, the yet unclear relations with Russia in terms of the European security architecture, the largest migratory wave since World War II followed by politics of fear and panic and the reluctance of the public opinion to face an ever-changing world: all of these are posing a challenge to integration, developmental and communication capabilities of the European Union.
 
On the eve of the UK referendum on whether to exit the EU, it seems that the optimism of the European project, embodied by the common euro currency and EU enlargement policy are being set aside by the tendency of fragmentation and division.
 
It is hard to deny that the EU project, more than from anything else, is suffering from a deep crisis of trust.
 
This lack of trust in the EU ability has created favorable ground for political populism, which is taking root in countries with consolidated democracies as well as in those with fragile democracies.
 
But while Europe is facing threats posed by terrorism and extremism that misuse religion, a few days ago Londoners elected the first ever Muslim mayor. This shows that lack of trust in the values of all-inclusiveness and open society is a challenge that can be overcome in the European space.
 
Despite turmoils faced by the EU, its example has been and remains inspirational to Albanians and our region. The success stories in our region, where peace and the spirit of cooperation now prevail, owes greatly to the unwavering support of the EU and our common perspective of being part of the European family and thus completing the process of democratic state- consolidation.
 
Finding mechanisms that speed up European integration such as the Berlin Process is necessary to further channel the EU assistance towards economic growth policies, connectivity and reduction of inequalities between Western Balkan countries and EU member states.
 
Our challenge remains on how to transform the peace achieved in our region into an area of security and prosperity, where living is worthwhile. This is a common challenge for the EU and Western Balkan countries, because in our case, more than an enlargement project, we should talk about a European consolidation project in the political, economic and security context.
 
In order to achieve this objective, we need not only confidence in ourselves and full, solid commitment in the process of European integration, but also in the European Union, which should not allow shadows of the past to eclipse the European future of the continent.

Op-Ed by Minister Bushati published at the Albanian daily "Panorama"