In this time of crisis, the main concern of the many Europeans surviving at close to subsistence is simply food and jobs – and prospects of a decent existence that includes peace, the prospect to earn income through work not alms, and an existence without fear.
But a sense of prospects requires a sense of the EU's vision. The EU needs sensible and powerful initiatives in response to the evolving global circumstances and challenges. This, though, can only happen if the EU has a genuine long-term vision for its survival as a Union. The vision, objectives and implications of the EU's Lisbon strategy and Europe 20-20-20 are not easily understandable and emotionally accessible. Maybe unsurprisingly, the European project is losing its appeal and interest for the population at large.
The founding fathers managed to inject visionary, long-term objectives that could catch attention and raise hope for a better and joint future. It is worth recalling what Robert Schuman said: “Europe before being a military alliance or an economic entity must be a cultural community in the highest sense of expression”.
A vision for Europe must respect certain basics, including fundamental European values related to Europe's cultural identity. Our political leaders must not be ashamed of the fact that the foundation of European culture was laid by the Greeks and strengthened by the Romans. Christianity contributed with basic principles that were renewed and rationalised by the Renaissance and Reformation.
The EU has an opportunity – and it has a mandate – to set an example for the promotion and protection of cultural and linguistic diversity, plurality and sustainability. Its policymaking should pay more attention to culture. The EU's multiannual financial framework for 2014-20, which is now under discussion, is an opportunity to promote culture-centred policy-making. In my view, the EU should decide to establish a European Local and Regional Culture Fund during its talks on the financial framework. Perhaps the Nobel peace prize might provide the necessary stimulation?