Standing up for diversity, prosperity, and progress.
The open letter written by Spain’s Pedro Sánchez, “As prime minister, I refuse to let Catalan separatists undermine Spanish democracy” (The Guardian, 7 November 2019) contains much that is relevant to the United Kingdom. It implicitly raises the question of what the UK will do if Scotland seeks independence. Will Nicola Sturgeon be tried for sedition and sent to prison? Will England unilaterally seize Scotland’s oil and gas fields? Will wearing the kilt be banned?
More seriously, the letter pinpoints why Europe depends on the integrity of its member states. That may seem obvious, but a patchwork quilt is only held together by its stitches and when populist moths chew holes in the middle it is likely to disintegrate. Sánchez writes:
“Europe, above all, is about freedom, peace and progress. We must move forward with these values and make it the leading model of integration and social justice, one that protects its citizens. The Europe that we aspire to, the Europe that we need, the Europe we are building is based on democratic stability within our states and cannot accept the unilateral breach of its integrity. The Europe we admire has been built on the principle of overlapping identities and equality for all citizens, and on the rejection of nationalist ideologies and extremism.”
That last sentence echoes a sentiment expressed the previous day by Martin Kettle in “It’s not just Britain that’s breaking up, Europe is too” (The Guardian, 6 November 2019). He refers to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, when the countries of Europe had an opportunity to renew and revalidate lost identities while forging democratic alliances that might guarantee a more prosperous and peaceful future. Kettle remarks:
“The dream of 1989 may have come and gone. Brexit is one of the many things that mark the death of the more naive versions of that dream. But the fact remains: In a 21st-century world over which Europeans exercise diminishing control, countries in Europe – even peripheral ones, such as Britain – will still be disproportionately dependent on Europe’s shared peace, shared trade, shared values, shared security and a host of other practical links.”
In other words, with all its inevitable points of contention, unity in diversity is stronger and more resilient than fragmentation. In this increasingly difficult century – on course to be visited by severe political, economic, and social setbacks brought about by the climate crisis and its assorted ill effects – European nations must set aside their differences and pull together. Only that way will they have a chance of survival.
Back in 1989, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev wisely argued:
“Europeans can meet the challenges of the coming century only by pooling their efforts. We are convinced that what they need is one Europe – peaceful and democratic, a Europe that maintains all its diversity and common humanistic ideas, a prosperous Europe that extends its hand to the rest of the world.”