We Are Europe / Manifesto

Manifesto for re-building Europe from the bottom up

initiated by Ulrich Beck and Daniel Cohn-Bendit

A European Year of Volunteering for Everyone – for taxi drivers and theologians, for workers and the workless, for managers and musicians, for teachers and trainees, for sculptors and sous-chefs, for supreme court judges and senior citizens, for men and women – as a response to the euro crisis!

The young people of Europe may be better educated than ever before but they still feel powerless in the face of the looming bankruptcy of nation-states and the terminal decline of labor markets. Every fourth European under the age of 25 is unemployed. In the many places where disenfranchised young people have set up camp and made public protests they are clamoring for social justice. Wherever such camps are – in Spain, Portugal, the countries of North Africa, American cities or Moscow – this demand is being made with great force and fervor. Anger is mounting over a political system that rescues banks with eye-watering mountains of debt but squanders the future of young people in the process. But how much hope can be held out for a Europe with a steadily ageing population?

US President John F. Kennedy astounded the world with his idea of founding a Peace Corps. Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

We, the undersigned, wish to provide a mouthpiece for European civil society. For this reason, we are asking the European Commission and national governments, the European Parliament and national parliaments to create a Europe of actively employed citizens and to secure the financial and legal requirements for the European Year of Volunteering for Everyone – as a counter-model to the top-down Europe, the Europe of elites and technocrats that has prevailed up to now that considers itself responsible for forging the destiny of the citizenry of Europe – if need be, against its will. For it is this unspoken maxim of European politics that is threatening to destroy the entire European project.
The aim is to democratize the national democracies in order to rebuild Europe in the spirit of the rallying cry: Don’’t ask what Europe can do for you but ask what you can do for Europe – by Doing Europe!
No progressive thinker – from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Jürgen Habermas – ever wanted a democracy that consists merely in being able to periodically vote. The debt crisis that is currently driving Europe apart is not simply an economic problem but also a political one. We need a European civil society and the vision of younger generations if we are going to solve the burning issues of today. We cannot afford to allow Europe to be transformed into the target of an angry movement of citizens protesting against a Europe without Europeans. Europe cannot function without Europeans committed to its cause, and Europeans cannot do Europe unless they can breathe the air of freedom.

The practical action transcending the narrow bounds of nation-state, ethnicity and religion that the European Year of Volunteering for Everyone is meant to promote is not intended as an institutionalized fig leaf for European failures. The vision is instead to open up space for creativity. Far from being a means of providing hand-outs to unemployed youth, the European Year of Volunteering for Everyone is an act of self-assertion by European civil society: an act that can be used to construct a new proactive constitution from the bottom up in order to reestablish Europe’’s political creativity and legitimacy. Political freedom cannot survive in an atmosphere of fear. It only thrives and becomes established where people have a roof over their heads and know how they are going to live tomorrow and in their old age. That is why the European Year of Volunteering for Everyone needs a robust foundation of finance. We ask businesses in Europe to make their appropriate contribution.

If Europe is to develop a bottom-up culture, it cannot afford to fall back on predefined courses of action. The citizens of such a Europe will want to go to other countries and get involved in transnational problem areas in which national states are no longer able to offer appropriate solutions – environmental degradation, climate change, mass movements of refugees and migrants, and far-right radicalism. They will also want to make use of European networks of art, literature and theater as stages to promote the European cause. A new contract needs to be agreed between the state, the EU, the political structures of civil society, the market, social security and environmental sustainability.

What is good about Europe? What is the value of Europe to us? Which model could and should be the basis for Europe in the 21st century? These are open questions which urgently need to be addressed. For us in We are Europe the answer is this: Europe is a laboratory of political and social ideas without parallel anywhere else in the world. But what constitutes European identity? You might say that Europeanness arises out of dialog and dissent between the many different political cultures – of the Citoyen, the Citizen, the Staatsbuerger, the Burgermatschappij, the Ciudadano, the Obywatel. But Europe is also about irony; it is about being able to laugh about ourselves. There is no better way to fill Europe with life and laughter than for ordinary Europeans to come together to act on their own initiative.

Please support this initiative by signing it: http://manifest-europa.eu/

First Signatories

Yuri Andrukhovych, author; Attila Ara-Kovács, journalist; Jerzy Baszynski, journalist; Zygmunt Bauman, philosopher; Senta Berger, actress; Daniel Birnbaum, curator and Director of Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Mircea Cartarescu, writer; Patrice Chéreau, theatre and film director; Rudolf Chmel, literary specialist and former Minister for Culture of Slovakia; Jacques Delors, former EU-President; Gábor Demszky, former Mayor of Budapest; Chris Dercon, director of the London Tate Modern; Doris Dörrie, film-maker and writer; Tanja Dückers, author; Peter Eigen, founder of Transparency International; Olafur Eliasson, artist; Péter Esterházy, author; Ádám Fischer, conductor; Iván Fischer, music director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Konzerthaus Berlin; Joschka Fischer, former Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany; Jürgen Flimm, director of German Opera Berlin; Anthony Giddens, political scientist and sociologist; Alfred Grosser, publicist and political scientist; Ulla Gudmundson, ambassador of Sweden; Jürgen Habermas, philosopher; Miklós Haraszti, writer, former Media Freedom Representative of OSCE; Dunja Hayali, journalist; Uwe-Karsten Heye, publicist and former government spoekesman; Róza Hodosán, sociologist; Michal Hvorecký, writer; Eva Illouz, sociologist; Daniel Innerarity, social scientist and publicist; Gábor Iványi, pastor, rector of the John Wesley Theological College; Mary Kaldor, political scientist; Navid Kermani, islam scientist and writer; Imre Kertész, Nobel Prize winner for literature; Kasper König; Curator und Director of Museum Ludwig, Cologne; György Konrád, writer and former President of the Academy of Art Berlin; Rem Koolhaas, architect; Michael Krüger, writer and publisher; Adam Krzeminski, writer and journalist; Wolf Lepenies, former director of the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin; Jutta Limbach, former President of the Federal Constitutional Court of the Federal Republic of Germany and former President of the Goethe-Institute; Constanza Macras, choreographer; Claudio Magris, writer; Bálint Magyar, sociologist, former Hungarian Minister of Education; Sarat Maharaj; art historian and curator; Olga Mannheimer, author; Petros Markaris, writer; Imre Mécs, electronic engineer; Robert Menasse, writer; Adam Michnik, journalist and editor in chief Gazeta Wyborcza; Herta Müller, Nobel Price winner for literature; Anna Nedjalkova, Rector of Free University Varna; Hans Ulrich Obrist, curator and director Serpentine Gallery London; Arend Oetker, entrepreneur; Thomas Ostermeier, director of Schaubühne Berlin; Ioana Pârvulescu, writer; Petr Pithart, journalist and former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic; Andrei Gabriel Plesu, publicist, former Romanian Minister of Culture; Martin Pollack, publicist and author; Alek Popov, writer; László Rajek, architect; Ilma Rakusa, writer and translator; Peter Ruzicka, composer and director of festivals; Joachim Sartorius, author and former director of Berliner Festspiele; Saskia Sassen, social scientist; Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber; director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research; András Schiff, pianist; Helmut Schmidt, former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.