Three decades after the fall of the Berlin wall, Europe is once again at a crossroads. In 1989 and the years that followed, the Soviet Union ceased to exist and Germany was unified. The newly independent, once Communist states – including my home country of Poland – embarked on the road to democracy, free markets, and the rule of law. Poland was welcomed back into the European family, and we joined the ranks of Nato. But Europe now faces a threat to its hard-won unity.
The threat can be seen in the imminent departure of the United Kingdom, violent protests in France, and the rise of insurgent political parties across the continent rebelling against arbitrary power concentrated in the hands of bureaucrats in Brussels. These forces are fuelled by a litany of legitimate grievances, not least of which is the handling of the refugee crisis and voters’ sense that their voices are not being heard by their representatives.
Many of the problems that bedevil Europe today originate beyond our borders and range from migration to energy and national security. A solution to those problems calls for a renewed commitment to European unity alongside the trans-Atlantic alliance that has ensured the continent’s security for seven decades. But as Europe seeks a path forward, we must choose between two starkly different visions of our future.
The path that Europe finds itself on today forces the continent’s ancient nations to abandon their uniqueness and vital interests and submit to the heavy hand of unelected bureaucrats. It is a profoundly undemocratic path and many European voters no longer seem to accept it.
There is an alternative vision that will strengthen the bonds of our Union: a more inclusive Europe that respects the identities, aspirations, and traditions of all its members, large and small, east and west and celebrates our diversity while drawing strength from shared interests and the values that unite us.