European Union: 50 Years of Freedom

Article excerpt

The European Union celebrated its 50th anniversary this weekend. As we look back on its unprecedented achievements, we must also look forward to new challenges. Europe has been a force for good throughout the past 50 years. This anniversary is the moment to update our common project, which, in the age of globalization, is more relevant than ever.

The case for Europe remains compelling. I could explain the rationale for common approaches on energy policy and climate protection. I could set out why we need the single market to match economic growth with social justice. Or I could defend the need to build a strong and efficient European Union, able to shape globalization according to European values and interests.

But on this occasion, I want above all to focus on the values that, more than anything else, define the European Union (EU) and its history: freedom and solidarity.

Throughout these 50 years, the EU has been an inspiration and a force for freedom and solidarity. Two defining moments in my life illustrate this.

The first was the Portuguese Revolution of 1974. I was just 18 years old and, like most young people in Portugal, I wanted to get rid of the dictatorship that denied my compatriots what other Western Europeans already enjoyed.

We could not read the books or write the articles we wanted. Political activity was controlled by the security forces. We lived in a backward and closed society. The revolution changed all that. And thanks to the solidarity of Western democracies, thanks to the perspective of becoming a member of the European family, freedom won the day - in my country, and at the same time in Spain and Greece, too.

The second experience was the change throughout Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, building on the determination for freedom shown in Budapest, Hungary in 1956 and Prague in former Czechoslovakia in 1968, initiated in Poland and culminating in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain in 1989. Here again, freedom was the goal, and Europe the inspiration. And here again, solidarity proved essential.

Through these experiences, I realized that Europe means freedom and solidarity. …