Letter from the Publisher: A Call to Be Listened To

By Grapin, Jacqueline | European Affairs, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

Letter from the Publisher: A Call to Be Listened To


Grapin, Jacqueline, European Affairs


We recently lost one of the most respected figures in Europe, just at a time when he would have been most needed. Bronislaw Geremek, who died in a car accident in Brussels in July, was a former Polish foreign minister and then a distinguished member of the European Parliament. Historically, he was a pivotal figure in the fight of the Solidarity movement to end Communist rule in Poland and one of the leading statesmen of the democratic era that followed. A professor of history who had become Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland before being elected to the European Parliament, at 76, Geremek was in full stride as a man who had distilled personal and political wisdom from his involvement in history both as an historian and as an actor in European developments. He was a friend of the United States and one of the most ardent supporters of the European Union, who was Chairman of the Jean Monnet Foundation in Lausanne.

I remember meeting him by chance as we were both literally running down the street in the center of Warsaw on the 14th of July 1997, trying to reach in time the place where President Bill Clinton was going to address a huge crowd a few minutes later. All the buildings were decorated with American flags, and the crowds were full of excitement. It struck me that this high official--recognizable to everyone with his white beard--could walk freely in a public street, without a limousine or bodyguards: at every corner in the old city, people of all walks of life greeted him naturally. On his visits to The European Institute in Washington, he always conveyed his dedication to the goal of turning politics into a noble art. A difficult challenge, but perhaps not impossible.

At this juncture, amid confusion about how to surmount the crisis for the EU caused by the negative vote of the Irish electorate on the Lisbon Treaty, it is worth remembering the advice given by Professor Geremek in an article that appeared in Le Monde almost simultaneously with his death. (1) He stressed that every effort should be made to ensure that the treaty be ratified in all the other EU countries where it is signed. Don't ask the Irish people to vote on this again, Geremek said in substance, because the outcome of the Irish referendum should be respected and governments should not try to bypass the popular will. He recommended that the other 26 governments should do their best to ratify the treaty: whatever else, the result will be a text signed and ratified in a majority of the other 26 member states. In effect, a majority will have approved the Lisbon treaty, and that will add legitimacy for the European Council to proceed, together with the European Commission and the European Parliament, to implement some measures which do not require changes in the existing treaty. For instance, the Council can decide that the High Representative for the Common

Foreign and Security Policy (now Javier Solana) will from now on permanently chair the Council of Foreign Ministers and be responsible for a newly created European Foreign Service. …

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Letter from the Publisher: A Call to Be Listened To
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