A Europe of Solidarity, Democracy and Sustainability


“The European project is about respecting, understanding and supporting each other.”

When Europe talks mainly about money, debt and whom to blame for the deep crisis we now face – something is profoundly wrong.

The European project is about respecting, understanding and supporting each other. This is why the Greek crisis is our common European crisis. It is not just a German-Greek or North South antagonism. Our problem is that citizens no longer trust their politicians and institutions. And politicians and institutions have lost contact with their citizens.

The process of European integration has been world history of the first order. The fact that the nations of the Old Continent which were once sworn enemies have managed to live together peacefully and successfully for more than 60 years is an achievement admired in many parts of the world. Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the USA have seen the EU as an established model for peaceful, crossborder integration.

Unlike military alliances such as NATO, the EU’s appeal is based on hope for democratic cooperation rather than fear of one’s neighbours or ambition to dominate.

The only people who do not appear to like the European Union today are its citizens. They see it as bureaucratic, cold and far away. Politicians of all stripes and from all Member States have contributed to shaping this image of Europe. They can count on domestic beer house applause when they portray ‘Brussels’ as an undemocratic colossus. Whenever Europeans are given the chance – through referenda – to have a direct say on common projects, they have always voted NO. The Danes, the British and the Swedes opposed the Euro and now feel confirmed in having stayed outside the common currency. The French and the Dutch rejected the common EU Constitution; the Irish rejected the Lisbon Treaty. The British referendum is still to come. The recent Greek referendum was an outcry for dignity, solidarity and practical help – and a NO to further austerity policies. But it did not change the dialogue of the deaf. It created frustration, fear and hate.

If Europe is to recover and stand up, the initiative must come from us – the citizens. We as civil society should hear the wake- up call.

It is wrong to just complain about our politicians: we elected them.

It is wrong to condemn our European institutions: we allowed them to administer us.

It is up to us to revitalize in Europe our values and principles such as democracy, solidarity and sustainability. These are enshrined in the Treaty of Rome. Instead of hoping that growth, free trade and more consumption will solve our problems, we should make democracy, solidarity and sustainability work for us. It is up to us to create a humane economy, insist on social justice and firmly claim fair access to our common wealth for all Europeans – and all people on earth.

So what to do next? Avoid blaming each other. Look for common ground. Listen, understand, then talk, meet, support each other in reshaping OUR Europe.

hannes lorenzenForum Synergies, ARC 2020, PREPARE – and many more- can play their part. It’s is not up to us to tell the Greek people what to do to solve their crisis. We should be ready to help, not to give orders. When in the 1980s Ceausescu decided to destroy villages in Romania to install State Cooperatives instead, “Villages Romains” – a movement of village people from France and Belgium – was born. People drove with trucks to Romania and created twinning projects and help-structures between their villages. And Ceausescu failed to achieve his crazy project. There is much more scope for living creativity. And it’s not just about Greece. We have our specific problems in all our countries and regions, and our neighbours around Europe have them too. We have good reason to stand together.

Hannes Lorenzen July 2015

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About Hannes Lorenzen 45 Articles

Hannes Lorenzen was senior adviser to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg from 1985 to 2019. Before starting his career in the European institutions, he carried out research, coordination and evaluation work on rural development projects with the Technical Service of the German Government. On the international level Hannes Lorenzen is co-founder of Genetic Resources Action International (www.grain.org) and co-president of the European Rural Development Network Forum Synergies (www.forum-synergies.eu). He is also co-founder of PREPARE, the "Partnership for Rural Europe" network for Central and Eastern European Member States (www.preparenetwork.org), serving as chairman and president until 2016. He co-founded ARC2020 and is its president since 2016. Closer to home, Hannes chairs a local rural development organization on his home island of Pellworm in North Friesland, Germany, which works o organic farming, renewable energy production, soft tourism and nature protection projects in a local dimension.

Hannes Lorenzen a été conseiller auprès de la Commission de l’Agriculture et du Développement Rural du Parlement Européen à Bruxelles et à Strasbourg de 1985 à 2019. Avant d’entamer sa carrière au sein des institutions européennes, il a effectué des travaux de recherche, de coordination et d’évaluation de projets de développement rural au sein du service coopération du gouvernement allemand. Au niveau international, Hannes LORENZEN est co-fondateur de Forum Synergies, réseau européen de développement rural (www.forum-synergies.eu). Il a cofondé ARC2020 et en est le président depuis 2016. Hannes préside aussi une organisation locale de développement rural sur son île natale de PELLWORM, en Allemagne. Cette organisation travaille sur des projets d’agriculture biologique, de production d’énergie renouvelable, de tourisme doux et de protection de la nature à l’échelle locale. Sur l’île il est aussi engagé avec des jeunes agriculteurs dans le développement et la reproduction des semences paysannes en bio et la biodiversité en agriculture. Hannes a toujours vu l’agriCulture française au cœur de l’intégration européenne. L’amour et le respect des français pour leurs paysans et l’appréciation de la “bonne bouffe” ont aussi été une flammèche pour se lancer dans cette nouvelle aventure du projet “La résilience de nos compagnes” de ARC2020. Même si un petit virus empêche Hannes de voyager pour l’instant, il est déjà en route pour rencontrer plein de monde qui bouge pour une transition juste et attirante…