Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Europe's pains

After a couple of great weeks under the sun, I took the plane to return home and resume work on the exciting projects I am involved in. So I read the newspapers to get some info about what is up over here and I am stunned at the mess in which France is these days. Actually this gives me more food for thought as I have been wondering about Europe's future since last year's fiasco with the European Constitution.

I feel sad about it because I grew up very close to the French culture. It seems so difficult to do things differently there, to try new policies and to move ahead. The French people always disagree and systematically refuse to follow reforms that an elected government decides. I don't necessarily like what the current government does, nor the methods they are using to force new legislation without prior debate on the pretense that there is a "crisis situation" or an "emergency" (it's a bit like the concentration of power in the executive branch in the US under the current President). But still, this is the policy they want to conduct and they were elected to govern the country. Unless the representative democracy is no longer as representative as we assume it to be, in which case we are headed for some pretty spectacular events in France.

In fact I believe the issue of how modern democracy works (not) is something we need to deal with at European level too. In Europe the imbalance between demands for more rights (or the protection of rights we can no longer afford) and firm rejection of obligations is probably one of the biggest threats for the continent's future. As is the tendency of politicians to justify what does not work by blaming Brussels and to conveniently forget the multiple benefits their countries are actually getting from the EU. In fact, that drives me nuts because Europe actually has a model of development and civilisation to offer as an example for the world:

  1. individual liberties better guaranteed than anywhere else in the world

  2. welfare and protection systems way stronger than in most developed countries

  3. ambitious programmes of public infrastructure making Eastern European countries more prosperous

  4. a commitment to protect the environment second to none on the planet

  5. education systems that provide good basic education to a majority of the population in a better way than in most developed countries

  6. peaceful and stable economic development for over 60 years and a positive influence on geopolitical stability in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in the Middle-East

So why the heck is Europe in such a mess? Perhaps it is time for European leaders to read and get some inspiration from Rifkin's book "The European Dream". And by the way, perhaps the statistical tools we are using to measure development do not adequately reflect human development: for example sales of guns in the US are accounted for in the country's GDP, but I doubt they contribute to human development or human well-being.

In the mean time, China and India keep growing...


  1. Welcome back - have missed your comments...

  2. Thanks David. Transition has been an interesting experience from FWI average temperature of 28°C to Paris temperature of 3°C at the time of landing :(