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Seeking an Inclusive European Unity - President Higgins on the future of the EU

Date: Thu 10th Oct, 2019 | 10:00

We are living with the simultaneous occurrence of deep challenges: of environmental survival; of human need, in terms of the most basic essentials for full citizenship and participation; and of deepening inequality with an ever more unregulated and unaccountable concentration of wealth at the global level.

A meaningful European unity must not only deliver cohesiveness within and between its member states, but also recognize our global interdependence, and be emancipatory in offering to a diversity of peoples a renewed sense of “belonging,” a “belonging” that is intergenerational, culturally pluralist and that recognizes both the rational and spiritual sources of human rights.

It is my belief that there is an urgent need in both scholarship and a diplomacy that at present is trapped in a narrow theory of interests, to change by making new connections between economics, ecology and ethics, thus forging a new path on which we can travel together.

Our Europe must bring under control what is currently unaccountable, what is undermining public trust in democracy and what defines us as simply insatiable, individualistic consumers.

To achieve this vision requires a paradigm shift in theory, policy and practice: It demands no less than an interrogation and a departure from many of our assumptions regarding what is appropriate for achieving the economic, social and environmental well-being of our citizens. The role of the state in enhancing the lives of citizens needs to be articulated anew, and the concept of sovereignty redefined, in such a way that it is defined and understood as something that can be shared, can flow for the benefit of citizens beyond borders.

The Europe in which we will achieve unity must be one in which our shared ambitions are pursued with openness and a recognition that social and environmental considerations can no longer be subordinated to the narrow metrics of extreme market ideology.

We must do this not just for our benefit, but for the future generations to whom we, surely, have a responsibility to create a peaceful, harmonious world that is supported by a sustainable vision of economy and society, and enriched by a diversity of cultures.


This is an article from World Review: The State of Democracy, a special section that examines global policy and affairs through the perspectives of thought leaders and commentators, as presented in the New York Times.

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 10, 2019, Section S, Page 2 in The New York Times International Edition.