The history of tomorrow

Happy 25th of April, belatedly

Dear European friends,

We write to you the day after Italy’s Festa della Liberazione and Portugal’s Dia da Liberdade to give you one last update on our open letter to Angela Merkel.

Last Thursday, European leaders held the European Council via conference call. They formally approved the € 540 billion proposed by the eurogroup. Such measures will become operative from the 1st of June.

The question of a larger recovery fund was not yet resolved. EU leaders “agreed to work towards establishing a recovery fund, which is needed and urgent” and that it should be “of a sufficient magnitude, targeted towards the sectors and geographical parts of Europe most affected”. Details, however, are left to be worked out by the EU commission, which is tasked to “urgently come up with a proposal”.

We are glad that a significant amount of resources will start to become available in a month’s time. It will be a larger sum than anticipated, available sooner than expected and with fewer conditions attached than were on the cards when the debate started.Commitment towards European solidarity was expressed. Was meaningful reform also embraced?

European recovery bonds were part of the proposal drafted by the EU Commission for the European Council, a proposal reportedly approved by Chancellor Merkel. Yet they are not mentioned in the conclusions of the meeting by President Michel.

Experts interpret this in different ways.

 Euroskeptic commentators like Brexiteer Ambrose Evans Pritchard feel unsurprisingly smug about such “vague agreement” and claim that “European leaders have dodged their moment of truth”. 

Supporters of the EU, too, have voiced reservations. Jan Techau, from German Marshall Fund, notes that the recovery fund, at least as it appears now, cannot hold a candle to eurobonds“.

However Alberto Alemanno, EU Law Professor in Paris and one of the signatories to our letter, sees reasons for cautious optimism. He believes that “delegating to the EU Commission the choice on EU Recovery Bonds” entails three major implications: communitarization (the shift in initiative from governments to the EU Commission), europeanization (a plan for all EU member states, not just those in the eurozone) and politicization (the EU Parliament regains a role). 

We think that what was set in motion on Thursday could prove to be a cautious step towards a more integrated Europe. At the same time we feel hesitant to make a final assessment at this stage and want to wait how things play out.

More efforts might be needed to ensure a strong European response to the pandemic. We should all await the proposal of the European Commission and not rule out reiterating some of the arguments of our open letter ahead of the European Council in June, once we will have a clearer picture of the situation.Until then we would like to hear your feedback, to share ideas, to stay in touch. If you would like to hear from us again, please click here.

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A few things remain to be said.

First, we want to express our gratitude to all of you. Your commitment to European solidarity reached people in countries across Europe, where our letter was published in several news outlets.We do not know if our letter was appreciated by its addressee, Chancellor Merkel, who received it again on Thursday morning with more than 2500 signatures. But we do know that it was a source of comfort to many citizens across Europe to see Europeans from many different countries united behind the ideal of European solidarity in the name of our shared history. 

Such shared history is the fabric of our European identity and we would love to continue to offer people reasons to embrace more aspects of our European heritage and feel hopeful for our shared future.

Yesterday was an important day in two European countries. In Italy la Festa della Liberazione marks the end of a two decades long fascist dictatorship and of WWII, 75 years ago. In Portugal el Dia da Liberdade celebrates the Carnation Revolution, which in 1974 peacefully ended almost 50 years of dictatorship. Both were key events in the historical processes that brought about the democratic republics of Italy and Portugal, which later became members of the EU. And both events are remembered with passion by the Italian and Portoguese people. We think it is important that the history of these days is talked about across Europe, and that their legacy is celebrated as part of our shared European heritage.  

We  leave you with two famous songs, the first, aired during the Portoguese Revolution, the second universally associated with the Italian resistance. They are called “Grândola Vila Morena” and “Bella Ciao”.

Grândola, vila morena was put on air by a popular national radio at 4 a.m. on the dawn of the revolution to let all the conspirators know that the troops were in their way to overthrow the dictatorship. The lyrics are quite appropriated because it talks about a town of fraternity, where the people are in command

Grândola, vila morena
Terra da fraternidade
O povo é quem mais ordena
Dentro de ti, ó cidade
This version of Bella Ciao was sung at the beginning of last March, in Bamberg, Germany, in sign of solidarity with the Italians affected by the pandemic. Reported to be first sung by partisans fighting in Emilia, Bella Ciao became the iconic chant of the Italian Resistance many years after its end, mostly due to its beautiful poignant lyrics

E quest’ è il fiore del partigiano
O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
E quest’è il fiore del partigiano
Morto per la libertà

Joint statement on today’s European Council

Today’s European Council meeting is crucial for the future of the EU and of its citizens. The magnitude of the current crisis will affect each and every one of us for years to come. So too, will the political decisions in response to it. This is why it is important that leaders participating in this historic summit listen to the voices of European citizens. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic citizens have organised initiatives ranging from petitions and policy proposals to open letters, urging a strong and united European response. They all expressed a sense of belonging, responsibility and agency of European citizenry in the face of the crisis.

We address you today as EU citizens and promoters of two such initiatives, the “Open letter to Angela Merkel” and the petition “Europe, a patient”, which have won the support of thousands of European citizens, and hundreds of leading thinkers of our time.

Standing together, we ask leaders to show European solidarity and embrace reform, beginning with the implementation of a joint European debt instrument.

European economies are interconnected and no recovery is possible acting in isolation. All member-states had to face the enormous threat of the pandemic. Everywhere across the EU, the efforts to stabilise the situation came at a huge cost, both human and economic. Without economic solidarity, these efforts are severely threatened. This virus is a shared predicament and should be faced as such. The pandemic knows no barriers between North and South, nor should it be permitted to create them.

A society as much as a union is as safe and as strong as its weakest members. In this dire situation the member-states need the EU to act as a united, political entity with a shared sense of responsibility and with common purpose. We can already see authoritarian forces taking advantage of the crisis and a seemingly fragmented Europe. It is only if EU structures inspire confidence that can we prevent this risk from spreading.

For these reasons we ask the European Council to reach an agreement on a joint European debt instrument to fund the economic recovery from the pandemic, thus signalling to the world that Europeans stand together in the face of this crisis and are ready to do whatever it takes to preserve our union and strengthen it in the face of hardship.

The time to make history – our message to Angela Merkel

Dear European friends,

We want to update you on the open letter to Angela Merkel in this crucial week for the EU.

This coming Thursday the European Council discusses the economic response to the pandemic. The meeting builds on that of the eurogroup, in which measures for up to € 500 billion were agreed.  On Thursday, the main point on the agenda will be the establishment of an even larger recovery fund, and crucially, its financing.

The creation of European bonds will be the central question and we have reasons to be carefully optimistic that European solidarity will be demonstrated in a meaningful way.

Last week the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for “recovery bonds” and the president of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen stressed the urgency of “innovative solutions to unlock massive public and private investment” in response to the crisis. 

Many European leaders, too, are pushing for reform. On March 25th, President of the EU Council Charles Michel received a letter signed by the political leaders of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland, Greece, Slovenia and Luxembourg demanding the creation of a “common debt instrument”, a plea they have repeated many times since. 

In their reluctance to embrace eurobonds the governments of Germany, Austria and the Netherlands look increasingly isolated, also because intellectuals and citizens like you are swaying the public opinion. 

In the Netherlands opposition to the government’s hard-line stance is voiced by many, including historian Hans Van Hoorst, one of the signatories to our letter, who mocked his country’s controversial finance minister Hoekstra as “the Ebenezer Scrooge of the EU”. 

In Germany there is a positive queue of open letters calling for European bonds. Leading journals have given a platform to their proponents (as in a recent interview in the SZ with Italian prime minister Conte) or endorsed them directly in editorials–most bitingly last week in Der Spiegel, where the government’s rejection of eurobonds was called “selfish, small-minded and cowardly”. 

German president Steinmeier appealed to the citizens to remember that  a pandemic is not a war, but a time for solidarity. And the German public shares this view. A recent ZDF poll showed that two thirds of the population, including voters of all parties (except for the AfD), are in favour of European solidarity. And Angela Merkel herself signalled yesterday, for the very first time, that she might be willing to go some steps further… 

Crises always bring change. The direction of this change depends on all of us.

Now is the time to unite as European citizens and build the EU of tomorrow, stronger, more integrated and more resilient, capable of protecting all its citizens from Rome to Amsterdam, from Madrid to Helsinki, from Paris to Berlin. 

This is why we are calling for your help.

Since our last update the number of signatories to our letter has more than doubled and is on course to reach 2000 today. Friends and kind volunteers have translated the letter into 7 languages: we speak different languages but we share the same ideals.

From now until Thursday we would like to increase both the support and the awareness of our open letter even further.

It would be of great help if you could share it, in EnglishGermanFrenchItalianSpanishPolish, and Dutch with your friends and colleagues (you can click on the social media icons below). 

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It would also be of great help if you could offer assistance or advice for publishing the letter in your country.

On Wednesday, the day before the European Council meeting, the letter will be sent again to Angela Merkel’s office as well as to all main European newspapers.

We will send a further update later this week. Your suggestions, questions, and feedback are always welcome so feel free to respond to this email.

Thank you again for being part of our pan-European call for solidarity.

Please stay safe and we talk again soon.

With our warmest regards
Andrea & Nina on behalf of the team (Gian Giacomo, Dominik, Felix, Jack)

EU Parliament votes to demand recovery bonds while 1500 citizens sign open letter to Merkel

The EU Parliament has voted resoundingly in favour of a motion asking a “massive” recovery plan financed by an increased EU budget, existing EU funds and recovery bonds guaranteed by the EU budget. The motion was approved by 395 votes in favour against 171.

Meanwhile more than 1500 European citizens, scholars and intellectuals have signed this open letter to Angela Merkel demanding her to lead the action in the EU council towards the creation of European bonds tied to the economic recovery from the pandemic-induced crisis.

EU leaders, including Angela Merkel, are expected to reach a decision on the rules and monetary sources of the Recovery Fund in the European Council on April, 23rd.

The open letter, which can be read in German, English, French, Italian and Spanish, can be signed inserting your details in the form below.

More than 1000 European citizens sign open letter to Merkel

More than a 1000 European citizens have signed this open letter to Angela Merkel calling for European bonds to finance the European recovery from the pandemics.

The letter ask Merkel to lead the European Council towards this historical step for the European Union.

It follows the complete list of signatories updated as Sunday the 12th of April.

Join them by filling in this form