As a follow-up to the December 2000 issue of Futuribles "Can Europe Be Saved?" and to the forum at which Michel Drancourt and Jean-Jacques Salomon made a rallying appeal to Europe, we are publishing this month three new viewpoints on European integration.
Michel Drancourt opens the debate. What has become of the "founding fathers'" great plan for Europe, he asks? All that is left is an "ersatz Europe" limited to commercial, economic and monetary matters, with the last of these as perhaps the only one that has a political dimension. A Europe without either passion or soul -it exists, however, albeit cheapened, and its leaders no longer share any common vision or ambitions. This makes Europe fragile, and it could well fall apart if ever it is faced with a major crisis.
André Lebeau's response is that the era in which the European project was promoted by visionary statesmen is over. Europe was born of the suffering that creates heroes; today's peaceful Europe creates only mediocre political leaders. And the top-down process of the early days has been replaced by a bottom-up approach to integration. "European construction develops at a deep level in communities and welds them together." It is therefore progressing, but not without encountering obstacles such as the power struggles between politicians locked into their national structures. Does this mean regretting the dream of an imperial Europe along the lines of the American superpower? André Lebeau is not so sure: Europe is moving forward, little by little...
No, says André-Yves Portnoff: Europe is not developing from the bottom up -or else it is a "dwarf" variety- because we lack daring innovators and a propitious climate for such innovation, we do not know how to forge the skills and generate the synergies required for the task.
André-Yves Portnoff examines in particular the problem of research and development; he argues that it is not so much a matter of means (including money) as of culture and of issues linked to the superstructures that stifle the spirit of enterprise, prevent initiatives from flourishing, and hinder the growth of the networks that in future will replace the old-fashioned ways.
He is especially critical of French society, arguing that the areas where France excels -nuclear power, the high-speed train (TGV), Airbus, Ariane- are all the products of state initiatives superbly implemented by top public servants, but now the era of large-scale public-sector markets has ended and the opportunities in future will be in the private sector. Yet in France and in Europe, though neither the ideas nor the means are lacking, there is hostility to change and people cling to out-of-date models. They paralyze the potential actors, hinder the creation of networks that would now be all the more efficient because the vast bureaucracies of the past have been superseded.
Times are changing, but Europe has not realized this. Even if it still has new ideas, initiatives are stifled, partnerships do not exist and European society is inflexible.