Starting from 1 January 2019, Romania will be exercising the Presidency of the Council of the European Union over a six months period, a key project for the entire society. One component of the strategy for promoting a Presidency of the Council of the European Union is represented by the motto (the slogan) that the Member State chooses in order to be used during its term at the helm of the Council.
The motto “Cohesion, a common European value” represents the result of a series of institutional consultations relying on the proposals submitted by 21 prestigious representatives of the academic, research and mass-media environments and it integrates the vision that Romania projects onto its mandate as Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2019.
REFERENCES RELATED TO THE MOTTO
The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union arrives at an important moment for the future of the Community project. The agenda of the Presidency will bring the citizen to the forefront, as our efforts will focus mainly on those dossiers that have an immediate and direct impact on the everyday life of the citizens living inside the European Community.
In such a context, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union is entrusted with the important responsibility to contribute to strengthening the Union’s unity, through the priority topics introduced in this debate, an ideal that should be consistently followed. By exercising its role of an impartial mediator, as well as that of a consensus facilitator, Romania shall seek to ensure the cohesion of the Members States facing the current challenges, as well as the need to re-define together the future of the European Union.
This effort, that the Romanian Presidency is ready to commit itself to, aims to increase the credibility of the European Union in the eyes of the European citizens, to bring them closer to the decision-making process taking place in Brussels and, implicitly, to make more efficient the way the European project is implemented. The cohesion of the Community is quite often mentioned in the speeches delivered by the European leaders. For example, in his foreword to the “White Paper on the Future of Europe”, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, made a reference to the principle of unity among Members States, stating that “as we decide which way to go, we should remember that Europe has always been at its best when we are united, bold and confident that we can shape our future together.”
Through this motto, “Cohesion, a common European value”, we wish to underline the importance of returning to the key objectives of the Community project. Therefore, cohesion may be deemed an elemental common value for the European Union’s coherence and capacity to achieve its objectives, as stated in art. 3 of the Treaty on European Union, stipulating that one of the most important common objectives is to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion among Member States. Cohesion was introduced as a mechanism as early as since 1957, as part of regional policies, and acquired its own dimension in 1988, when define its objective as a key instrument for achieving economic, social and territorial convergence within the European Union. In 1993, the Maastricht Treaty endowed the same policy with a specific substance and a significant increase of the allocated budget took place simultaneously, as this mechanism turned into the key instrument supporting development at European level.
In time, the cohesion policy adapted itself to the new challenges in order to be able to stimulate a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth within the European Union. In the context where the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, for the first six months of 2019, is placed during a time for reflection on the future Multiannual Financial Framework, as well as during a time for analysis of the results derived from the “2020 Europe” Strategy, the highlight placed on cohesion in this motto becomes paramount in order to remind the Member States about the importance of this policy for the objectives set through the European project. The indirect message that the motto passes on is related to the importance of the cohesion policy and its key role in achieving the objective of closing the economic, social and territorial gaps among the Member States, regions and citizens of the European Union. The responsibility that lies on the shoulders of our nation, taking also into account the symbols associated with the Great Union Centennial, is to stay faithful to the European credo and to encourage unity, respect and mutual trust among the Member States, as well as an equal treatment for all European Union citizens
The concept of European cohesion was also mentioned repeatedly by a number of prestigious historical figures of Romania. Thus, Nicolae Titulescu (1882 – 1941), minister of Foreign Affairs (1926 – 1927, 1932 – 1936) and President of the General Assembly of the League of Nations (1930, 1931), stated as early as in 1928: “The Romanian policy is dominated by a perfect convergence among the Romanian and European interests. All our current and future actions in the foreign policy area have been derived and will be derived from this key assumption.”
The 22 speeches reunited in a volume entitled “Arguments for Peace” lead obviously to the conclusion that Nicolae Titulescu had a clear pro-European inclination, and that he had faith in the role that Europe must play and, more than that, the duty that Europe has to commit itself to this role, to build a better world; as he was saying, “millions of people died during the Great War so that a new international life may be born”. Many of the ideas formulated by Titulescu proved to be prophetic: “As long as the countries do not share, based on a rational plan, their production and consumption capacities, peace shall always be endangered.” Besides, Europe could be nothing else but a whole, for the Romanian diplomat: “Europe seeks its unity. As long as we stand together, united, how could we ever doubt our victory?”
In 1934, another action initiated in Romania, in view of European unification, was the “Esperanto Appeal for Achieving the United States of Europe”: “Europeans: 1. Have faith in the European Union, against all odds and opposition; 2. During the national elections, vote only for a party that fights for creation of a unified economic European area; 3. Disseminate the idea of setting up a common Parliament among national European Parliaments; 4. Ask for a common European army to be set-up and for a single European currency to be introduced; 5. Ask for an autonomous status for countries, regions and cities within the United States of Europe; 6. Education must be delivered according to the European spirit; 7. Respect the other nationalities; 8. Fight for freeing economy from the burden of bureaucracy; 9. Fight for laws and institutions that allow social development; 10. Those who fight for the European Union favour world peace.” Two decades later these were the very ideas that laid the foundation of the European Community.
Grigore Gafencu (1892 – 1957), minister of Foreign Affairs in 1938 – 1940, devoted himself to promoting the idea of European unity following World War Two, especially during his exile. In his numerous speeches, Gafencu underlined the main reasons that introduce cohesion at European level as a topic for discussion: the economic recovery of European countries, the possibility to provide common security as well as to maintain peace by organizing a strong political body at continental level. “There is only one Europe! Even with a mutilated and divided body, the European idea is still inseparable. Europe cannot be reborn in the West, as long as it dies in the East. There is no other place where the word Europe may find a stronger answer that in the Eastern countries. The idea of European unity represents a pledge for peace and, therefore, a pledge for freedom, for an entire half of continent”, Grigore Gafencu stated in 1948, in the context of setting-up the Romanian Group for a United Europe, coordinated by himself with the purpose of bringing together all the Romanian in exile so that they can freely express “their faith in the European idea”.
Also, the vision of Iuliu Maniu (1873 – 1953), whose exemplary personality made him one of the founding fathers of the Great Union, Romanian prime-minister in 1928 – 1930 and 1932 – 1933, would not focus on the ideal of national unification alone, but also was aiming at the ideal of European cohesion, a wish that represented a recurring element of his vision throughout the inter-war period. Maniu gave priority to economic integration in this process of European unification: “As long as the 30 tiny countries of Europe keep waging war against each other, with ever changing borders and customs, more and more congested, the European goods – overloaded by customs tax and levies from country to country, with communication routes that cross each other and paralyse each other due to administrative and currency-related bottlenecks, especially in an environment poisoned by political enmities – cannot face the competition.”
Another personality from the same age, Dimitrie Gusti (1880 – 1955), philosopher, sociologist, professor and ethicist, former president of the Romanian Academy, felt that European unification represented an objective law of sociology and hired the Romanian Social Institute to support this idea, thus amplifying its debate in the public arena. “The European issue if, first and foremost, an issue of European conscience and European patriotism. We could state that European patriotism must be built alongside a sense of psychological security. We keep talking about political and economic security, however, what is missing, first and foremost, is the psychological security. Europe is a dynamic concept, that becomes and will become exactly what the Europeans are able to build. Europe goes through a deadly crisis, which is not due to the weakness caused by age, but because of the fact that it is not organized, because of the fact that 27 countries live within a limited space, in a state of horrible anarchy. Europe, however, is a continent of the human being, a spiritual creation, a splendid display of will and thought. Therefore, Europe does not mean merely a territory, but a social-spiritual idea, it is the league of European peoples. A European federation shall not be a competitor for the League of Nations, instead it will have to become its best adjunct, contributing to its force of cohesion”, Gusti stated in the public speech closing the cycle organized by the Romanian Social Institute in 1929-1930, “Social Experience and Contemporary Politics”.
Finally, in the light of celebrating, in 2019, 160 years since the Union of Romanian Principalities, achieved under the leadership of prince Alexandru Iona Cuza (1820 – 1873) and under the first national motto, “All in one”, we may consider that the motto “Cohesion, a common European value” represents an appeal made towards unity and coherence by the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, from the perspective of embracing such lines of action that are able to provide strength to the European Union, so that it may answer to the needs of and reconnect to its citizens.
WHY WE CHOSE “COHESION, A SHARED EUROPEAN VALUE” AS THE MOTTO OF THE ROMANIAN PRESIDENCY OF THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
The European Union is predicated on all Member States’ commitment to promoting and strengthening peace, stability and prosperity in a cohesive manner, acting together on the basis of a set of shared values, whilst valuing and embracing each Member State’s linguistic and cultural diversity.
The founding principles and traditional policies have been at the basis of the European Union and constantly contributed to the development of the European project. Cohesion is a concept that, in the development of the European project, has guided European actions and policies from the goal to “strengthen the unity of their economies and to ensure their harmonious development by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less favoured regions”, mentioned in the preamble of the Treaty of Rome of 1957, through to the development of an explicit cohesion policy, consecrated in the Single European Act of 1986.
As a European mechanism and policy, cohesion has gradually become the main instrument of investment through structural funds, orbited by other European policies and actions, such as the Common Agricultural Policy, Regional Policy, Common Fisheries Policy, Transport, Energy and Telecommunications.
Cohesion has permanently gained new dimensions, from the need for economic unity, to the development of an emerging European cohesion policy (advanced by the European Commission after 1970) and to the development of its social dimension – focused on the labour market, social inclusion, social infrastructure (from the Single European Act of 1986 to the Lisbon goals) and, gradually, to the development of a political dimension, based on an integrated approach to reducing the gaps between Member States in cross-cutting areas (after 1988). Thus, cohesion has acquired an essential role in the harmonious progress of the European project and is the prerequisite premise for the future consolidation of the Union.
Beyond historic milestones and the consecrated role of the cohesion principle in the advancement of the European project, the latest challenges further emphasise the need to strengthen the European Union’s unity and cohesion. European leaders have permanently (and more so in the context of current challenges) recalled the need to consolidate the European sense of cohesion, as the best manner of acting towards a more united and stronger Europe.
Romania is taking over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time on the backdrop of European and international developments and dynamics that are defining for the future of the overall European project, which makes strengthening European unity and cohesion more important than ever. From this perspective, we believed it was necessary to place Cohesion as the central theme and defining element for this mandate’s the profile and lines of action. The motto of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, “Cohesion, a shared European value”, illustrates our belief that our vision of the future must be built around the cohesion principle, which covers many of the realities we have to accommodate at European level.
The complex negotiation of the future budget of the European Union (Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027), United Kingdom’s process of exiting the European Union, European Parliamentary elections and the process of reflection on Europe’s future are ample, interrelated processes that will take place in the first half of 2019.
The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union proposes to facilitate the works of the Council of the European Union in this complex context, by promoting cohesion in all its three dimensions.
First, it is necessary to consolidate cohesion in political action, helping us to re-establish the connections between Member States, European institutions and citizens. Thus, we see cohesion as both a shared European value and an expression of solidarity between the European Union’s states and regions.
At the same time, the economic dimension of cohesion is a catalyst in reducing the development disparities between Member States and between regions and for strengthening the single market. We also consider economic cohesion from the standpoint of the new Member States, for which full integration on the single market is critical, for the benefit of all citizens.
Finally, cohesion should be promoted in its social dimension, also understood through the imperative of ensuring social convergence and preserving the four fundamental freedoms of the European Union’s Internal Market.
To reflect the cohesion imperative, the priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union have been declined under the four pillars for action: 1. Europe of Convergence, 2. Europe of Security, 3. Europe, a stronger global actor and 4. Europe of shared values.
Under the Pillar 1, “Europe of Convergence”, the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union will aim to ensure convergence and cohesion for equal and sustainable development for all citizens and Member States, by increasing competitiveness and reducing development gaps, promoting connectivity and digitalisation, incentivising entrepreneurship and strengthening industrial policy.
Under Pillar 2, “Europe of Security”, the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union will aim to build a safe Europe, by a bringing a plus of cohesion between Member States faced with the new security challenges threatening citizens, and by supporting relevant cooperation initiatives.
Under Pillar 3, “Europe as a stronger global actor” – the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union will support the consolidation of Europe’s global role, by promoting the enlargement policy, Union’s actions in the neighbourhood, continuing the implementation of the Global Strategy, ensuring the resources required and implementing the European Union’s global commitments.
Under Pillar 4, “Europe of shared values”, the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union will aim to motivate solidarity and cohesion in the European Union, by promoting policies of non-discrimination, equal chances and equal treatment of women and men, as well by increasing citizens’ participation, in particular of the young, in European debates.
Through this inclusive and constructive approach, the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union proposes itself to ensure continuity and substantially progress the current European agenda, for the benefit of all.