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Published: November 30, 2004

 
 

Europe: Old World or New?

Switzerland's ambassador to Italy,
Alexis Lautenberg
The roundtable discussion, which was held in July 2004, was moderated by strategy+business editor-in-chief Randall Rothenberg at Villa Matrignano, a private estate built in the 13th century, in the hills overlooking Spoleto, Italy.

S+B: There's an obvious first question: Does anyone here consider himself first and foremost a European?

Pineau-Valencienne: At the present time, I think you'd have a unanimous "no" answer around the table. For years, I have taught business students. Just a week ago, I was meeting one of my former students, who's been out of school for two years, and he was telling me, "When I was getting out of school, I was very proud to be European. My colleagues were telling me, 'We are no longer Italians or Spanish or French. We are Europeans.' Now after two years of work, I'm not sure I understand what Europe is. I'm not sure we are going to lose our nationalities, as I was hoping two years ago."

Napolitano: But what do we mean by "European"? We have a regulatory Europe, we have a historical Europe, we have cultural Europe. From that standpoint, it's very difficult to say if you are European or not. In many senses I am a European. In other senses, I'm not.

Habbel: I think it comes down to very personal, emotional, human aspects. We all have our homes and our relatives. It really all starts with, "I'm from the Rhineland or Bavaria." So personally and maybe emotionally, it's probably very difficult to consider oneself a European.

But if you broaden out from the personal community to the business community, then we might consider ourselves more as Europeans -- because of the ways we interact across boundaries. But the difficulty there, at least for me, is that we haven't yet found ways to open things up fast enough. We still have our national regulations. We still have our local flavors. It's very tough to open that up.

Confalonieri: The challenge reminds me of something Cavour, perhaps Italy's greatest head of state, said in 1860: "We have done Italy. We have to do Italians."

Rolf Habbel
Positive Values

Lautenberg: I have found much of the discussion about Europe to be too defensive. We seem to be trying to mark our position vis-à-vis the U.S., against the Chinese, against others. The time has come for us to try to identify with positive values -- values that go beyond the institutional question of the European Union.

Kissling: Doesn't Switzerland provide a good example of how differences can blend into something common? Because in Switzerland, as in Europe generally, you have the French-speaking people, and Italian-speaking, and German-speaking. Nevertheless, you feel Swiss. Why can Switzerland be like that, but not Europe as a whole?

Lautenberg: The reason may be the guarantees that allow the regions, the minorities, to keep their identities. This is what brings Switzerland together.

Helbig: Shouldn't that be an example for Europe -- bringing different regions and mentalities together?

Meier: But the institutional issues get in the way. What I fear is that we will interpret Europe as more bureaucracy, more centralization.
A couple of days ago, I was at a Fourth of July party in Vienna with U.S. friends. Being there reminded me that the basis of the United States was a constitution. It was a very clear text. By chance, yesterday -- in the newspaper Die Welt -- I saw the text of the proposed constitution for Europe. It's so many pages long that even the flight from Düsseldorf to Rome was not enough to go through it. What's worse, it bored you to death. If we want to be European, if we want to define it, we have to have clear values expressed in a document like this.

 
 
 
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