Step by step Europe is getting on its feet after the economic and financial crisis that struck us in 2008. In spite of all the criticism and apocalyptic prophecies, the European Union, and the euro area in particular, have begun to show signs of recovery. However, the crisis has highlighted several aspects which I would like to draw your attention to, Gediminas Kirkilas, Deputy Speaker of Seimas, Chair of the Committee on European affairs wrote.
At the onset of the crisis, we have seen, unfortunately, too many Member States playing the game “everyone for himself.” We have not yet become a unified community of states responding to challenges collectively. This situation has to be changed in order to successfully implement the European Union project.
Crises, despite all the troubles, have one good feature: they give an opportunity to start over and make decisions that have been delayed for some reason.
The last crisis has demonstrated, among other things, a clear lack of leadership in Europe. We have to look for leaders. We have to look for both personalities and countries willing to take on leadership roles. I think that it is perfectly illustrated by the recent European elections. I have spent a couple of decades in politics and, therefore, I will allow myself to state that Eurosceptic parties won so many votes because, paradoxically, voters, other considerations apart, call for leadership in Europe. Europe is worth having leaders who have a clear vision and are able to take on responsibility.
And here all eyes are on Germany. Germany’s status and economic and political influence in Europe makes it take on the burden of leadership and responsibility. Of course, leadership is binding and even constraining. Leadership creates political pressure that your country will have to bear. I am convinced that Germany is ready for that. I could only remind you of Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski saying, “I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.”
We have recently seen such successful leadership emerging. This leadership has been one of the most important tools that helped to successfully deal with the financial crisis.
In order to successfully continue with the European Union project, Germany cannot remain just one of the Member States. The European Union cannot expect immediate change, but it must think about it and the initiatives for strengthening and consolidating the EU must be developed. It is particularly in this area that Germany can play a decisive role. The countries like Lithuania, I believe, will be your active partners.
I am greatly pleased that Germany begins to speak bolder about international responsibility more frequently. Challenges to the EU foreign and security policy also prompt its review and a breakthrough in this area. One of the biggest drawbacks here is the lack of the grand strategy and an ad hoc response to the processes taking place in the world. The European Union needs Germany taking an active role in finding the right balance between the economic benefits and the spread of the European values in the world.
The European Union faces major challenges. The Community will have to carry through internal reforms and deal with external challenges. We have to get ready for that. Germany’s active role in Europe is essential for us all to move forward.