Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, French president from 1974 to 1981, is a proponent of greater integration in the European Union. He presided over the Convention on the Future of the European Union, which drew up a Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. The treaty was never ratified after voters in France and the Netherlands rejected it in 2005. It was replaced with the Lisbon Treaty. In an interview with German daily Der Tagesspiegel, Mr. Giscard d’Estaing spoke about the need for a common European identity to strengthen the European Union’s international role.
Mr. Giscard d’Estaing, you’ve just published a book on the current state of our Continent’s politics with the subtitle “Europe’s Last Chance.” That’s rather pessimistic.
True. But look at the situation right now: The European system is in retreat. I wouldn’t speak of a return to nationalism. But on the other hand, that concept is growing in popularity that nation states are what can solve the big problems. Europe is not seen as an ensemble that takes action collectively. Even though that’s exactly the vision that one should wish for.
In the recent European Parliament election, a fifth of all voters chose parties that in some form reject the European Union. Why?
It’s the crisis. Unemployment in the E.U. is on average 12 percent, growth is weak. The European system has up till now had no answer to this. That’s why the public is abandoning the European idea…
…and even in Germany, where the economy is doing fairly OK, the euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has established itself.
To be honest, that doesn’t unsettle me very much. It’s part of democracy that opinions and attitudes are constantly in flux in the public. Sometimes extreme tendencies come to the surface. But it’s very rare that an actual majority develops from that. The current problem is different. Europe no longer has a common goal. After World War II the goal was peace, then the political organization of Western Europe. Since 1990 Europe hasn’t had a goal to strive towards.