“There is no alternative to Europe”

For months, Europe has been making headlines: Greece, Ukraine, the Euro and debt crisis and now the refugee policy are keywords associated with rather negative developments. Europe does not only consist of crises and problems, however; much more stands behind the idea of Europe. At the Economic Forum of the Hanseatic city of Brilon/Germany, futurologist Ulrich Reinhardt stated that Europe was more than an economic area and must continue to grow closer.

Ulrich Reinhard talked with Tiding and pointed out where the opportunities of Europe lie. The Brilon Economic Forum was held in September for the 52nd time. The invitation was issued by the city of Brilon/Germany, member of Business Hanse, and Brilon Wirtschaft und Tourismus GmbH.

Tiding: You are a futurologist and are particularly interested in Europe. How many of your beliefs did you have to throw overboard in recent years?
Ulrich Reinhardt: None. I still believe firmly in Europe. Regardless of crises, the human being is always the focus. For me, Europe is more than merely an economic area. It is a community of values.

What values unite the citizens in Europe?
The citizens of Europe want a rapid end to the threatening social erosion and the majority are absolutely ready for moral renewals. The focus is on values that are oriented towards a cooperation of citizens. These include friendship and social justice as well as reliability.

In what direction is Europe heading? Does the one Europe exist at all? 

For me, there is no alternative to Europe. Certainly it is not a closed space, but rather lives and develops further. Every crisis also offers an opportunity that must be seized in order to jointly create a positive future.

But a foundation of values is needed for a common future. The refugee crisis does not really demonstrate that this common attitude exists. What needs to happen for Europe to become more than an economic area?
We need one thing above all: Time! Decades- old, in part even centuries-old, national traditions, behaviour patterns and views cannot be changed per treaty overnight. Especially the new Member States fear not being part of a prosperity union, which helps to increase the standard of living in their own country, but rather to have to provide assistance themselves. Here, information and common objectives are helping.

There is the European idea in the minds of citizens, and then there is Brussels. How far have the institutions departed from the original vision? 

At present, a lot of crisis management is required, which is why a discrepancy could be perceived in the short term between the vision of citizens and the activities in Brussels. The vision of Europe is still enduring, however, and in the long term in Brussels as well.

The precursor of the EU started as a “peace union”. Does this meaning of the political Europe still play any role at all in the minds of young Europeans?
Peace has become a matter of course for young Europeans. Never before in the history of Europe could we look back on such a long period of peace. 70 years without war – that is unparalleled. Even if the world is undergoing change, only a few consider the eventuality of war on their own doorstep.

Do people ascribe this success to Europe?
If they think about it, they definitely do. At the same time, as we know, you appreciate many things only once they are no longer there. In order not to have to make this bitter experience, however, it is necessary that we continue to grow closer in Europe.

Ulrich Reinhardt, 45, is the Scientific Head at the Foundation for Future Studies. He holds a professorship for empirical future research at the university of applied science in Heide/Germany.His research focuses on social change, leisure, consumer and tourism behaviour as well as research on Europe. Reinhardt is the initiator and idea provider for many research projects in Germany and Europe as well as a member of various consultancy circles.


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