Making [My Nation] Great Again: Trump, May and Great Lost Nations

The long-awaited speech by British PM Theresa May has been watched and commented upon around the world. Its keypoints were not surprising, but their delivery did sound paradoxical at moments.

May announced the incompatibility of her agenda with membership of the European Single Market, but in the same breath insisted on ‘bold, ambitious and comprehensive deals’ with the EU. She indicated that an exit from the European Court of Justice was imminent and some cherrypicking in the Customs Union most likely (not willing to pay 10% extra tariffs). She tried to console Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but unsuccessfully so, since within the hour the Scottish PM issued a statement not to be in agreement. Mrs. May attempted to put to rest any anxieties of the other European by underscoring that ‘it is not in Britain’s interest if the EU would unravel’. The speech’s refrain was ‘trade, trade, trade’ and global glory. It abounded in references to ‘making Great Britain great again, recovering its role as an open, global trade nation’, albeit with borders hypercontrolled. The PM’s speech was rich in visions of ambitious deals with friends old and new, but without an inkling of how exactly such deals would be negotiated.

In short, the fog, which had surrounded the Brexit speculations since June 2016 was lifted a little, but not fully. The ‘how-to-Brexit’ question remained unresolved, most likely since very few people have a clue on how to deal with the disentanglement, which a hard Brexit would necessitate. It may be that in the end a large portion of the EU legal ‘acquis’ of before June 2016 will just simply be relabeled UK law, to avoid part of that unravelling mess.

Independently from the fact, that it would not be uninteresting to challenge all the remaining 27 EU Prime Ministers to deliver their own versions of a Europe speech like May’s, no longer hiding all the national peculiar egotisms which paralyzes Europe, at a deeper level something else is revealed. What emerges all around the Western world in response to the real and complex economic and social-cultural challenges is a trend which proposes a flight back into an imagery of regaining ‘a great nation’ which upon sober reflection never existed.

“Making America great again”, “Making Great-Britain great again”, “Maak Nederland Weer van Ons”: these slogans pop-up all over the place. Superficially speaking ‘We want our country back’ sounds like a legitimate desire. Every human being wishes to feel ‘home’, somewhere. But if you dig deeper into what the ‘lost nation’ stands for, the responses are rather diverse to the point of being totally incompatible. Nobody, especially not the young, have any desire to return to the 1950s (for them the prehistoric land before internet and cell-phones). Nobody wishes to relax at night in front of a television set broadcasting two national channels in black-and-white. Nobody wishes to revive working conditions that kill off people before the age of 45. And most women do not want to find themselves fulltime behind the kitchensink again.  So ‘our land’ is a very blurred metaphore, echoing very different senses of belonging, familiarity, and control. Powerful, so it appears, but the conversation about what the ‘great nation’ really means has barely started. And thus, instead of being in a back-to-the-future scenario, we find ourselves in a controversial ff-to-a-past-that-never-existed scheme.  This does not constitute a very productive route to follow and thus demands from us –urgently – clear alternatives.

Godelieve van Heteren, chair European Movement in the Netherlands (EBN)

For Theresa May’s full speech, see: //

administrator_ebnMaking [My Nation] Great Again: Trump, May and Great Lost Nations
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High time for Europe to step up in defense of liberal values

Impressions of the EU Poort “Scenarios for a post-American Europe”, Dec 15, 2016

‘Europe has to step up urgently and engage in the defense of liberal values in a world which is scared, confused and increasingly polarized, and most likely abandoned by the US with more isolationist policies on the horizon after Trump’s election.’ This was one of the stark messages which The Guardian policy editor for Brexit and former Washington Bureau chief Dan Roberts shared with his audience in the EBN Urgency debate in Nieuwspoort on Thursday December 15.

The very animated debate set the tone for the crucial engagement with the great global transitions, which the EBN wishes to stimulate in the coming year. In the confusion after Brexit and the Italian referendum and in the leadup to crucial elections in several European member-states in 2017, the call for a vital rethink of Europe is growing louder by the day. Around the globe, we hear many voices urging a much more fundamental revisiting of the deeper causes of all the social unrest, uncertainty and malaise that also affect our continent. There are a wide variety of appeals to work much more energetically against isolationism and exclusion politics. In fact, the ‘Trump moment’ and ‘American retreat from the world’ according to some may also constitute a window of opportunity for the rest of the world to redraw its own positions and international relations, more independently of the American hegemon.

Dan Roberts gave a succinct analysis of the causes of Trump’s election and reflected on his recent transition back from the US to Europe. He commented on how Europe to outsiders, visitors and migrants still constituted a hugely attractive environment, for its organized communities, social safety nets, stable institutions and relative peace. But he emphasized that nothing should be taken for granted. Europe should free itself from its inward-looking anxiety, step up and relate more effectively to the changing world.

Wim Boonstra (Rabo bank) commented on the various ways in which European cooperation is currently under threat. High (youth) unemployment figures in many countries, in otherwise ageing societies, an unbalanced policy mix, with monetary policy losing its effectiveness, and little consensus in policy circles on how to move forward all undermine trust in the effectiveness of European cooperation. Better communication of the positive results of European integration is highly necessary, but not enough. Politicians should be fairer and stop abusing Europe, Boonstra maintained. He urged for safeguarding the internal market and the European freedoms, and a more pragmatic approach towards economic policy with more flexibility in times of recession. Boonstra made a plea for greater emphasis on how to increase the speed of reform in order to improve long-term growth potential and sustainability of public finance, improve labour market flexibility, access to quality education and social security to help people to adapt to change.

Kenyan former TV journalist and international relations lecturer Josh Maiyo approached the question of Europe’s new roles in the world from the perspective of the rapid geopolitical reshuffles, which are happening under our eyes. He commented in detail on the example of how China is stepping in the vacuum drawn by a too inward-looking Europe and an isolationist America. Maiyo – too – clamoured for Europe to regain a more significant role in promoting human rights and values, and fairer trade relations which could benefit the younger generations and development in Europe and Africa alike.

For the powerpoints presented during the evening, see below:
EBN Presentation by Josh Maiyo
EBN Presentation by Wim Boonstra
EBN Intro presentation

For a short filminterview with Roberts, Boonstra and Maiyo:

administrator_ebnHigh time for Europe to step up in defense of liberal values
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Cheer up, shape up! This is your moment Trump is geen natuurramp

Ruim 48 uur nadat de helft van de Amerikanen Donald Trump het Witte Huis in heeft gestemd zitten mensen overal ter wereld zich achter de oren te krabben over hoe deze Trump-overwinning te duiden. Knap lastig omdat de New Yorkse mediafiguur Trump bewezen heeft dagelijks van script te kunnen veranderen.  ‘He may not govern as he campaigned’.

Europese Trump-vrienden van Farage tot Wilders meldden zich reeds enthousiast. Ze kondigden aan dat ook het ‘uitmesten’ van de hele Augiasstal van de bestaande politiek in Europa aanstaande was. Tweets met ‘Ook-Wij-Grijpen-Ons-Land-Terug’ teksten zijn niet van de lucht.

Op sommige plekken wordt men hier heel zenuwachtig van. Veel Democraten zijn in collectieve depressie na de slopende campagne en nederlaag. Europese progressieven en gematigden vragen zich angstig af welke echoes de Trump verkiezing teweeg zal brengen in de aanstaande verkiezingen. Commentatoren wijzen op het gevaar van afbraak van progressieve verworvenheden. Ze zijn bezorgd over het CoP21 klimaatverdrag, de Irandeal, Obamacare, de benoeming van een nieuwe rechter het Amerikaanse Hoogste Gerechtshof. Ze vrezen instabiliteit in internationale betrekkingen, handelsverdragen, het Amerikaanse klimaatbeleid, het internationale veiligheidsbeleid, de betrekkingen met nabuurlanden als Mexico. Ze vrezen een dramatische neoconservatieve terugval die vooral vrouwen, minderheden, LGBTs zou raken.

Dit zijn bloedserieuze zorgen, maar de toonzetting van het debat laat ook een gevaarlijk soort verlamming zien. Men praat alsof belangrijke progressieve verworvenheden per acuut verloren zijn, en niet dieper zitten ingebed in instituties en afspraken. Men reageert alsof belangrijke waarden niet verder gedragen worden door energieke mensen, los van wie de politieke boss is. Men maakt zich te afhankelijk van de vrees van de dag. Zeker, de verdeeldheid is diep, de polarisatie en grofheid in veel huidig politiek verkeer is ongekend. Maar dit is natuurramp, noch een tijd voor paralyse

Het is een zwaar appèl tot nieuw dieper engagement, juist omdat we al veel langer in een periode zitten van grote fundamentele transities: ecologisch, economisch, sociaal-cultureel. Trump zou niet moeten verbazen, hij is onderdeel van de grote politieke verwarring, die niet louter economisch, maar ook diep cultureel is.

Dus analyseer. Scherp.

Net als in analyses van populismen in Europa, laten de Amerikaanse verkiezingsanalyses zien dat het deels lage middenklasse witte kiezers zijn die Trump aan zijn overwinning hebben geholpen. Het zijn deels mensen die in de Rust Belt van Amerika de afgelopen decennia hun leven op de kop gezet hebben gezien, crisis op crisis hebben meegemaakt, economisch niet vooruit zijn gekomen en hiervoor verklaringen hebben gezocht.

Er spelen daarnaast ook andere, donkere sentimenten: seksisme, racisme. Trump is ook aan de macht gebracht door politieke luiheid of desinteresse, doordat mensen thuis zijn gebleven. Sins of omission. Dit is geen Amerikaans probleem, maar mondiaal. Mensen die een open maatschappijvorm voorstaan zou dit aan het hart moeten gaan.

We zouden kunnen beginnen bij de keiharde realiteit dat er grote groepen mensen zijn die systematisch niet hebben meegeprofitteerd van de algehele welvaartstoename in de Westerse wereld. Er is teveel weggekeken van mensen die hun vertrouwde manieren van leven hebben zien verdwijnen en niet het gevoel hebben dat de veranderingen hun veel goeds hebben gebracht. Er zijn mensen die de complexiteit en snelheid van het huidige leven een drama vinden, of zich om andere redenen overbodig of buitengesloten voelen. In onze gehypte ‘succes’ cultuur zijn veel mensen ook echt buitengesloten, genegeerd, voorbijgestreefd of belazerd door het systeem. Trump noemt dit deel van zijn kiezers de ‘forgotten people’. Hij heeft zich er als een Media-messias over ontfermd. Dit is de zoveelste keer dat men meer vertrouwen stelt in iemand als Trump dan in mensen met progressieve agenda’s of politieke ervaring. Dat te tackelen, daar zit de werkelijke uitdaging. Dat is geen public relations oefening, men moet echt aan de bak. Wie Trump zag zitten in het Witte Huis bij zijn eerste bezoek aan Obama kon ook waarnemen dat de man begint te beseffen dat het menens is. Game time is over. En dat geldt eigenlijk voor iedereen.

Wie zichzelf toekomstgericht vindt zou dit moment dus moeten omarmen als dé uitdaging van de eeuw. In plaats van te zwelgen in morele woede, of moedeloos de conservatieve storm uit te zitten, is dit het moment voor de al veel te lang uitgestelde progressieve evolutie. Het einde van de oude politiek zit al decennia in de lucht, de nieuwe politiek is overal in de maak. Met of zonder Trump moet er echt iets gebeuren.

Hoog tijd dus de scherpste pijnpunten in de grote veranderingen die de wereld doormaakt veel fundamenteler onder ogen te zien en werkbare antwoorden te zoeken. Het moeten economisch solide praktische antwoorden zijn. Het moeten antwoorden zijn die een duurzamere, socialere orde scheppen. Het moeten antwoorden zijn die voldoende cultureel divers zijn om mensen in te sluiten, voorbij de huidige domme polarisaties en gevaarlijke egotrips. En in tegenstelling tot conservatieve scenario’s moeten het antwoorden zijn die een open samenleving bevorderen, geen ‘eigen volk eerst’, omdat isolationisme op termijn niet loont.

Voor Europa betekent dit: Laat een progressievere toekomstagenda niet zo makkelijk wegslippen. Ga er nu eens aan staan. Put hoop uit de grote vitale energie en nieuwe kennis die er in jongere generaties zit. Bestrijd aanvallen op fundamentele mensenrechten. Houd de ruimtes voor vernieuwing open. Kom uit de comfortabele ruimtes van het eigen gelijk naar de plekken waar de uitsluitingen het hardst worden gevoeld en vindt menswaardige oplossingen. Zet intelligentie sociaal in, minder egocentrisch, minder hijgerig, dienstbaarder. Opnieuw.

Godelieve van Heteren, EBN bestuur

***De EBN zal de komende maanden een aantal actualiteitendebatten organiseren over de gevolgen van de Amerikaanse verkiezingen en gepaste Europese antwoorden, ook in het licht van de landelijke verkiezingen in ons land en andere Europese landen in 2017.

administrator_ebnCheer up, shape up! This is your moment Trump is geen natuurramp
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Waarom Trump won, door Michael Moore

Filmer en Amerikaans progressief kritikaster Michael Moore trok de afgelopen maanden door Amerika om mensen te mobiliseren te gaan stemmen. Als iemand die de Amerikaanse samenleving op zijn duimpje kent schreef hij voor de zomer reeds zijn Vijf Redenen waarom Trump zal winnen. Voor iedereen die wil nadenken over alternatieven, zeker ook in Europa: behartenswaardig.


administrator_ebnWaarom Trump won, door Michael Moore
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De Europese ondergrond: Europa en de grote transities

Van 9-11 september jl. vond in Den Haag de lancering van het Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM) plaats. De titel van dit initiatief is ontleend aan een boek uit 2013 van de Amerikaanse schrijver Benjamin Barber If Mayors Ruled the World. Sinds het verschijnen ervan hebben veel mensen op de these van het boek gereageerd. Die luidt dat de echte vernieuwing in de wereld van vandaag niet meer komt vanuit natie-staten, maar uit andere verbanden, zoals stedelijke netwerken.

Honderd burgemeesters uit de hele wereld waren in Den Haag samengestroomd om deze verplaatsing van de politiek extra te onderstrepen. Ze bespraken hoe men gezamenlijk de grote uitdagingen van de wereld tegemoet kan treden.

In Den Haag – net als op vele andere plaatsen in de wereld – zien we momenteel een rare paradox. Onzeker over alle snelle veranderingen ontvluchten veel mensen de globaliseringstrends en roepen een ‘goede oude natiestaat-tijd’ aan. Neem de jongste Brexit debatten met redeneringen, vol van nostalgie en uiteindelijk totaal contraproductief , met name voor de mensen die zich terecht het meeste zorgen maken. Wie vervolgens op natiestaat niveau gaat kijken naar hoe de politiek het daar voor de mensen doet, ziet de nodige verwarring, stagnatie, frictie, en toenemende polarisatie en geen duidelijke oplossingen voor de sociale kwesties van onze tijd en grote uitdagingen in de wereld. De oude structuren zijn in toenemende mate machteloos.

De Brusselse hoogleraar Eric Coryn vatte het in Den Haag bij de Global Parliament of Mayors kernachtig samen: We zitten met een 20ste-eeuwse bril (van natie-staten) op te kijken naar de uitdagingen van de 21ste eeuw die zich via andere fora (sommige meer lokaal, andere meer internationaal) voltrekken.

Dat gaat dus nooit werken. Onder alle problemen van vandaag door loopt een aantal fundamentelere transities die echt nieuw denken en nieuwe organisatie vergen. Die economische, ecologische en sociale trends houd je niet tegen met muren bij Bergen op Zoom (of tussen Mexico en de US). Die trends moet je dieper analyseren en adresseren.

Het goede nieuws is gelukkig dat je op tal van plekken het nieuwe denken kunt zien ontstaan. Of het nu gaat over de nieuwe economie (the next Economy), de nieuwe energievormen, nieuwe sociale modellen, zoals in het hernieuwd denken over werkverhoudingen en basisinkomen, de nieuwe democratie: een groeiend aantal mensen engageert zich met de discussies die hierover worden gevoerd. De vragen zijn weliswaar soms heel oud, maar de antwoorden zullen opnieuw moeten worden gevonden. Het is zaak deze positieve bewegingen te versterken.

Ook om de huidige malaise in Europa te keren zal een diepere blikwende nodig zijn. Europa leidt aan de euvels van het natiestaatdenken en komt zo dus niet vooruit. Een radicale herijking is nodig. Niet primair institutioneel, maar allereerst sociaal en intellectueel (institutiebouw zou intellectuele vooruitgang moeten volgen). De EBN wil graag bijdragen Europa opnieuw te doordenken vanuit de vernieuwende trends die overal gaande zijn. We noemen dat een gesprek over ‘de Europese ondergrond’. We zullen onze activiteiten meer richten op deze fundamentele veranderingen en werken graag samen met individuen en organisaties die met deze transities bezig zijn.

In het kader van onze koepelorganisatie EMI is hierover in Brussel afgelopen week ook een debat gestart, in de aanloop naar de herdenking van het Congres van Den Haag in 2018. Was de motivatie van onze EBN voorgangers bij de oprichting van de Europese beweging in 1948 het consolideren van vrede na de Tweede Wereldoorlog, ons doel voor 2018 zou kunnen zijn het voorkomen van meer geweld, door de verminderen van alle vruchteloze polarisaties en uitsluiting, die momenteel onder onze ogen tot bittere globale conflicten leiden.

We hopen op uw betrokkenheid en medewerking bij de activiteiten de komende tijd.

Het EBN bestuur

administrator_ebnDe Europese ondergrond: Europa en de grote transities
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Auteur Pieter Steinz overleden

Op maandag 29 augustus is op 52-jarige leeftijd journalist, schrijver en directeur van het Nederlands Letterenfonds Pieter Steinz overleden aan de gevolgen van de spierziekte ALS. Pieter Steinz schreef vele boeken, maar werd nationaal geliefd met zijn boek ‘Made in Europe’, over de vele culturele uitingen die Europa verbinden. Vanwege deze publicatie werd hij in 2014 met grote meerderheid verkozen tot EBN EuroNederlander van het Jaar. De Europese Beweging Nederland wil Pieter Steinz haar grote dankbaarheid en respect betonen voor zijn tomeloze inzet en hart voor Europa! RIP.

administrator_ebnAuteur Pieter Steinz overleden
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Unravelling – A Citizens’ Appeal

A game involving trillions of pounds is unfolding under the eyes of us, stunned citizens. The game is seemingly without rules. ‘Uncharted territory’ is what you hear the pundits reiterate. But if you take a few steps back, the logic of what unfolds is not so impenetrable nor are the rules of what is being played out. The question is: Can we still turn this game of tragic unravelling around?

Starting point is a world in which globalizing forces drive people towards new opportunities but also into huge uncertainties.  The pace of life has increased, capital is global and moves around at the speed of light. The economy with its many new technological innovations holds promise for some, but bypasses others and also poses a range of genuine threats. For one thing, it causes a general decline in availability of paid labour, which especially affects people whose skill sets have been restricted to the types of labour that are no longer required.

Our culture is speedy, consumerist, ephemeral. Through a relentless bombardement of images in our 24/7 media the good life, success, selfworth are constantly being defined and redefined, frequently by commercial parties, in pervasive, often subliminal fashions.

In real economic terms, we see mounting inequitalities between groups of people, across many faultlines, globally and closer to home: the Dhaka slumdweller versus the Paris resident; the city of London versus the backstreets of Hull; the settled middle-aged versus the aspiring young jobless. These are real inequities. Economically and culturally, many people experience the pressures of competition and constant comparison: ‘Do I still count for something in this turbulent world’. Psychologically, it leaves many people feeling powerless, rendered redundant, literally or metaphorically.

It should be no surprise that in such an environment slogans like ‘I will get my country back’, or ‘We will regain control of our own destiny’ resonate deeply. It should also be no wonder that people use scapegoats, as ‘projection screens’ to express their fundamental dissatisfaction and frustration: Westminster, Brussels, Foreigners, the migrant next-door ‘who has taken my job and does not speak my language’.

Much of the turbulence we currently witness in the UK is just an eruption of what is brewing all around the globe, everywhere. It is linked to the chaos in the deeper senses of connectedness and disconnection which people experience. Humans are social animals. Physiologically we depend on each other; psychologically we do too. Many people currently wonder ‘where they belong’.

However, the indispensable, calmer reflection on how we do or do not connect, and how we should connect, is hard to come by in the tweeting world of hyped-up communication.

This lack of reflection pertains to the nature of both our connectedness and the disconnections that exist around us.

We have by no means reflected enough on the way in which we relate as people in our modern world, on our interconnectedness. ‘Connectivity’ is evoked a lot as a slogan, but its fair description is still poorly developed. Connections are being forged in millions of different ways, often without the large majority of us being aware of how closely knit some ties between us are. What strikes me the most in the aftermath of the Brexit vote is how many stories are now surfacing about ways in which people connect to something ‘European’ without giving it this name.

Our tightly woven social fabric is full of such connections-without-names, connections we take for granted until a bomb is dropped on them and relations start to unravel.

Similary, our painful points of disconnect and disaffection have been neglected for too long. The current Brexit chaos is just one expression of what this may lead to. We should have learned from the lesson of history that it is unwise to ignore systematically the fate of a large number of people who perceive current economic or social systems as not benefiting them or feel otherwise disenfranchised.

Manipulating these deeper feelings of disenfranchisement – as a growing number of politicians do – obliges one to be careful. Politicians should not tinker cluelessly with such deeper dissatisfactions. Once deeper anger is unleashed and not channeled it is a few steps to violence, war, outright destruction. I fear this is what we may be witnessing soon in the Brexit aftermath and could be witnessing in many other regions of Europe and around the world.

The grim irony of a Brexit without any proper steering, and of many comparable situations in our recent past, is that the economic pressures which lie at the root of much of the unrest will only mount. The initial euphoria around ‘taking control’ will rapidly turn sour, since the self-appointed leaders will not really address the deeper disconnectedness which has driven much of the protest votes. A huge price will be paid, which will be borne first and foremost by those who cried out.

In a human-all-too-human way the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote is not hard to understand. Markets and currencies drop. Speculators seek their chances. The multiple pre-existing tensions in the political classes now come to a climactic eruption, with many people leaving the scene with slamming doors; a prime minister stepping down, an opposition leader under siege, media working after hours.

The EU-leaders gather in urgency meetings, discussing the scenarios -which had of course been prepared already to some extent by quiet civil servants in Brussels or the Auswartiges Amt in Berlin. They decide to let the markets do their work. They wish to send out a clear warning signal to anybody who may wish to copy the Brexit scenario. They let play out some of the effects so that it is clear that an EU-exit vote is not a trifle matter, and voting has consequences. They force the UK government to shape up, take a stand and refuse to negotiate informally until the formal procedure for an exit, the famous art. 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, is being initiated. The official line for the first 72 hours is: Out is out.

All this is, of course, only a first move. The reality is, that unravelling all the relationships of 40 years of UK membership, plus the calculations around all the numerous connections which the UK has with the EU economy constitutes a gigantic task. Europe and the UK need each other for a flourishing internal market, they need each other to deal with the rest of the world, they need each other for a cultural dialectic in the European arena, they need each other’s differences. There are a hundred million lager and small connections between the British Isles and the continent, a fraction of which is now finally being made visual by our media.

So while unraveling may give an army of constitutional and business lawyers work for decades, the economic and social realities will not allow for much patience with the huge (opportunity) costs that this may incur.

The various ‘models’ for ‘new’ relationships with the UK are now being held up for scrutiny. Could a Norwegian, Swiss, Icelandic model of striking new deals apply? What would they involve in practice? Legal and policy think tanks turn out paper after paper on the pros and cons of various scenarios.  While on the streets of Hull, all people will notice is the threat of a recession and nobody really returning to them, now the campaign is over. This is just one of the other guillotine moments in history. Unless we break the deadlock.

Citzens’ appeal: could we change things around?
The grim irony is that very few of the Brexit voters will have a clue as to what happens next. The justified claim of people to have more sense of control over one’s destiny has once again be made a travesty.

The fate of people in Hull will be decided by the markets, like before. The decisive deliberations will move into the rooms of the politicians and the financial, economic, political experts, the same experts who were so vilified by the Brexit campaign, like before. People will not see much of their politicians, who will be too busy for a while with sorting out their own politicial futures. Like before.

And when things calm down, the outcome of countless deliberations in these specialized circles may become that 80 percent or more of what the current relationships between the UK and the EU are will just continue to exist, now within special treaties.

But at what price in the short and middle term? Paid by whom?

What is ultimately the most painful is that all the time and effort that will now go into ‘unravelling’ will not be used for the urgent construction of genuine alternatives for the deeper human and social disconnectedness that lies at the root of things. Huge chaos will drain all energy to damage control rather than to real engagement with the deeper transitions in our world that cause the unrest.

In light of these considerations, it may be wiser for all of us to take a very deep breath now and move to sensible, calmer discussions about more creative ways out of this quagmire. Could we?

Dr. Godelieve van Heteren, Erasmus University Rotterdam


(Former MP Dutch Labour Party and chair European Affairs Standing committee in the Dutch Parliament during the time of the Dutch 2005 EU referendum)

administrator_ebnUnravelling – A Citizens’ Appeal
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Another European guillotine moment and the big leap forward

In the midst of the frantic negotiations in the immediate aftermath of the UK EU referendum, the Brexit vote forces all Europeans to take stock.

A narrow majority of the British population (52%) has voted to exit the EU. This has led to joy and exhilaration in some quarters about the promise of ‘retaking control and reclaiming their own country’. Leave leader Boris Johnson went as far as calling the vote a ‘glorious moment for Great-Britain’.

Many Leave voters have stated this vote is expressing their sovereign desire, to which every citizen is entitled. However, the immediate aftermath of the referendum outcome has been dire. In the forty-eight hours after the Brexit verdict, we have witnessed the shocks of a massive drop in the markets and the value of the UK currency, a downward reset of the UK rating position, a threat that the UK may disintegrate with Scotland and Northern Ireland exploring independence, and a mounting outcry of young UK voters who predominantly wished to remain and feel disowned.

The UK voting map is a painful manifestation of deep class, regional and generational divisions and polarisations in the country. This is also echoed in the states of utter turmoil in both the Conservative and Labour parties. Moreover, while the Brexiteers hoped for coulance, the European Union’s response so far has been a blunt ‘out is out’. The EU leaders gather in Berlin and Brussels this week to control the damage. And the official message to the UK authorities has been: ‘If you wish this divorce, let’s make it a swift one.’

A civic movement like the European Movement is not a novice to turbulence. It has experienced a history of ups and downs since the Second World War. But the seismic proportions of the current upheaval require very careful analysis and a clear own focus. This is a ‘guillotine moment’ in European history, in which a number of deeper undercurrents converge in ways that could lead to very explosive situations.

Three of these trends have concerned us as European movement already for a long time:

  1. For decades, it has been clear that the big transitions brought about by globalisation need proper European reflection and new articulations. Whether it is rethinking the next economy (labour, employment, forms of postcapitalism), dealing with the ecological challenges in our world (energy, climate change), or addressing the many disruptions in established social practices and security, we feel that only by engaging with each other in Europe and the rest of the world we can face these trends and move forward in an ecologically sound and humane fashion.
  2. It is also our longstanding concern that in the various transformations that shape our world, many people are left behind. Here, our broad spectrum of European social traditions, in which a rich hue of historical reflections are embedded, could actually inspire us to think out more equitable systems. It is not the first time our continent has dealt with change. We could try and mobilize our best thinking and creativity to deal with the various gaps and inequities, which lead to so many people – young and old – feeling disenfranchised.
  3. We are also convinced that time has come to revisit our democratic and political institutions and make them fit to serve informed, inclusive, 21st century politics. We could share much better what has already been achieved in the European arena and critically reflect on this European ‘acquis’. We could rebalance the European project to make it a more social project. And display critical openness and invention to where more radical reforms would be required.

All these trends are multifaceted. They require the broadest possible input from citizens, our best energies. They ask for deeper wisdom, spaces for reflection, and take time. It could be done. We derive hope from the fact that Europe has a huge pool of talents (old and young). Europe has ways to advance deliberative democratic innovation. Europe’s civic strength and power are considerable, with many new movements on the scene. There is no lack of good ideas that could be brought to bear much more effectively in policies for the common good. For all these developments Europeans would need each other to establish new forms of collaboration and exchange, which would include those who now feel out of the game.

Given the enourmous civic tasks ahead of us, it is tragic to observe how much energy is currently lost in unproductive battle, false frames, anxiety politics and outdated antitheses.

The political and economic disaster we see unfold under our eyes in the wake of the Brexit vote drives home three major considerations:

  • The Brexit debates demonstrate how dangerous and utterly counter-produtcive much of the recent ‘elites, experts, intellectuals’ bashing can be in the face of the complexity of the situation and the avalanche of half-truths which circulate. Mind you, this is not to deny bad politics, indifferene of some in the political classes etc. But we need all intelligence out there in more constructive and engaging ways and need to identify urgently how this intelligence can be mobilized better.
  • The Brexit challenges should also remind us that institution building is tough and sometimes tedious labour. It involves much collective labour and requires intelligence, commitment, dialogue-, negotiation- and diplomacy skills, expertise, a will to deal with difference. It needs dedication and an ability to think ahead, emphaty and time to organize popular engagement. There are many points of criticism which could be made vis-à-vis the European institutions. But to throw sixty years of institution building into the carbage bin is unjustified and dangerous. In our world we will need institutions. Building them, maintaining them and reforming them when needed is hard work, for us all, with little time to waste.
  • The Brexit campaign and aftermath also underscore that a politics of hatred, scaremongering and entrenched enemy thinking which seems increasingly the norm in the too-fast, too-gratuitous media worlds of today – most of the time does not lead to anything constructive. Instead, as Europeans we should and could work harder towards better forms of explorative social dialogue instead of monolytic ideological grandstanding. The current Brexit situation also shows that easy references to left and right politics and explanations do not cover the complexities of what we are up against.

As constructive Europeans who think Europe should and could reform herself, we therefore believe that we need a big leap forward. This does not mean a leap into a superstate or other spoke images that have circulated of late. Rather, it means a bold mental leap of imagination, away from the trenches that divide us and hinder us to progress and deliver what we could if we would join the best of our capabilities.

We will therefore not acquiesce in a Brexit doom scenario. We will continue to connect to all Europeans in the UK and elsewhere who wish to operate in a similar spirit. We are a European Movement. We will move. Together.


Godelieve van Heteren, chair EBN

administrator_ebnAnother European guillotine moment and the big leap forward
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Brexit een feit… met onduidelijke consequenties…

In het UK EU referendum met een hoge opkomst hebben 52% van de Britten een Brexit in gang gezet. Het referendum heeft diepe kloven in het Verenigd Koninkrijk bloot gelegd: tussen generaties, regio’s, en klassen.

Zo stemden van de 18-24 jarigen 75% voor blijven in de EU, 56% van de 25-49 jarigen ook, maar van de 50-64 jarigen was slechts 44% in het Remain kamp, en van de 65-plussers slechts 39%.

En waar de Engelsen en Welsh in meerderheid voor een Brexit stemden, waren Schotten overweldigend en de Noord-Ieren in grote meerderheid voor een Remain.

Ook Londen verkoos in ruime mate een blijven in de EU, waar andere steden in Engeland een veel gemengder beeld te zien gaven, met een hoog aantal Brexit stemmers in traditionele Labour gebieden.

Deze uitslag zendt schokgolven rond ons continent en de wereld. De Brexit heeft substantiële consequenties die in de komende dagen en weken veel zichtbaarder zullen worden. Veel energie zal gestoken worden in ‘internal affairs’: in ‘stabilisering’ van de markten, in de praktische stappen van ontrafeling van alle relaties met het Verenigd Koninkrijk. Het is zaak dit niet te laten afleiden van het urgente werk dat nodig is om in Europa tot duurzame oplossingen te komen voor grote problemen. Een terugval in ieder-voor-zich nationalisme is niet de weg.

De EBN heeft zich steeds op het standpunt ‘better together’ gesteld (zie: //

De European Movement International kwam heden met het volgende statement:


administrator_ebnBrexit een feit… met onduidelijke consequenties…
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Open Letter to our British Neighbours 23-06-2016: Please Remain and Let’s Reclaim Europe Together

Today is vital day: for you, and for all of us in the rest of Europe. You will vote on remaining or not in the European Union, a vote with huge implications for all of us. We are holding our breath.

The last few months, many of us have been following your deliberations, have commented on them, have signed petitions, attended meetings, engaged in rallies and sent photos to the #HugABrit campaignJ). We have observed which arguments and anxieties prevailed on either side of your debate, we have seen the internal politics behind some. In fact, we are very familiar with your political arena, and all its challenges… because it is so close to our own: we experience the same around us, everyday, in our own countries.

And it is therefore – on sober final reflection, on this rainy Thursday morning – that we plea with you to remain.  In this turbulent world of ours, there is so much more that unites us than divides us. There are our shared histories, there is our recognition that without British liberalism and humour, our European arena will be a much duller place. There is the shared desire to deal properly with the big transitions in our world in the face of painful inequities and uncertainties for many. There is the shared will to embrace diversity and couleur locale.

We know the European Union is a flawed institutional construct, but it is something we have built together and can therefore transform and fix together. ‘Better together’ is not an empty slogan. It is a strong sense that we need our European pluralism and our diverse styles of dealing with issues combined to be stronger together. Whether it is dealing better with a more sustainable economic future for our continent and the world, facing migration, creating dignified lives for all or ending the devastating conflicts and wars that uproot so many people: we need each other fundamentally to progress.

As Europeans, if we would unite our creativity and intelligence smarter, we could do so much better. We do not need to be one grey mass. We can stay sovereign in our spirit and intellectual variety. Because we believe in this creative force for the future we have started with others the movement Reclaim Europe. And whatever the outcome of your referendum: we will be back with you shortly!

But for today we ask you as neighbours and friends:

For that better Europe: Please Remain!

The Board  of the European Movement in the Netherlands

administrator_ebnOpen Letter to our British Neighbours 23-06-2016: Please Remain and Let’s Reclaim Europe Together
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