Europe is in turmoil. And we are told to be afraid – for our safety, our culture, our jobs, our freedoms, our comfort, our future. We are told that there is no alternative – to the loss of job security, to diminishing salaries and prolonged working lives, to turning our neighbourhoods, our cities and our countries into fenced camps protected from designated enemies – the immigrants, the poor, the culturally, religiously, and ethnically different.
Is this the way forward in a Europe that is now home to millions of people from different backgrounds, many religious and cultural dispositions, and many cross-border connections? In this Europe it makes no sense to close the borders, to play the game of good insiders and bad outsiders, to defend ethnic and cultural purity, to demonise everything alien.
The xenophobic rhetoric that now pervades the public sphere is diverting attention away from the urgent issues of the day – tackling economic and social hazard and uncertainty with new ideas and practices, and inventing new ways of living together amid growing social and cultural complexity.
We, a group of concerned citizens, invoke the political responsibility of Europe’s opinion-makers and political leaders. We demand the cessation of the politics of fear and engagement in the politics of hope. Otherwise Europe once again might find itself enmeshed in a long, dark period of hate and animosity from which it will be hard to return, and which will – as in the past – result in friends becoming enemies, capable of unthinkable monstrosities. We are close to the brink of no return. It is this sense of urgency that prompts this manifesto – an appeal to all those living in Europe, those concerned for its present and its future, to join us in imagining and implementing an inclusive politics befitting the 21st century.
A new inclusive politics in Europe must embrace and build on at least four core principles:
1. Diversity as the essence of Europe.
The vision of an authentic and pure, culturally homogenous Europe is nothing but a fiction, yet a powerful and a dangerous one. Let us recall, and let us admit, that for its best achievements Europe has always drawn on the creative energies of the world, on the positive engagement among people of diverse descent and complex biographies, on the respect for gender, racial, sexual, religious, cultural differences and preferences. It is this tradition of openness and inclusion, and not Europe’s other, darker, legacy of supposed superiority, closure and suspicion that needs to be revived in facing an uncertain and turbulent future.
2. An ethos of solidarity and hope.
If there is uncertainty and turbulence to face, history shows that this is best done through courage and dialogue, not fear and intolerance. The politics of fear that pervades European society must be exposed, rejected and make way for an ethos of facing the future with courage by mobilising the collective energies of diverse publics. Such an ethos would enable us to confront the common concerns of all members of European society independently of their origin – an ethos of hope not fear, trust not suspicion, reciprocity not domination, dialogue not condemnation, negotiation not aggression.
3. Protecting the commons.
A shared sense of purpose centred on a reinvigorated notion of “the commons” is needed – a notion of generating and safeguarding our shared cultural, economic and social environment, alongside protecting the natural environment against pollution and consumption. Key elements of such politics of the commons are the maintenance of an active public sphere, decent public services and vibrant public spaces, environmental respect and protection, insurance against hazard and risk, utilities and technologies that enable rather than disable. Above all, a culture of respect for the commons should become a means of reconciling difference.
4. Inclusive economy.
Issues of cultural policy are inseparable from issues of economic policy. Economic solidarity is indispensable both for fostering tolerance and for achieving inclusion. We therefore need policies that build on the European heritage of social fairness: a social economy that spreads opportunities and rewards; universal social insurance; corporate social responsibility; work for all and fair wages, along with continuous building of human capabilities. In line with this tradition, which goes beyond particular ideological belongings and partisanship, a regulatory reform is now urgently needed to ensure the submission of the needs of the markets to those of societies. It is through such policies that future growth can be directed to the many and not only the few, and thus generate social attitudes and practices that oppose envy and enmity.
Let us oppose, together, the culture of emergency management based on obsessive surveillance, control and vilification of the strange and the different. Let us create, instead, a culture of solidarity and common purpose beyond our differences. Let us declare our repulsion for the unfair and unequal society that blames its own victims and casualties. Let us revive our belief in the powers of democracy, fairness and social justice for the many. Let us establish a new set of rules, based on co-operation and reciprocity, in Europe’s relations with all those countries where life – human and other – most often is the cheapest commodity. Let us accept that curiosity and learning from others remain the surest way of negotiating an unknown future.
Our appeal is as ambitious as it is simple: to see the concerns that face us all as the best basis for collective action, the guide for democratic politics in Europe; and to acknowledge the potential of living within difference in Europe as the best resource we have to responsibly confront the challenges ahead.
• This manifesto is based on an open letter by the Forum of Concerned Citizens of Europe, available on its website and at Eurozine. The forum is promoted by Ash Amin (Durham), Albena Azmanova (Brussels), Les Back (London), Laura Balbo (Milan), Iain Chambers (Naples), Nefise Özkal Lorentzen (Oslo), Bashkim Shehu (Barcelona), Pep Subirós (Barcelona), Teun A van Dijk (Barcelona) and Ruth Wodak (Lancaster).
Among the first signatories are Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Michel Agier, Étienne Balibar, Peter Claussen, Costas Douzinas, Paolo Flores d’Arcais, Jerzy Hausner, Ivan Krastev, Evelin Lindner, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia, Josep Ramoneda, Ziauddin Sardar, Saskia Sassen, Richard Sennett, Tzvetan Todorov, Françoise Vergés and Tana de Zulueta
Ash Amin, professor of geography at the university of Durhamand and others.