The European dream in times of crisis

On Thursday 29th November 2012 at 20:00, deBuren presented The European Dream in times of crisis at Flagey, studio 4, Heilig-Kruisplein, 1050 Brussels. This debate was carried out in English.

The time has come to have a look at the status quo. Has the European dream become a dystopia? Is Europe getting smaller? What are the implications, consequences, risks and opportunities associated with EU membership? Which steps could be taken in order to strengthen it again? And how is Europe perceived in other continents today? Jeremy Rifkin, author of The European Dream, and Indian professor and political scientist Rajeev Bhargava provided their perspectives on the current state of Europe, both from the United States, and from Asia. Journalist and independent expert Mia Doornaert chaired the debate.

The longer the European debt crisis carries on, the more the European dream seems to turn into a nightmare. Every additional development of the crisis seems to tear Europe further apart. Originally, the European monetary union was meant to be a blessing that should promote growth and multiply not just Europe’s economic, but also its political power. After the creation of the single market, the common currency was the next step towards a political union. For decades, European integration seemed to work. Now the crisis is also fraying Europe’s politics. The hope of forging a common European identity has given way to greater national assertiveness, even chauvinism, and far right-wing parties are gathering strength with anti-immigrant and anti-EU polemics.

What will happen if Europeans do not succeed in overcoming the systemic shortcomings of the “federal currency” by building a federal Union? Would this bring about a complete collapse of the EU and the “united in diversity” dream?

Back in 2004, Jeremy Rifkin published his book The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream. Rifkin described Europe as an economic superpower rivaling the United States. He observed that Europe had become a giant laboratory for rethinking humanity’s future.

According to Rifkin, the European Dream was, in many respects, the mirror opposite of the American Dream. While the American Dream emphasized economic growth and individual opportunity, the European Dream focused more on sustainable development, and the quality of life. He observed that Americans emphasised the work ethic whereas Europeans placed more of a premium on balancing work and leisure. According to Rifkin, America had always seen itself as a great melting pot. Europeans, instead, preferred to preserve their rich multicultural diversity. Americans believed in maintaining a strong military presence in the world. Europeans, by contrast, emphasised economic cooperation and consensus over traditional geo-political approaches to foreign policy. Particularly, he argued that the European Union had the potential to become a world super power and that the European model was better-prepared to face the challenges of a globalising world in the 21st century than the American equivalent.

Is Europe’s commitment to cultural diversity and peaceful coexistence substantial enough to withstand the crisis it now faces? The crisis challenges and tests the people and the vitality and viability of their dream. Rifkin affirms that the Americans have already overcome similar challenges several times. While, already in 2004, he found himself asking if Europeans would be able to say the same about their own rather adolescent dream when facing a deep downturn? During this debate Jeremy Rifkin will present the first substantial revisiting of his version of the European dream. What has happened to European ideals since he first published his book eight years ago? In addition to this American perspective, the Indian professor and political scientist Rajeev Bhargava complemented Mr. Rifkin’s speech, presenting views from India as an emerging market. The debate was chaired by Mia Doornaert, former journalist of the Belgian newspaper De Standaard and independent expert on international issues.

Speakers:

Jeremy Rifkin – Author of The European Dream

Rajeev Bhargava – Professor and political scientist

Moderator:

Mia Doornaert – Journalist and independent expert

Euro Dream Debate Poster

Main Speaker: Jeremy Rifkin (born January 26, 1945) is an American economist, writer, public speaker, political advisor and activist. He is the founder and president of the Foundation On Economic Trends. Rifkin’s work explores the potential impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. Back in 2004, Jeremy Rifkin (photo) published his book The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream. Rifkin described Europe as an economic superpower rivaling the United States. He observed that Europe had become a giant laboratory for rethinking humanity’s future.