Living collectively was the ideal of Robert de Sorbon. And the intellectuals and scholars came from across Europe to forge European thought. Through wars and crises, through all the vagaries of history that have impacted Europe, this thought has not stopped growing and spreading. And where chaos could have triumphed, civilization has always won out.
We have inherited all of this history. We have inherited the two shock waves which could have brought our Europe to an end, the shock waves of the last century, the two world wars which decimated Europe and could have overwhelmed us. But together, we overcame the challenge without ever forgetting the lessons. The idea rose from the ruins. The desire for fraternity was stronger than retribution and hate.
It was the lucidity of the founding fathers to transform this age-old fight for European hegemony into fraternal cooperation or peaceful rivalries. Behind the Coal and Steel Community, or the Common Market, the project forged a promise of peace, prosperity and freedom.
When Greece, Spain and Portugal entered the Common Market a generation later, these words were not technical. They were the symbol of freedom for those leaving dictatorship behind. When what was then known as Eastern Europe, from Poland to Bulgaria, joined this project a generation later, it was this same hope that drove us. We could finally repair the story which started in 1947. For many countries who had lived through the worst oppression, joining the European Union was an unprecedented promise of emancipation.
Doubtless, we were not sufficiently aware that this much desired Europe grew up sheltered. Sheltered firstly from the rest of the world. Security was not its business: this was performed by America. Its economy already knew the path to follow: catch up with America. Sheltered from the people, too. In its early stages the European project was a mission carried by a few individuals, sewing a torn continent back together by overcoming populist passions.