The idea is tempting: a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific over more than 10,000 kilometers as the crow flies,
encompasses more than 40 countries, and unites more than 750 million people. It would be a unique combination of know-how in the West and manpower in the East to the
advantage of all concerned. Yes, there are many things that divide us, today far
more than a few years ago. After the end of the Cold War, there was great hope that we could finally overcome dividing lines and build a common continent which, despite
all ideological differences, secures peace for this generation and the next and would become a heavyweight in the world. This opportunity was wasted. At present we are not even in a position to adequately regulate problems such as customs duties or visa-free travel.
Especially nowadays, where analysts preach the next global recession, when conflicts re-ignite and new wars emerge, and where rhetorical statements by politicians often add fuel to the fire, that is when the economy should pause for a moment, re-evaluate, and demonstrate that even in times without dialogue there can be a common language: trade.
The aim is to successfully establish and expand common economic spaces. We should give this „common house of Europe“ a good foundation, which has already cracked deeply even before its completion. It doesn’t have to be strategic alliances in car and aircraft construction,
space technology, the medical and pharmaceutical industries, logistics, or energy. Rather, we should start where interests and values unite us. We should create protected areas of cooperation with fixed rules of play instead of emphasising what separates us.
Yes, we need a change, but it is worth the effort. A common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok will not only reduce fears, but also inspire a policy of understanding that is now more likely to be banished to the back rooms. After years of rapprochement, it almost seems forgotten that such an economic area can be a cornerstone for Europe’s stability in an increasingly fragile world. Great common utopias face an even larger web of mutual mistrust.
Historians today argue about who gave birth to the idea of a common continent. At the same time, some politicians prefer not to know anything more about it. On both sides old prejudices and stereotypes are once again taking hold. Former friends and partners have become rivals and enemies, so such an economic area currently seems more like a utopia.
But this utopia is humanly beautiful, politically interesting, and economically sensible. This is precisely why we should see resistance as an incentive – this idea can become reality with good will.