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21-12-17 - Jules Lejeune, FINAT

Europe’s Second Youth: In Search of ‘Identity’

“Change is the only constant” -- a popular saying that has become one of the clichés of our time. The year 2017 is no exception.

A year ago, Europe was at an all-time low after the succession of credit crunch, euro crisis, Arab Spring, authoritarian regimes at our eastern and south-eastern borders, the refugee crisis, terrorism, the British referendum, Brexit, the unexpected results of the American elections, and the ‘America First’ strategy of its President-elect.

With a dark scenario like that there is no need for sunglasses. With elections on the way in several countries, some people who adhere to this world view looked forward to a ‘Populist Spring’: a Europe divided by national borders and complete national autonomy. Would our continent once again fall apart, and would our ideal of sustainable peace and shared welfare be in jeopardy?

Divided Past, Shared Future

Fortunately, 12 months later, we have not reached this stage (yet). On the contrary: there seems to be a growing awareness here that what we share as the future is still more important than what divided us in the past. And this is certainly not a ‘Zero Sum Game’!

Looking back over the past year, for me the word ‘IDENTITY’ is the word of 2017. Identity, contrary to populist belief, is not how we look at ourselves, but how we would like to be seen by others.

After the wheel, the mirror is unquestionably one of the most important achievements of modern civilisation. We draw our identity from the fact that we ‘mirror’ our values and beliefs against those of others, by communicating with and not about each other, and by learning from and not about each other.

This will not work if, as we did exactly 100 years ago, we continue to harass each other from the trenches.

Unity in Diversity – The Core Value of Associations

The biggest association in Europe, the 60-year-old European Union, may serve as an example. It is not without reason that ‘Unity in Diversity’ (‘identity’ is almost a contraction of these words), is one of the core values of the EU’s founders after World War II: respect for everyone’s values and beliefs, but on the basis of a mutual understanding concerning our shared future.

And isn’t this the universal core value of any association? It certainly applies to FINAT on its way to its own 60th anniversary in 2018.

On behalf of FINAT, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2018.

Jules Lejeune
Managing Director