Inspired by the article series “Europe can do better”, published by United Europe and German newspaper “Handelsblatt” from April to May 2019, the Dutch newspaper “Het financial Dagblad” has published views of eight Dutch CEOs and their visions for a joint and competitive EU. Please find following the article of Karl Guha, CEO of Van Lanschot Kempen:
The European idea matters because everything that underpins it has brought us stability and prosperity. It has resurrected an exhausted continent from the ashes of two world wars in order to guarantee peace and freedom.
Like many of my generation, I grew up in the shadow of these wars, which deeply affected several generations of my family. At its origins they were European wars, in which the whole world eventually became involved. We in Europe therefore have an obligation to the whole of humanity.
In my youth, the war was anything but an abstract concept. It manifested itself daily in countless forms, of which ‘eat your plate empty’ and ‘be thankful for what you have’ are just a few examples. The shadows of the war were always there. I was therefore aware of the sacrifices that people had made, which allowed me to grow up in peace. But every day I live, that awareness fades a little, and with it the belief that we have to fight for what we believe in. Forgetting this is, in my opinion, a sin.
The idea behind Europe stands for many things that I consider fundamental: the rule of law, democracy, the right to express oneself, the right to live in peace and harmony, the separation of church and state, religious freedom and other acquired freedoms in our society, solidarity towards the less fortunate and free trade.
But these freedoms are under pressure. The threat comes from all sides, from the extreme left to the extreme right, from old allies such as the United States to old enemies in Russia, the Middle East and China. They all pose a threat in their own specific way. But the European idea is strong and cannot be destroyed unless we ourselves allow it. The greatest danger, therefore, comes from within, with complacency perhaps the greatest enemy of all.
The nation-state – a Prussian concept – is important, but it must not lead to the demise of Europe. We don’t want to hear it, let alone accept it, but the truth is that as humans we are still (too) often engaged in tribal warfare. We must not let this tribal instinct take over. There is a great danger in seeing ‘others’ as suspicious and dangerous. Europe consists of multiple and diverse cultures. That is our strength. Unity in diversity, one might say. The threats we face, from climate to cybercrime, are better dealt with by a united Europe than by individual nation states trying to do something about it. If Europe we know today goes down, we will be nothing more than little pawns in the international game of superpowers.
As a company almost 300 years old, the history of Van Lanschot Kempen is deeply interwoven with that of the Low Countries and of Europe. In our history we have dedicated ourselves to prosperity and prosperity for our customers and for society as a whole. It is our firm conviction that without wealth there would be no taxation, and without taxation and a fair distribution of it, there would be no stable society. Stable societies based on the rule of law ensure democracy, prosperity and peace. That is precisely why we believe in the European idea.
Europe needs reforms, not destruction. However, before we take a hasty next step, it is important to consolidate and improve first. It is up to all of us to act now – to think with our conscience, with a clear and raised head, and to fight for the dreams of our ancestors. Bad things happen when the silent majority is silent. We must make our voice heard and vote for the people who best represent our hopes and dreams for our children, so that they too can live in peace and prosperity.