Europe was the dream of the best of its sons. In 1995 a Spaniard, Jorge Semprún, gave a memorable address in Weimar, just south of the camp of Buchenwald, where he had been imprisoned for two years by the Nazis. Semprún spoke to the Europeans from the place where Goethe had walked and meditated; the place where people later wondered where the ashes were coming from, and the stench of burnt flesh.
Weimar also gave its name to the German republic that lasted for a while after World War I - until it was frustrated by the arrogant ignorance of those who had won the Great War, the rise of Nazism and the undemocratic radicalism of the Communists.
The Europe Semprún wanted to see had little to do with what he himself had long struggled for. Semprún was the result of a decent, defensible concatenation of errors. To start with, he had been a communist for a long time. A communist against Hitler, and above all against Franco, which was not the same as being against the "bourgeois" republics. But, after all, a communist - in more or less enthusiastic complicity with the criminal regimes of Eastern Europe.
Europe puts up with shameless spying by its greatest ally, or by one of its member states
He left all that behind him in the early 1960s, even before the Soviet tanks crushed the awakening of Prague in 1968. At the end of the decade he took another wrong turn, thinking that the Third World revolutions theorized by Franz Fanon would bring liberty to the earth. The authoritarian drift of the Algerian National Liberation Front caused him to rethink his outlook. He himself drifted into a consistent defense of democracy and of civil liberties as something non-negotiable. The idea of a Europe governed by ethical commitments - always individual, and by moral ones of a collective nature - might, he thought, assure the world a radiant future. A Europe that, built on broad-based political commitment, would pilot a radical change in the course of history, under the triple slogan of 1789: liberty, equality, fraternity. This was the vision, not of a madman or a Jacobin, but of a reasonable man who had seen a lot of things, who had been a hero in almost all the wrongheaded causes he had championed.
In 1995 those principles still seemed to govern the construction of a political and economic union that, at least, had managed to achieve agreement on human and social rights, and on freedom of movement, not to mention the renunciation of war, at least within Europe, as a means for settling conflicts.
This dream has not yet been defeated. But there are dark signs that severe mutilation is on the way; signs, too, of a growing lack of solidarity, bound up with the growth of nationalist feelings in many countries. The disastrous state of a foreign policy that allows the United States to govern the airspace of France, Italy and Portugal is no small matter. It is not trivial when we see no clear stand taken against unjust wars, and systematic violations of human rights, in Guantánamo and Cuba alike, or in the regimes of the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Israel and Palestine.
Europe puts up with shameless spying by its greatest ally, or by one of its member states, Great Britain, without receiving even a credible apology. It puts up with the presence in its capitals of criminal, money-laundering banks managed by executives in smart suits who allow themselves the amusement of laughing at the peasantry of the South.
And Spain, humiliated, subjects to the vengeful will of the powerful, conceals, without cleaning, as much as it can of a corruption that has left it almost in ruin, incapable of raising its voice in any of the important discussions to decide on the common future.
Poor Spain, so far from Semprún's speech in Weimar. So embarrassingly branded by the vacuity of its politicians in the government. For lack of the words of Semprún, we make do with those of Cospedal and Floriano.