The European Commission just adopted a road map for a return to free movement in the Schengen area. It is a necessary decision that takes us back in time. Europe is closed and paralysed by the fear of a virus. Many of the measures feel like the deprivations some of us felt before the fall of communism in 1989. To a lesser extent, true, but the limitations of traditional freedoms are so strange that vividly conjure in my mind the years when Europe was divided.
It is difficult to explain to a Western European who has not experienced life beyond the former Iron Curtain what those in the East had to endure in those years. The reaction is the same one we used to have when our grandparents told us about famine or war. It is hard to understand if one does not feel it directly. It can be theorised but inner emotions are hard to convey.
Starting from these micro details of the surreal experience of what communism meant for half of Europe, it is an excellent time for us to understand how our continent is still suffering from the brutal rupture of the Second World War. We have just celebrated 75 years since the end of the war - and marked it in complete isolation. We know that there are differences between Eastern and Western Europe, just as we know that there are differences between north and south . Let's accept them and start talking about how the unity of Europe will prevail in its diversity.
There has been a lot of talk about European solidarity. That is precisely what we need right now. We should take advantage of the emotional context of these unusual moments to heal another wound. The time has come to close the discussions on Romania's acceptance in the Schengen Area without any further hesitation. It is a natural and necessary act for a Europe that is acutely re-experiencing what isolation and close borders mean. The day will come when the new walls will come down and the Schengen Area will become operational again - but not entirely for Romania. It will remain symbolically in an extended quarantine from the rest of the continent.
It would be a political mistake for Europe if it did not understand the essence of this crisis: we need each other. We need to help and respect each other. We have seen what our shortcomings are; we have seen who our friends are and who we are not. It is time to understand that we are all Europeans, celebrating all the differences between us. Any postponement of Romania's full entry into the Schengen Area is no longer technical, but a political decision about what Europe means and what Europe is.
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