Europe- a continent caught in its centralist and ethnic-national structures
The current conflict over Crimea and the regions of Luhansk, Kharkiv & Donetsk is the latest crisis arising from Europe's division into ethnic nation states. Russia and the Ukraine are trying to force the multi-ethnic populations of these regions into their centralized nation states causing unnecessary conflict domestically and internationally. Such conflicts do not only endanger peace and cost lives, they cause economic hardship and ethnic tension, often for generations.
Since the French Revolution Europe has evolved into a continent divided into ethnic nation states. None of these nation states have emerged in a democratic manner. They have generally been forced upon the population by a nationalist and power hungry elite, often against the explicit will of the people. This artificial division of Europe caused two World Wars, the Cold War, various local wars and conflicts, ethnic cleansing as well as large scale expulsions causing millions of deaths and economic collapse.
Switzerland- a political model for Europe
Switzerland is one of a few remaining multi-ethnic countries in Europe. It unites four language groups- Germans, French, Italians and Romanshs- through a well working political system based on strong local and regional grass root democracy. By giving the local and regional level of government extensive competencies, diversity has been maintained like nowhere else in Europe. Ethnic, religious and social conflicts are virtially non existent. A culture of compromise has evolved. The combination of political stability, inter-ethnic cooperation as well as extensive local and regional autonomy created excellent conditions for economic development and growth. While Europe´s centralist nation states caused war and suffering through divisive ethnic nationalist policies, Switzerland remained an island of peace, democracy and prosperity.
Although one of the oldest democracies in the world, Switzerlands political model caters perfectly to the needs of today, ie: more grass root & direct democracy, closer relationship between people and politicians, multiculturalism, local & regional flexiblity in economic & tax matters etc.
We need a Swiss style "Europe of Regions"
Europe as a whole would do much better if it followed the politcal model of Switzerland. Most importantly we could avoid ongoing ethnic conflicts that endanger peace and economic growth, not only in Europe but across the globe.
We need a decentralization process across Europe with particular focus on the centralist or unitary states. More powers should be given to the regions and municipalities. This should translate into more grass root democracy, less nationalism as well as a more flexible and need-based approach in economic and fiscal matters enabling Europe's regions to become more self sufficient and competetive.
The European Union should grow from the bottom up and not from the top down. As in Switzerland municipalities and regions should have a greater say on which competencies they want to pass on to the EU or the nation states and which they want to keep or gain.
Self determination of individuals and collective groups is the basis of any democratic society. Some European countries gained territories through War, occupation or forced peace treaties against the will of the people affected. In Switzerland each municipality can choose to which political territory or institution it wants to belong. We want this principle to be extended to all of Europe.
Europe's lingustic diversity make it a unique place. However, ethnic nationalism destroyed much of this diversity in the last century. Maintaining linguistic plurality on a regional level is vital for tolerance and the mutual coexistence of peoples in Europe. We will actively support measures to protect lingustic minorities as they are an important bridge between the peoples of Europe. Legislation on language usage and rights should generally vest with municipalities and regions, not with nation states.
More needs to be done to communicate the relationship between Switzerlands highly decentralized political structures and her economic success. Countries with federalist constitutions generally perform better economocally than unitary states. Switzerland, the US, Australia, Canada, Germany or Austria are good examples.
The ultimate goal should be a peaceful, progressive, competetive, tolerant and higly decentralized Europe of Regions built on strong democratic foundations.
The "Europe of Regions" Foundation should mainly raise awareness about the shortcomings of centralism and the current ethnic national division of Europe across the political spectrum and the general public through books, events, lectures and extensive PR/media/lobbying activities. It should focus on providing more information about Europe's regions, their history and multilingual make up, nationalism, the true roots of the modern day nation states, centralism, the political model of Switzerland as well as the priciples of federalism, local/regional government & autonomy. The magnitude of the activities will depend on the financial backing the foundation gets.