Future of Europe: Which common home, borders and bridges, after the crisis?
Natural habitats, society, politics are structured by borders, boundaries and barriers. It is in our human nature to struggle for solidarity and integration as well. The recent crises (terrorism, financial and migratory flows, pandemic) led to borders closure, between nations, generations, cultures and peoples. EU resilience will not only be economic, integrative mechanisms have to be further developed, so that fragmentation and distrust in the EU does not prevail. And to ensure that the «common home» founders spirit remains at the center of Europe's future, as well as the care for the common good.
The two-day session will serve as a space to discuss these major challenges.
During the event will intervene speakers such as
-Victoria Martin de la Torre (TBC)
-Mons. Aldo Giordano Apostolic Nuncio to European Union
-Botond Feledy, Deputy Director, European Leadership Programme of JESC (Jesuit European Social Centre)
More info on http://www.passionforeurope.com/
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Event reportCHRISTIAN SESSION ON THE FUTURE OF EUROPE The “Passion for Europe” Group held a session from 24 to 26 September 2021, as a contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe. The event presented in this report is a joint initiative of the Passion of Europe Group (http://www.passionforeurope.com) and the Jesuit European Social Center (https://jesc.eu). "Passion for Europe" is an informal association of citizens of the European Union, born in 2017 and whose Manifesto is “Rediscovering European common Good)” (http://www.passionforeurope.com/uploads/1/2/1/5/121596369/jesc_passion_for_europe_manifesto_2017.pdf) The title of the session was: "Future of Europe: Which common home, borders and bridges, after the crisis?". 47 participants (32 men and 15 women)came from 17 countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Hungary. This made the session a unique multi-cultural and inter-generational European experience. Another qualifying aspect of the meeting was the dialogical modality that also characterized the communication of the speakers. The quality of the speakers was very much appreciated, as they gave very different and rich insights on the various topics, from different perspective, political, academic, institutional or church. The Apostolic Nuncio to the EU, Aldo Giordano, addressed a detailed speech to the participants. The hybrid mode of the event was also implemented with the live online report, via Zoom, by Anguel Beremliysky, Member of the Common Secretariat of the Conference on the Future of Europe. It was proposed to all to reflect on the words that Pope Francis told to the journalists on September 15, 2021 on the return flight from Slovakia: "Europe must, I always say, follow the dreams of the founding fathers of the European Union. The European Union is not a meeting to do things, there is a spirit at the base of the European Union dreamed of by Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi, these great ones. Return to that, because there is the danger that Europe will become only a management office and this is not right, it must go to the mystical, seek the roots of Europe and carry them forward. All countries must move forward. Some interests, perhaps not European ones, try to use the EU for ideological colonization and this is not good. The EU must be independent for itself and for all countries at the same level inspired by the dream of the founding fathers". In synthesis, the setting of the session made it a very safe space for trustful discussions.The broad geographical and age balance ensured the different views. There were disagreements, which showed the different perspectives and concerns across Europe. The combination of debates, keynote speeches and small discussion groups was very good to feed the discussion, with very prominent speakers and inputs. Another fact contributed very positively to the atmosphere: every person present could make his or her voice on the Future of Europe heard. Below are collected some thematic nuclei on which there was a wide consensus. EUROPE AS A SUCCESSFUL PROJECT TO OVERCOME DIVISIONS, NEEDS POLITICAL SUPPORT EU cannot command its opponents by the sword. Over time, the original design has to be updated and adapted. Today’s state of play is far more favorable than usually thought. EU now has overtaken the rest of the world in vaccine uptake. The creation of EU new budgetary resources, which was blocked for more than 30 years has been voted by acclamation. Contrary to omens, no State has followed the British departure. On many issues, without Europe, there is no solution. Jean-Claude Juncker said: “We all know what should be done, but we don’t know how to stay in power if we do it”. European political parties should campaign on a European agenda, in order for European electors to realize that they vote for an agenda and a common president of the Commission. We need for political leaders to appeal to the generosity of citizens and not just to their self-interest, otherwise this erodes public confidence in common good. THE CRISIS HAS CONFIRMED THE NEED OF A EUROPEAN COMMON FOREIGN POLICY, AND THE RELEVANCE OF THE EU MODEL The EU is awfully short sighted when it turns a blind eye to the demographic explosion of Africa. It needs as much imagination as the founding fathers of Europe. The challenges and opportunities of the relationship with Africa have been held on a national bilateral basis. All of this is inefficient. Africa is now at the top of the EU Foreign policy agenda, and it is good. But it is urgent to implement a coordinated cooperation policy, and invest important means (which, compared to China investment in Africa will nevertheless come late and with much lower financial power, thus it has to be totally different). Between the US and China, we are in a new cold war. Europe needs to take a common position. MS cannot deal with this issue individually. United we stand. Divided we lose. There should be an EU global agenda, putting forward a green deal. The UN, IMF, WTO, G20 do no longer fit their role. In his novel Citadelle, Saint-Exupery wrote: “To reconcile them, make them build a tower. To divide them, just throw crumbs at them”. EU can be proposed as a model. There should be a European proposal for a “Bandung conference” of regional groupings (Mercosur, Asean, EU,…), to show that this model is the future. NEED TO TEACH THE HISTORY OF EUROPE Robert Schuman said that the first thing Europe needs to do was to change history books. History, as a discipline to be taught to pupils and students, has for long been propaganda for a national identity. An observatory of history teaching in Europe has been created under the auspices of the Council of Europe. The goal of the Observatory is to say who teaches what and how. The first general report should be released in 2023. This survey is meant to be an undisputed basis for a debate. The aim should be to combine two contradictory goals: 1). Attachment to one’s roots, because there is a need for belonging. 2). Develop critical sense, because there is a need for reconciliation. This is what the Council of Europe calls multi-perspectivity. A common narrative will require time, but at least it seems desirable and possible to teach and learn different narratives, so as to consider what we have in common (e.g. culture), and also accept and respect different perspectives. On each border and at European level, mutual learning, fraternal correction could result of this. EU members should join the observatory. The EU Commission should contribute to the observatory and allocate a fund to the observatory (Commissioners Skinas and Gabriel have received a request letter). EU should develop Erasmus not only for students but also for school children; for teachers, trainees, local politicians, entrepreneurs, parishes. It is important to Include in the Erasmus programme learning of the history of Europe. Further steps are: develop and EU education competence, develop an EU history programme, including the history of Europe and its diverse countries, of national heroes and saints; together with European precursors and founding fathers make Erasmus obligatory for all future history teachers. LEARN FROM THE POOR During the session, it has also been said that the poor, the migrant, the stranger, the person across the border, should not (only) people we help, but our teachers showing us who we are. Offering hospitality to the stranger is also listening to his story. The figure of the Samaritan has been mentioned several times. We see Syrians and Afghans as dangerous, just as Jews about Samaritans in the time of Jesus. Jesus, in Samaria, experienced a very human condition: thirst. We have to think as poor. The parable of the Good Samaritan asks us: who is “mon prochain”? Schuman asked himself: “How can I combine this sense of belonging to a national community with a sense of fraternity with the people across the border?”. Christians should keep the project of an “ever closer union” alive. The question is not only: what EU brings to us? but also: What do we bring to Europe? Our group shares the conviction that Europe is a question of “Passion”, not only interests. FRATERNITY BEYOND BORDERS The point is not only to acknowledge borders as necessary limits and places of encounters (but that we may close in case of crises, like sleepwalkers); but also as living areas where interdependent cross border communities live and build Europe, more effectively than by the capitals. We need to complete EU with a variety of “communities”, “territories”, in concentric (and overlapping, not exclusive) circles: local, national, European. The EU’s founding fathers main concern was to ensure a peace that is not based on the balance of power, but rather on trust and personal relations. Their challenge was how to build fraternity beyond borders. Their personal life experiences show that borders change, and those changes can create conflicts between communities. They did not want to erase borders, because that would also mean erasing differences and these rich identities. But borders should not be walls dividing people, but rather points of contact. “What Europe wants is to up lift the rigidity of its borders. They should be come the lines of contact where the material and the cultural exchanges take place” (Robert Schuman, ForEurope. Paris. Foundation Robert Schuman. Ed. Nagel. p. 26-27). According to the founding fathers, the European integration should not be done by urban elites in the capitals, neither by creating a homogeneous culture. It should rather be built on bordering regions, and this is why cross-border cooperation and Euro-regions reflect their vision at its core. A key principle linked to that of “community” and “common good” is that of subsidiarity, as a way to ensure participation and ownership of persons and intermediate communities in the society. Europe’s external borders should also become points of contact and cooperation about the issue of migration not a mere barrier. How migration and diversity are perceived are a very important challenge for the EU, and in particular the cooperation between Africa and the European Union for demographic reasons. THE SOURCE OF RESILIENCE IS SPIRITUAL The reason to stand up, comes from the spirit. We have no crystal ball. So, we can’t say whether we are doomed because of climatic changes. And it’s a good thing. We decide to act because we decide to believe that there is something to do. It is an act of faith, nevertheless. If you don’t have the spiritual resource of hope, you are doomed. The dominant belief is that human beings are only driven by their own interests. After the financial crisis, the window of opportunity for change did not last long. We introduced a lot of legislation, but the principles of the capitalist system have not changed. Economic models do not take into account what is not priced We do not want that markets embed society. The general interest should be put above the interest of rent seekers. What is lacking is the political will. During the session, the philosophical and spiritual inspiration that inspired the vision of a “European Community” was explored. Communitarian personalism and Catholic Social Teaching inspired the choice of the word “community”, because of the quality of the human relations between its members. A particular anthropology of the person, as a relation based on being responsible for others, is at the core of this vision of society. In a community all members are respected in their unique identity, and yet they can be united in trust to pursue the common good. The common good is more than the addition of each member’s interest. A COMMUNITY OF COMMUNITIES We are living an anthropological crisis based on a liberal and individualistic concept of man and society, where people are isolated and freedom is understood as my individual right vis-a-vis the State. This disempowers people and weakens intermediate communities such as family, neighborhood, town, region, and any civil society organization. There is a need to rethink solidarity in Europe, but not only as distribution of competences between EU and member states. Vertical (public administration) and horizontal (participation of other actors) should be reviewed in light of the original vision of a European Community. Is it possible to recover the concept of Community in EU? Probably, it is necessary to give a bigger decision-making role to the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee, as a way to rebalance subsidiarity. We need to develop a locally based focus on the role of citizens and their interaction with public officials working at ground level. We hope that in the frame of the CoFE, European Citizens’ Panels will be institutionalized in the political and decision-making processes in EU. In Europe, we can make more progress if we find better ways to involve the population in important political questions. MENTAL BORDERS AND BUILDING TRUST Sometimes mental borders are more difficult to bring down than physical borders. This is why Robert Schuman thought that there should be more cultural exchanges. He also said that history books should be changed, because they tend to praise war heroes who are the enemy of our next-door neighbor. We should be able to tell our common history. But it is very difficult to agree on a shared history, and it would not necessarily lead to more mutual understanding. We have examples of good cooperation within the Council of Europe. It is evident that there is still a big gap between the “old countries” and the “new” Central and Eastern member states. There is a feeling that the new members are patronized by the old ones, and their world views are not equally respected as the world view of the “old” ones. There is a sense of lack of recognition, but trust in a community is possible only if all members are treated equal. Otherwise, then each member will try to look for its own interest and the common good is lost. This way the community cannot survive. THE PEOPLE APPROACH TO BORDERS The geographic research on borders is divided in 3 categories: the flow approach (border as an economic barrier); the cooperation approach (a social aspect), the people approach (the beliefs, the perceptions, the mental maps of persons). Before Covid, we were focusing on the first two approaches (single market and cooperation policy). We almost completely forgot the third approach: the people working in border areas (1/3 of EU population lives there). With Covid, the first reaction was to close borders. Immediately, governments had to face a lot of difficulties: suspension of production in many countries, will of discharged workers to return to their home country, disruption of medical care. Central European governments allowed people who worked or lived 30 km of the border to cross freely, but they could not go shopping in the other country. Students who had to take exams on the other side of the border had to be allowed to cross it. Due to joining Schengen in 2007, these countries reduced the number of border guards. They had to restaff borders but they lacked the capacities. It was hard to reopen borders for this reason. These countries are half the EU average in size. These border areas are less integrated than in Benelux. We should create local transnational institutions. The biggest problem is that the EU is not important for national governments. From a financial perspective, the EU budget is 1% of GDP. The agreement of the 7-year budget brought the conclusion by each head of government that “this is the best agreement for our nation”. The EU is considered as a joint project for own purposes. Pope Francis said that we should avoid that the EU becomes a management office. TRANSCENDENCE AND THE FUTURE OF EUROPE Mgr. Aldo Giordano, Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union, in his speech to the session pointed out two fundamental questions that seemed to him essential for the future of Europe. The first one is that of God. With a reference to Friedrich Nietzsche’s work “The Fool” the nuncio pointed out that in Europe we may have “murdered” God as we have started to live “as if God did not exist”. The European man has decided to “become like God” by walking in God’s autonomy, in solitude. But even the European man today is beginning to feel the need to light a lantern at the very moment when everything seems clear. Even the clarity inherited from the Enlightenment no longer seems sufficient. Man is searching for God, for truth, even if in the “European market” there are people who seem to snub the problem or at least show indifference. If God does not exist, each individual, each science, each group can claim to be God, to have the truth and to be the measure of all things. If there is Transcendence, all human powers and all claims to exclusive truth are relativized. Only the reference to God can relativize the powers of the earth and prevent them from being proposed as absolute. THE HORIZON FOR EUROPEAN UNION IS GLOBAL Mgr. Aldo Giordano, Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union, raised a second fundamental question that is decisive for the future of Europe. It is related to geopolitics and was the urgent need to have a horizon. Being in Venezuela for seven year and, before, working on European issues for about 20 years (1995 -2013), he had personally concluded on the question of Europe’s global role. Often, when faced with a problem, we have a certain attitude: we study the problem, we discuss the problem, we attack the problem, we want to solve the problem… and in this way the problem comes closer and closer to our eyes and becomes more amplified, until it covers the entire horizon of our gaze. The problem becomes the only thing that exists. We have to get out of this solitude and see the horizon. “He who has no horizon overestimates and exaggerates what is closest to him” quoted the Nuncio the philosopher Hans Georg Gadamer. The horizon of the problems we face today is the whole world. We cannot isolate our countries from the whole world. In the face of globalization and the universality of problems, there is an urgent need for people to consider the universal brotherhood of the human family. Pope Francis, especially with the encyclicals “Laudato si'” and “Fratelli tutti”, invites us to keep the horizon open. THE HORIZON FOR EUROPEAN UNION IS GLOBAL Today, the demand for a “Europe of defence” is becoming strong, but the horizon is peace. When we talk about defence, the Nuncio would always expect an explicit reference to peace, to Europe’s responsibility not only to defend itself and its values, but to promote peace in the world. In face of the tragic and too many “piecemeal wars” hurting the people of this planet, Europe should be a peacemaker. At all levels, Europe has the strength to mediate between small and large powers to find ways of reconciliation in the face of violence. The Nuncio is thinking of Venezuela in this respect. If Europe aimed to be a peacemaker in the world, it would recover the vocation inscribed in its roots and the soul and ideal of which the venerable Robert Schuman spoke.
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