The European project after 50 years - a call for rediscovery
Initiatives of Christians for Europe", bearing the acronym IXE, is a working group made up of representatives of 12 European countries and the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).
It was set up in March 2006 to further the establishment of a network of "social Christians" across Europe whose prime objective is to help its members get to know and understand each other better in spite of the diversity of their experiences, histories and cultures.
The group visualises the network as a place of critical observation of the evolution of the European structure, a place of reflection on the principles of the social thought of the Church with the aim of making proposals in the social field.
The network should also mobilise itself "to contribute to the success of great demonstrations of a European dimension" as will be the case through a partnership with COMECE for the preparation of a congress commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which will be held in the Italian capital over the coming weekend.
Archbishop Paul Cremona will be attending the congress during which a report on the values on which the European Union is based will be presented. The report has been prepared by a Comité des Sages made up of eminent Europeans from 21 member states, including Malta's Rev. Professor Peter Serracino-Inglott.
The bishop members of COMECE hope that this report will provide a more explicit presentation of the values which are the basis of the process of building Europe.
IXE has its origins in the Nineties when the century-old Semaines Sociales de France and the Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken collaborated in "shared concerns" and signed, in May 2000, the Manifesto for a European Conscience. Today this collaborative effort has been widened with the participation of other bodies from Spain, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Croatia.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957, IXE has issued a declaration, 'Let us discover the meaning of the European Project'.
The declaration boldly states: "Shortly after the expansion of the European Union in 2004 which should have brought hope, Europe is now confronted with doubt and fear. The difficulties of the international context, an aging population, and the rise of individualism and national selfishness weaken European construction." It then affirms that "European construction remains founded on a broader project which creates meaning and which is always of the same topic: reconciliation between people to build a space of peace, justice, prosperity and solidarity, a space open and in the service of the world."
The EU, says the IXE document, must today face new challenges: an economic globalisation that is accelerating; poverty that persists or worsens, particularly at its doors, in Africa; massive immigration; conflicts in the Near and Middle East, and serious threats to the world's environment.
"Silence or too timid action by Europe would be wrong." It is therefore urgent to engage on a new reflection on the direction of the European project, to identify the behaviours that are necessary for change, and to prepare to assume responsibility in accordance with Europe's history and its potential.
"European dynamism is blocked" and, although adoption of the euro was a success, the historical reunification that the EU accomplished with the accession of 12 new member states has not been accompanied by the institutional reforms necessary for its correct operation.
The European project has less support and adherence from citizens whose disenchantment was expressed almost everywhere in the weak participation in the last European Parliament elections and constitutes the major cause of the rejection of the constitutional draft treaty by France and the Netherlands.
"We, Christians in Europe, consider that this space of peace, prosperity and solidarity that the establishment of the European Economic Community aimed at in 1957 is at this point widely accomplished, but the goal of the project for a true political Union is suffering. Only such a Union will enable us to take up the new challenges with which we are confronted. Many fear that it is reduced to a simple authoritative regulation of the markets. Indeed, the governments of the member states behave for the moment like stockholders, living on this extraordinary heritage, but slow in mapping new prospects for Europe."
The declaration asserts that Europeans are searching for the direction to live together. They are becoming richer, but they seem less interdependent. Individualism saps their social bond. Only common values and a project for the advancement of civilisation will be able to allow them to look further into their communal destiny and to face their world responsibilities.
When European demographic perspectives in the next 20/30 years are without question regressing, the rise of new world powers is taking place at dizzying speed. A formidable redistribution of the cards is taking place in which the average powers are likely to lose a say.
The consolidation and deepening of a Union of more than 480 million inhabitants will ensure Europe a role as one of the largest world actors, and will allow its citizens to serenely face globalisation by making a chance for all, and in particular for the most underprivileged through a more human civilisation that puts the economy at the service of humanity.
"The values in which we believe - respect of the person, freedom, solidarity, democracy, justice - push us to place humanity at the heart of the European economic and political project."
Economic growth is necessary to guarantee a level of high employment and social protection in Europe. It requires today, as fast as possible, concrete projections, in particular in the installation of a truly European space of research and innovation, stimulating the universities as well as industry, and the adoption of a common energy policy to guarantee our provisioning at the best price. It will thus contribute to building a bearable energy future for the planet.
Too many citizens, says the declaration, remain excluded from the advantages of economic growth. The requirement of social justice invites the member states to accompany liberalisation of the market with a progressive reinforcement of social norms, to assume eventual reforms of acquired advantages and to eliminate "social dumping".
"Solidarity being a founding value of the European Union, a constitutional treaty should thus include provisions which would better enlighten the social dimension, values and norms which, in the diversity of the traditions of the various countries, constitute the common heritage. Europe must preserve its social vocation, the essential part of its identity, and guarantee thus to each person, of any social origin, the access to training, work and a decent life."
The phenomenon of the globalisation of economic exchanges, the persistence of conflicts in the world after the Cold War, migrations, poverty and planetary epidemics represent new challenges for the EU. They call Europe, rich in its Christian heritage, to its global responsibility for peace, solidarity and world governance in the service of man. Europe must assume its responsibility in the world. It must for that return to the essentials, that is, its spiritual foundations.
Europe, by its recent history of conflicts now overcome, and by steps towards fruitful reconciliation, has invented a new way in the history of humanity. It is a source of hope. This example of unity in diversity is a model that can help the world to progress towards unity through a globalisation more respectful of people, a model for bringing together human beings of different cultures and different religions. In a globalised world, European societies are more and more invited to open to other cultures and other religions.
All this implies that Europe assumes three fundamental tasks: It must be a factor of peace, exercise a world role of prevention and resolution of conflicts, and be an international promoter of solidarity and partnership for development. Europe must give paramount concern to the promises made to the poorest countries and create a common policy of immigration based on radically new approaches.
A united Europe has to imagine, propose and support the installation of a world governance in the service of sustainable development. A true ethics of European governance has to be defined to prepare public opinion for living within a new institutional framework and adapting to a reunified Europe; to renew the dynamic co-existence between European institutions and national governments to avoid the rebirth of sovereignty; to re-learning subsidiarity, which presupposes the responsibility of the actors, in particular at the levels of regional, local and civil society.
"The European Union cannot be built without citizens. It is thus essential to widen spaces of European citizenship, by supporting new forms of civic participation, by stimulating the mobility of young people through school and university exchanges and by organising a European-wide civic service."
European democracy, "which remains to be built", must rest on effective institutions and strong civic participation. However, the lack of information, even misinformation, on the EU's operation and competences is dramatic. It is therefore urgent to provide to the citizens of Europe the means of understanding and of acting within a European democracy. "We think that this change of mentalities does not depend only on our political leaders. At their level, the actors of civil society must also take initiative: they can exert now a decisive influence."
The declaration's final appeal is for:
• men and women political leaders to integrate a European dimension into the heart of their strategies and in their speeches;
• the media to present Europe, to make the various countries, the various cultures better known; to make better known the nature and the work of European institutions;
• teachers to integrate a European dimension into their lessons, without awaiting a reform of their teaching curriculum;
• various actors of cultural life to multiply trans-border or trans-national exchanges; and
• all persons in charge of civil society to include their actions and achievements into a European point of view.