Europe: A vision with soul
Simon Busuttil, MEP, declared: “We need to talk about the future of Europe... for unless we have a clear vision for our future, we can hardly feel reassured of our future and that of our children” (July 18).
He made extensive references to the two main points, as he called them, arising out of the July EU summit in Brussels, namely The Compact For Growth And Jobs and the report Towards A Genuine Economic And Monetary Union. All this, according to Dr Busuttil and Commission Vice President Viviane Reding, is nothing short of a road map to a political union.
Dr Busuttil believes “this is the next big vision that politicians in Malta too should have. For it is the road to the lasting stability and prosperity that I would like my own country too to share”.
Klaus Vella Bardon, writing in The Sunday Times (July 15) about the future of Europe, was most poignant and more pungent: “The EU has had a positive impact on our country,” he said, “by funding essential infrastructural projects, promoting environmentally friendly policies, supporting small enterprise and fostering education.” Then, with great dismay, he lamented: “Now suddenly, everything is in disarray.The financial meltdown is threatening to tear down the whole concept of the European Union and people’s trust in both the EU and their own governments.”
He then quoted Louis Galea, former minister and now an EU Auditor who, in an address on May 27 on the occasion of the presentation of the Robert Schuman Medal to President Emeritus Eddie Fenech Adami, championed the ideals that underpin the EU. Dr Galea underlined that besides knowledge and competence in specific economic, technological and cultural fields, political leaders also require a soul.
Dr Vella Bardon insisted that “too many politicians have lost their soul... politics has been reduced to a numbers game... and Europe has been corrupted by a style of governance that only knows how to count votes and has lost the wisdom to make qualitative and moral analyses of what is at stake”.
He continued: “Our politicians and bureaucrats in the EU have to... rediscover Europe’s true ideals. A brutal, materialistic, high consumption model will not work. Politics without a spiritual dimension will reduce future decisions to the imperatives of domination, confrontation and narrow, short-term self-interest. ...at all levels, we have to reexamine the ideals that fired the imagination of Europe’s founding fathers”.
At the moment, it seems, EU politicians are not making these reflections at all. There are no references to the ideals of the founding fathers in their speeches and their actions. At least Dr Busuttil did not quote any of them doing so.
In his book The Cube And The Cathedral, George Weigel, the Amercian historian, laments Europe’s embrace of a narrow secularism that has led to a crisis of morale that is eroding Europe’s soul and threatening its future. Weigel traces the origins of “Europe’s problem” to the atheistic humanism of the 19th century European intellectual life, which set in motion a historical process that produced two world wars, three totalitarian systems, the Gulag, Auschwitz, the Cold War — and, most ominously, the Continent’s de-population, which is worse today than during the Black Death. And yet, he exclaims, many Europeans still insist — most recently during the debate over a new EU constitution — that only a public square shorn of religiously informed moral argument is safe for human rights and democracy.
Precisely the opposite, Weigel suggests, is true: the people and the civilisation that produced Notre-Dame “cathedral” can give a compelling account of their commitment to everyone’s freedom; the people and civilisation that produced the starkly modernist “cube” of the Great Arch of La Défense in Paris cannot. Weigel makes a powerful case that societies are only as great as their spiritual aspirations.
Dr Busuttil’s performance record in the European Parliament shows that he has made 39 plenary speeches during the last year.
He seems to be the type to stand up, literally, to be counted. Maybe he will be the one, not only for Malta but also for Europe, to start drawing the attention of the EP, and maybe also convinces Ms Reding that the road map to a political union must rest not only on monetary, fianancial and economic components but also on a spiritual one. Maybe he will make EU parliamentarians look again and again at what the founding fathers had in mind when they embarked on their European project.
After all, the award of the Robert Schuman Medal in 2012 is surely meant to promote the ideals of the founding fathers of Europe and intended to encourage and press today’s EU politicians to put them into practice. Otherwise why are they still being held?
And they would be best awarded not at the very end of a political career but much before, to further encouage EU politicians to strive harder to promote the ideals of the founding fathers and stimulate others to do the same.
Mr Mifsud is former director, Department of Family Welfare.