THE POLITICAL PAGE 

August 2005

“Europe - God spoke!" (2. Part)

 

 

This time the „Political Page“ is a combined issue - July/August. But also textually the theme of „Europe“ requires a wider presentationy then ususally. Insofar the 1. part appears in July and the 2nd part of the article will appeare in August. However, there is the possibility to download this article under www.beter-im-aufbruch.de.vu if you wish to read the whole article during hollydays.

 

Also the layout of the article is different then usually. The „background“ - i. e. the spiritual interpretation comes first. Secondly, we have the information regarding the disaster in Brussel and the reasons for it. The 1st part of the article closes with prayer requests.

The 2nd part  of the article starts with some issues which arise from the above mentioned situation. In order to get a feeling of the current crucial situation it is good to keep in mind the stages of development in Europe. What does it mean  ’to be as fit as a fiddle for the globalisation?’ It means that Europe has to know its identity in order to follow its own way and to get itself confidently involved in the new era. The end is a spiritual assessment of the idea of an united Europe idea and God’s benchmarks in this situation.  A spiritual reflection concludes the end of part 2.

 

 

Some Consequences

1.      The unity within the ‘club’ of heads of government (who address each other informally) has broken up. Never before had the members of the club spoken such strong words in public as they did on 18th June, early in the morning after this conference. We were reminded of the war in Iraq – and again the British are the stumbling block.
However, this does not seem to bother Tony Blair because he knows how to bring forward future related arguments. On the contrary his influence within the ‘club’ has grown through his council presidency, at the same time as the weakness of Chirac and Schröder have been seen by all.

2.      The East Europeans were the clear winners of the ‘broken –down’ conference. They made clear how important the EU and their EU-membership was for them.  It seem that after this summit that ‘second-rate membership’ does no longer exists. This is what the former Polish Foreign Secretary Bronislaw Geremek said in the interview with FAZ (19.06.2005, page 2): “For us Europe and the EU are not boring like something which has always been there, for decades, the unity of Europe has always been a dream for us. Even though this dream has become a reality now, Europe is still precious to us, it is something you handle with care - something costly. In our country there is a more peaceful coexistence of the national and European attitude together. Therefore, we are more flexible.” We can learn again from the East Europeans that the Europe, which is growing closer together, is something very precious.

3.      We don’t know whether the politicians have understood the message of the two recent referendums. Alongside the rotational election the plebiscite is a special instrument, a chance to hear the heartbeat of the citizens; politicians are always well advised to analyse the results of a referendum. We are anxious to see politics, in close relation to the citizens will look like in the next few years. Mere office in Berlin and an office in Munich, which are sending material to Europe on request will not be enough in order to bring Europe closer to its citizens; publicity must happen through individuals. We could also imagine a ‘summit’ of the NGO, ‘non-governmental organisations’ with the participation of churches where the head of states could simply sit back and listen.

4.      The constitution in its present form has been fruitless. A plan B ‘for all cases’ did not exist, therefore, in Brussel they had to talk about how to go on. In contrast to other countries they decided not to cancel the voting process but to take a ‘reflection’ break. In this context the way was opened for further votings. For the time being no changes will be made to the Constitution text. In addition to this, there is an other year between now, and 2007; a a year which is given with ulterior motives - in order to get the public better informed, and to enable voting for a second time.

5.      Desipte the broken-down summit, the EU still has the capacity to act. The EU continuously works structurally on the basis of the unwieldy Nice agreement.
Matters are also regulated financially up to 2006, the neogtiations were about the EU-subsudies for the periode from 2007 to 2013.
At the same time the possibility to increase the budget was dicussed, i. e. higher taxes for net payers. The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Finnland were seen to be against it in the end.
However, both the structure/mode and finances/subsudies need to a regulation by the end of next year at the latest. But which? – This question is far deeper than anything else the ‘heads’ had to solve until now.

5.1. The constitution is a matter of rules about internal procedures, a matter of how a 25 states structure can function and how decisions can be made possible. The EU-enlargement happend without the wherewithal of rules of internal procedure. Although, politicians worked simultaneously on the internal procedures and on the preparation of the integration, the interal procedures were not ready on 1st May 2004, the day when the 10 new member states were accepted. The internal procedures were finished in Brussel in June, respectively in Rome on 29th October 2004.
Obviously, integration was premature; therefore, a reorganisation of the internal procedures will soon take place.
5.2. The actual question of survival for the EU was raised when finances were discussed. It wasn’t a question whether more money should flow into Brussels cash box - because everybody would have finally been ready for compromises, even though the British would have handed back a part of their rebate - Blair’s question was: what does the EU spend its money on? On agriculture or on research? On the past or on the future?
Without really talking about it, everybody could figure out from the main question, what the question behind this question was. Blair heard again the old question about Great Britain: what should Europe finally look like? Internally and exeternally should Europe be an economic area or an area of common political action – based on common values and beliefs.
Since 1971, the year in which England joined the EC, Britain, in the tradition of its foreigne policy, has always been reluctant to be put in close connectiton with Europe. For example: in 2002, Great Britain did not change to the Euro, England kept the Pound, or: the fact that Tony Blair did not give in to pressure to change, this was celebrated as a ‘victory’ in the UK.
In contrast to this, the continental states, Germany and France - the two big states ahead of all other states – are of the opinion that only a close association will keep Europe competitive in its political action in the golbalised world of the future. Europe should speak with one single voice.
For the British, Europe should not be more than a confederation, whereas the continental Europeans see Europe as federal state.
Both parties want to ’limber up’ Europe for the future.
- Tony Blair wants to do it mainly by re-distributing the budgetary funds;
- Schröder and Chirac want to do it by continuously linking the countries closer together politically.
Tony Blair has to accept the question of whether a common economic area with several different currencies and national opinions will be able to compete with China, India or the USA.
At present, the Heads of the continental Europeans have to take note that the majority of their people no longer want to follow an intergration policy and that in this situation they have to re-determine the role of the nations as a homeland.
Vision is needed in order to inspire the people – vision which is worthwhile, is to be fought for, to forbeare other things and to make incestments. Whoever does not expect a better future will not move today, but will keep hold of acquired things and protect them - this is the case in Europe at the moment. Europe has not yet reached the citizens' heart.

6.      but globalisation has. Globalisation is a ’scary’ factor for people. According to Federal Chancellor Schröder, until now the politicians couldn’t communicate to their citizens that Europe was meant to be a help in this. In this context, Europe is rather seen as an entrance, as a foretaste for the globalisation so to speak – and therefore is generally rejected. How Euorpe really helps its people under this pressure of globalisation has been poorly communicated. Hardly anybody knows that Europe levies protective duty on imports from Third-World countries in order to protect its own farmers. People only perceive this when, as happened the other day, the EU dropped its protective duty. A decision which led to hundreds of bankruptcies among farmers, because the local production of sugar from sugar beets is more expensive than the extraction of sugar from sugar cane in Jamaica.

7.      From the voting debacle, Günter Verheugen, the vice president of the commission came to a right and important conclusion, by noting that the expansion of the EU could no longer be continued at the same speed. New sounds from Brussels! New sounds from him, the responsible commissar who since 2003 froced the expansion of the European Union by accepting ten new countries. Admittedly he added that concluded contracts have to be kept; clearly he said Romania and Bulgaria will join, and the negotiations for Turkey to join the EU will also be resumed. However, he says that the criteria will be administered more severer then before. When comparing things in the future to the past – as in the expansion euphoria of the political strategists reaching its climax, the new candidates will face many more difficulties.

 

Background Story and Perspectives

The EU stands again at a turning point. Therefore, a review on the history of development in Europe is appropriate at this point.

 

Stages of Development in the EU

 

1st Stage

In 1946 Winston Churchill delivered a speech in Genf in which – according to the experience gained after the first and second World Wars - he proposed the formation of the “United States of Europe” where Germany and France would play a decesive role. He said that this would be the only way peace can be secured in Europe in future. He was right!

At first, the economic co-operation agreement was made in 1950 for carbon and steel. This agreement in economic co-operation was than expanded in 1957. The European Economic Community was founded in Rome on 25th March 1957. The charter members were: Belgium, Germany (FRG), France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The circle of the 6 members was expanded to 9 members and step by step it was expanded to 15 members. Even the name changed from EC to EU, every new name represented a programmatic progress.

The themes of this stage were reconcilation of former “hereditary enemies”, peace and co-operation in many political areas. The result of this peace was a steady economic growth and out of this came the prosperity for the countries involved. Morevover, these states protected and secured themselves through their own organisations (e.g. NATO). This was the time when the of the Cold War took place.

 

2nd Stage

This stage started with the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the “reversal” in Germany. First of all, East-Germany was suddenly part of the EU. However, the opening of the Iron Curtain opened new perspectives and the satelltie states of the former Soviet Union, which historically were part of Europe, could now become members – this released a long awaited process which ended with the membership into the EU on 1st May 2004.

The expansion from 15 to 25 members raised the administration question, the question of the rules of internal procedure but also the question of border enlargement and thus the question about European identity.

The council had to debate these questions and use them as the basis for drawing up a constitution. These – still important reviews, cannot become effective yet, but still need to be clarified.

The process has not finished yet, and the end of this stage has not been reached. but it has already been started.

 

3rd Stage

This stage will be marked by the problems of the increasing globalisation in all areas. Europe needs to find its place together with the countries of China, India and the USA.

It is obvious that this cannot mean: faster, cheaper, more. It means that Europe has to recognise its identity in dorder to operate within its own priorities.

Thus, decreasing population and increasing obsololeteness will represent a major problem, which will finally reduce the potential of innovation.

From this point of view, the latest shock in Brussels was necessary. This was due to Tony Blair; he rang the alarm bell. It is not yet too late . The shock turned into an opportunity.

 

Excursus

From a spiritual point of view, God often opens the doors of mercy in times of judgement. As sure as we know that what happened in Brussels was God's judgement on the statesmen, we also know that God loves and leads Europe. He wants to give us a hope and a future.

God’s work in Europe during the centuries is a fact. Even statesmen cannot change this, they can, at most – only ignore it. But the praying church, which recognizes, acknowledges and praises God’s sovereignity will be heard by God, and when it calls for him he will answer willingly. He sees the repentance of the priests who are “standing in the gap” for their countries and thus he can intervene. “Then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7,14)

 

Europe’s Identity

 

Not only countries but also continents have their own identity. This identity can be felt when a German meets a Spaniard in a foreign society: be it as an exchange student in the USA or as a development worker in Africa. However, Europeans are different from Americans, for example.
What makes Europe and the Europeans so special?

 

The USA has a history which dates back over 250 years and despite all differences between east and west, between the states in the north and the states in the south they still see themselves as a sinlge nation.
Europe has a history which dates back 1500 years and is structured in more than 25 nations with 20 different languages. This means that an European continuously encounters many different cultures. Therefore European identity is marked by the knowledge of many different cultures and the tolerance of diversity. In addition, it is normal for Europeans to know at least one foreign language and two foreign languages are required in order to do an A-level-examination. Both things make a clear distinction between Europeans and Americans.

The variety of peoples, but also the long history with thousands of windings makes the (intellectual) European think sophisticated. He must be able to understand and feel fine differences. The Americans call this 'sophisticated’, 'snobbish’, ‘intellectual’.

 

From the very beginning, European culture - especially the culture in central and south Europe has been marked by both Greek and Roman Antiquity - which influenced the renaissance and the humanism in the 15th century, and particularly the enlightenment of the 18th century. The humanistic idea of man, from appreciation, up to over-assessment of the individual, as well as the reasonable belief of enlightenment (which is basically questioning everything which is not rational) are two mentalities which when compared to the Islamic society, or the civilisation of the Far East - have left their mark on the European culture.

 

An out-of-state political reflection of the enlightenment, led to the development of democracy as a form of government. In Germany this form of government was only established in 1918 after the II World War, but in some other countries democracy was established as the result of revolutions.

Democracy is based on freedom and it develops the freedom of the individuals at the same time. This is the contact point of both European, and American culture.

 

However, Europe was mainly marked by Christianity in all cultural areas: from the Ural mountains to Gibraltar you can find a church wherever you go - a ‘House of God’: The 7th day – Sunday - in our culture is due to Christianity and from here it went out to the whole world. The holidays in the course of a year which have marked the European culture up to now are commemoration days for Jesus’ life. According to the teaching of the Bible, the appreciation of woman is based on their equality before God. Marriage and the resulting familly have a Christian root. Admittedly, at this point the Christian belief could be tie in with Germanic customs.

The Ten Commandments, which were taken over from the Jewish faith, have considerably marked the conscience - in other words the knowledge of right and wrong of the Europeans. The measures of values have become a cultural asset even though they are very often disregarded.

In his speech 'Der Rede wert’ (‘Worth Mentioning’) Köhler, the Federal President pointed to the fact that the idea of solidarity with the weak presented by Jesus in the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’ is at the core of the European identity. This idea of solidarity underlies the co-operative banking institution as well as the insurance industry, hospitals and all the charitable efforts, right up to the foundation of the Red Cross.

Therefore, the basic idea of the EU, solidarity with the weak, is a deeply Christian idea and a hallmark of European identity, and also of all cultures which were touched by the European Christianity.

 

Partly due to the Jewish-Christian belief in God - which recognizes God as the creator of the nature - an end came to the idolisation of nature, and partly marked by the rationalism of enlightenment, natural science and consequently technology, these all enjoyed a fast development in Europe.

Therefore, Europe is filled with the spirit of research, inventive talent and technical viability – these are characteristics which make Europe something special, and, which are distinguishies it from other countries. In world-wide competition, Europe has to show that it is no longer interested in ’more’ but in ’better’ – better from a social as well as from an ecological point of view, because this is a way out for the world.

 

This is only a brief draft of European identity. Only thoses who are identical are as fit as a fiddle for life. "Europe can only become fit for the global commpetition if it returns to its occidental roots.” (Heimo Schwilk, European Vision in: WAMS 19th June 2005).

 

The EU – God’s Idea

 

Most Christians will not agree to this wording. But don’t they actually reject the current form of it than they reject the idea behind it?
Helmut Schmidt, the former Chancellor of the Federal Republic writes in his article, “We need more courage”: DIE ZEIT dated 9th June 2005): “The fact that a union was formed by five hundered million Europeans, with 20 national languages which, arose out of a free will and free of alien control in the course of centuries and of thousands of years, remains a unique historic event.”

All previous attempts at unifications of Europe – by Karl the Great, by Napoleon and right up to Hitler – were forced on Europe by violence, war and terror. These are Satan’s hallmarks in the world.

There are many people who joined forces in war, but now get aligned with each other in peace in order to become friends – isn’t this than the handwriting of Jesus, the Prince of Peace?

The founders Schuman, Adenauer and de Gaspari, have consciously founded the new Europe on reconcilation instead of vengeance – isn’t this than an angelical experience at an extremely high degree? “Glory to God in the highest – and on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.”

If the strong is no longer exploiting the weak (which they could do actually), but turn to them in solidarity for their needs and help them – isn’t this like the coming of the kingdom of God?

If due to peace and freedom, people are well-off, the economy is flourishing and prosperity is blossoming – isn't this God's blessing? Should we than lecture God for blessing people when they don’t want to repent, even though God’s mercy leads them to repentance?

 

No, God is not against an union of the European peoples. God uses the Union’s basic values and he makes it become a role model for other cultures and a testimony for the values of God’s kingdom,a testimony for many other peoples of the world. These are values which are implemented in the policy of our days

The growing unity among the peoples is not the problem. The problem is self-glorification bystatesmen. God humbels them, yes, he will remove many of them in the near future – but God will not cease from his work in Europe. The church prepares the way for the Lord through prayer, and this enables the implementation of God’s will –“on earth as it is in heaven”.

At present there is the ardent question about the re-determination of the connection between nation state and central-office. From the citizen’s votes it becomes obvious that they want the nation states to be given more attention. If the abortive constitution will be re-verbalised also this issue will be given more attention than the simple across-the-board term of “subsidisation”.

Nation states for the state, are the same thing as family is considered to be as an autonomus “organisation”. As little as the state is allowed to intervene in the rights of the familly, so the EU is allowed to intervene in the rights of the nation state. Famillies still need the state as an higher-ranking authority with ist own powers, e. g. regarding the framework of familly life and many other things. The EU’s duty is also to initiate and regulate whatever (a) exceeds the power of single states, and (b) whatever is meant to be of benefit for all states.

 

Conclusion

 

To make policy is a vast and holy business, because here you can put God’s good thoughts for the people into action.

Who is allowed to do this?

The one who is obedient.

Look at Salomon. When he became king it was his supreme desire to have an ‘obedient heart’. This was also important for his reign, and not only for his personal life. (1 King 3, 5-15)

And how did God answer him?

Under Salomon, Israel experienced its longest time of peace and was blossoming politically, economically and spiritually like never before - and never again since then.

This is the way God rewards the obedient hearts of the ruler. He blesses their people with welfare, peace, wealth and happiness. So was it and so will it be until the end of time.

 

 

Ortwin Schweitzer

 

Sources: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung 19.06.2005; DIE ZEIT 9.6 and 16.06.2005; Frankfurter Rundschau 18.6. / 20.6. /24.06.2005; Rheinischer Merkur 23.06.2005; Stuttgarter Nachrichten 07.05.2005; Stuttgarter Zeitung 17.06.2005; Welt am Sonntag 19.06.2005; Deutschlandradio, ARD Sabine Christiansen.

 

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