THE POLITICAL PAGE
“Europe - God spoke!" (1st Part)
This time the „Political Page“ is a combined issue - July/August. But also textually the theme of „Europe“ requires a wider presentation then ususal. In so far as the 1st part appears in July and the 2nd part of the article will appear 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 your holidays.
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 Brussels 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 and God's benchmarks in this situation. A spiritual reflection concludes the end of part 2.
There is nobody who has not taken notice with great concernment of what happened in Europe during the last few weeks. Whoever remembers the struggle with the ‘reference to God' in the preamble of the European constitution in autumn 2003 – a reference which was finally rejected – becomes aware that he is just about to experience and see with his own eyes how God is shaping history and that He is also conducting the secular post-christian history in Europe. God cannot be mocked. The deceased Pope John Paul II said in his struggle with the reference to God that he would not give Europe more than 10 years if it consciously continued to exclude God. It did not take 10 years, it took only 1 year for Europe to face its most difficult crises since its establishment. Crises in which nobody knows how to move forward, and in which nobody dares to make any prognosis.
When God speaks, he speaks clearly.
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was the president of the convention. After long debates in the convention and under pressure of time he made the wording for the ‚European preamble' alone, and he also put it through with the authority of a president. Against all prognoses he was very surprisingly not elected during the elections in France and since then he disapeared in the political obscurity.
Last year Jacques Chirac who was adamantly against the ‚reference to God' and the mention of Europe's christian heritage (considering France's constitution) was so self-confident that he promised his people a referendum on the constitution. He could never have anticipated what has happened now: the mood within the population changed drastically, yes, the people balanced their books with him and he lost 55% of the voters. He was deeply humiliated infront of the intrenational world. He is now considered to have been harmed so badly politically that it is not sure wether he will survive the next 2 years of his term of office.
After signing the contract in Rome on 29.10.2004 all Heads of States and Government agreed to send the constitution on the way of ratification without the ‚reference to God'. Even though the power of veto was still valid, i. e. a NO could nullify the entire process, they were so optimistic that they did not even considere a plan B in the case of repudation. Everybody was aware of the Euro-scepticism of the British, and were consequently horrified when Tony Blair also conceded a referendum to his people few weeks ago. Everybody knew that he would loose with a probability of 1 to 6. But what happend afterwards was a worst case scenario for the EU: not the ‘British islander' but the home country of the European Unity Process – France, said No to the constitution – even ahead of the British. And on 1st June three days later another core country, the Netherlands, said No to the constitution. In addition, even before the “Head of States” could convene for the crisis meeting, Tony Blair announced that he will not be able to bring a fruitless and abortive matter before his people to vote for it. The Danish - where the no—sayers are meanwhile in the majority - followed suit. Other countries followed their example.
In order to set up a signal about the capacity to act for the European population dispite this obviuos break-down, they decided to talk about the way forward for the constitution at the next summit, which took place from 16th – 17th June in Brussels. But on the 2nd day (on 17th June) they planed to talk about the EU-budget for the years 2007 – 2013. Although these were different standpoints, the hope was still there to bring them together by means of compromises - if everybody ‘made a slight move', but it was doomed to failure. The negotiation were spoiled; anger, disappointment and resignation about the way ahead for Europe came up . Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the council, an enthusiastic European conceded in the end that his enthusiasm for Europe “got a kink” that night.
This is the way God spoke to the lead actors, individually and collectively, to those who were of the opinion they could factor HIM out of the history of the continent.
In a letter addressed to the 25 Heads of States and Government of the EU, shortly before the conference in Brussel, I tried to point at this circumstances. Some phrases:
Last year you all agreed the present wording of the constitution.
In June last year you were all under great pressure to succeed and no one wanted to make things more complicated. This is very understandable – but still a serious mistake.
Once again, I am asking you now not to think „politically“ but to step back and consider this issues from a strategic perspective. If God is not just a philosophical formulation but a powerful reality, then he stands above Europe; indeed above everything. This means: HE is commiserative but he also influences the events here on Earth. He uses very normal social and political factors like, for example, public opinion and politicians to accomplish his will.
He is asking us if we want a Europe that is with or without him. It is our free choice. In one case he will bless us politically and economically in materialistic, normal ways; in the other case, the opposite might happen: Dissent, impurity, failure. Right now, we are seeing the beginning of this. That is why I am writing this letter.
I am conscious that mine is an interpretation of history that not everyone shares. But when I look at the history of the European Union over the last few years and especially at the origins of the constitution through the perspective of the ‘The Tower of Babel' bible story the current confusion is no longer surprising me. The connection between ‘being without God' and this setback to European Unity - a historic wonder of the world, of a dream of mankind - becomes very obvious.
Yours faithfully, Ortwin Schweitzer
In Babel (Genesis 11, 1-9) the discovery that backed clay can be used as a construction kit and that tar can be used as mortar gave rise to a people that worked a historical cultural wonder. The tower they wanted to build was to (a) keep them together, (b) to make a name for themselves, (c) to reach up to the sky i. e. to shake hands with a loving God. They nolonger need him for their building.
It is the same course of actions now as it was then, when we look at the establishment of the constitution: (a) the community work should keep them together, (b) other regions of the world should be astonished when they see the unique historcal wonder built with the money mortar and the construction kit of many peoples, (c) a work which did no longer need God's blessing.
“But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.“ What a subtle irony! The Lord had to come down to see the tower, which, had been planned to reach the sky.
“Come let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
Straight away after the double-NO of the French and Dutch, I had this story in mind. But with the summit in Brussels the tower of Babel story was perfectly fulfilled.
An other hint of the evidence of God in this events. God does not only speak through events which require interpretation, but he also speaks directly through his word which encroaches upon this situation. The following verse was the motto from the Herrenhuter Bohemian Brethren on the 16th June, the day the conference in Brussels started: “All who have raged against him will come to him and will be put to shame.” Isaiah 45,24. A word of judgement but also an invitation. May you understand it as such.
The course of events: Brussels 16th – 17th June 2005
In order to understand the problem and the drama of this summit it that broke-down, it is necessary get some information.
One of the basic principles of the community of the European member states is the solidarity principle, in which the stronger helps the weaker. This deep christian principle says that politically and economically stronger states are to help the weaker states financially in order to give them the chance to reach the same level of prosperity; and thus all European states will enjoy the same standard of living over the years. Before the EU-expansion on 1st May 2004 Spain, Portugal, Greece and Irland were part of the 15 receiver states. The other 11 states pay more money to Brussels than they are granted subsidies for their country (these are “Net Payers”).
Each one of the 11 states agreed to pay a certain percentage rate of the national income into Brussel's cash box. Percentagwise, the Netherlands and Sweden are ahead of Germany (Germany is ranked 3rd). Germany is the largest national economy in Europe and expressed in real figures, Germany with 7.652 billion euros is far ahead of the Netherlands with 1.956 billion euros and of Sweden with 0.950 billion euros. This is why Germany is called the “paymaster” of the EU.
Of course, through the exports, the EU brings large benefits to the German economy.-
And from a spiritual point of view we cannot pray for Germany to walk in its calling
and to be a blessing for all the 9 neighbouring states and Europe and forget about this as soon as
we need to pay. If Germany is a ‘father'- land then the Father is also allowed to pay a little bit more for the well-being of his (people-) family.
The ‘British Rebate'
Today, England is the second largest national economy in Europe, and England is also ranked second in paying into the EU cash box – even though it pays far less then Germany. In percentage they are ranked 6 th , i. e. compared to the other states which are ahead of them; they don't have to diverge to much from their economic income. How does this work?
In 1984, England was a weak national economy. At that time, the English prime minister Margaret Thatcher obtained from her colleagues an amount of approx. 4,6 billion euros which was paid back to England because England did not really need any subsidies for its own agriculture.
But this rebate is no longer needed now, and this amount would be a great help for the improvement of the budgetary position of the EU.
Budget – sounds somehow boring. However, the priorities of an organisation become obvious when looking at its budget.
The EU - budget 2005 covers 106 billion euros. Thereof:
46% (49 billion euros) are alloted to the agriculture.
33% (34 billion euros) are alloted to the structural policy, which promotes growth and employment in under-developed regions.
7% (7,4 billion euros) are alloted to the domestic policy, i. e. for the European domestic market, the monetary and financial policies; research, innovation and education.
5% (5,3 billion euros) are alloted to the foreign policy, this are of a preventative nature and are for supporting measures for non-member countries.
5% (5,3 billion euros) are alloted for administration issues.
3% (3,2 billion euros) help for the candidates to join the EU to re-evaluate the justice, administration and infrastructure systems.
1% (1,06 billion euros) reserve for emergency aid.
It becomes obvious that through this distribution the agricultural sector is considered disproportionately. (Therein the protective duty, price and acceptance guarantee, landscape protection etc. are also included) This calls for questions especially when you came to know that only 5% of the population of the EU are employed in agriculture. However, France receives the largest part (approx. 11 billion euros) of this subsudies for its farmers. Germany - with almost 6 billion euros - is ranked 3 rd .
This amazing distribution of the budgetary funds can only be explained by the beginning, by the history of origins of the EU.
The course of events with regards to the negotiations :
The negotiations on 17st June were broken-up because of the adamant NO of the British to cancel their rebate completely or partly. A new suggestion of president Juncker to increase the rebate from 4.6 billion euros to more then 5.5 billion euros and to “freeze” the amount at this size, was refused by Tony Blair.
The last but very reasonable suggestion came from the East European members at midnight. Addressing the British they said: “If your problem is a problem of financial nature, we are ready to make a sacrifice”, i. e. to do without certain subsudies. The convention members were moved emotionally. Thus the new members proved themselves to be authentic Europeans who are ready for sacrifices for the sake of others. However, Tony Blair will not give in. “We don't want the poorer East European countries to pay for us.“ He wants something completely different. He wants a radical correction of the course within the EU.
He says, he has nothing against displaying the rebate in the size of billions, but only if the discussion was raised about where the EU is spending the money.
This approach is correct . He is watching the budget for the agriculture and he is asking himself how the EU might survive in competition with the USA, China and India if only 1/7 of the money invested in agriculture is invested in research, innovation and education. However, this is a matter of the past, because today it is all about Europe's future.
Of course, Jacques Chirac had to withstand this argument too, because France is granted the largest benefits for agriculture. When he finally agreed for negotiations in 2009, Blair asked for warranties – but nobody wanted to give him this warranties. Because of this, he stuck to his NO… and the summit broke-up.
A few days later, in his inaugural speech in the European parlaiment he had the same attitude, because Great Britain will take over the Council Presidency on 1. July.
Reasons for the No
Therer are various reasons for the 'non' in France and the ‘nee' in Holland. In France the ‘for and against' was eagerly discussed in cafés and pubs but the mood in Holland was exactly the opposite: boring and sluggish. In France, all parties mobilised the people against Europe, beginning from the left wing party (Fabius), and then to the( communists, including of course, the right wing party (Le Pen). But the ‘nee' of the Dutch was not the response of a party. Therefore, the rejection in France in comaprison with the neo-liberal economic policy of the EU had a very sharp socialcritic accent and called for a social protection on the part of the policy. Whereas Holland stood under the shock of 2 murders (of Pim Fortyn and Theo van Gogh). They turned the formal liberal country into a country which primarilly expects protection from the state: Protection from immigrants and protection from rampant islamism. National identity was the main reason for the Dutch rejection (60%).
“The ‘time of fun' with Europe is over. and I addition, needed re-structuring. Nato was a symbol of secutrity for us, the EU a symbol of prosperity, the third world was a symbol of our moral assignment. Today, the third world has become a competitor, Nato a shadow of itself and the EU has become something for Sunday speeches only. No wonder that the ‘nee' is more and more on the increase.” (DIE ZEIT, 25.05.2005, page 9)
The analysis of dissatisfaction of one single Dutch person could easily be carried forward to the other European countries. Thus Edmund Stoiber in the ‘Welt am Sonntag,' (‘WAMS' 18.06.05) and Angela Merkel in the Stuttgarter Zeitung, (17.06.05) clarily named, before the German Federal Diet, the causes which led to the disacceptance of the constitution. And after the break down of the summit even Chancellor Schröder admits: “Until now we undoubtedly failed to make people understand that they need the European Union in order to shape globalisation.” (WAMS dto page 3)
The various votes show the following five reasons for the failiure of the constitution:
There is a general breach of confidence among the citizens towards the politicians ‘up there. In France as in Holland the rejection of the constitution had something to do with the general criticism of Chirac's present government, respectively with the end of the regimes in the Balkans. Both referendums were indicators for this large displacement, but the politicians seemed to have no clarity regarding this displacement. In many European states there is a lack of credibility among the people and the government.
Above all, there is a miserable promotion strategy for Europe respectively for the citizens' constitution. Any new detergent is promoted with more professionalism and more intensity than the constitution. If the constitution was of historical importance then how much more effort schould be made in order to promote it to the citizens through advertisments, TV Spots, comments on the radio etc. Whoever advertises poorly should not wonder if he cannot sell his product.
Especially when the product is extremely bulky : The agreement has about 482 pages which need to be promoted. The product was filled to excess:
Definitions and targets of the European Union
The charter of approx. 50 basic rights of the citizens of the EU
What are the political areas the EU is involved in and how does the EU work.
Then there are 36 protocols on 200 pages, plus 70 pages with explanations etc. - a paradigm on burocracy which shows that it wasn't made for its citizens.
The image of Europe in its citizens minds is ‘forked'.
The positive thing is that there are no borders for tourists and that the Euro can be used in payment almost all over Europe, thus people can compare prices more easily. Less obvious but of great importance is the cross-border combat against international criminality and terrorism, as well as the protection of the climate and some other things. On 1st May 2004 when the ten new states were accepted as new members, the citizens of the European continent were really able to anticipate what this great idea of Europe was like. This was strongly promoted via mass-media and everybody could feel the breath of history, the breath of an unique historic event.
Unfortunately, negative views are dominating the people's image of Europe, but this is clearly due to the politicians who ascribe success to themselves. However, if it is difficult to convey a law, then it is due to 'Brussels' or the 'EU' (see the interview with Günter Verheugen, the vice president of the commission in DIE ZEIT, NR. 24 of 09.06.2005 page 27). Europe is predominately for its citizens: Burssels – the administration molech – producer of constantly new, absurd and ridiculous regulations (e.g. standardised curvature grade for cucumbers for the whole of Europe) etc.
The question about the enlargement of the EU is proof that the politicians, as great strategists for Europe, have not worked in the favour of its citizens. They also disregarded the fact that some candidates were not mature and they closed both eyes to the views of Europe's citizens. They also disregarded the fact that from an economical point of view, as well as from the point of view of its civil society, the community has to be mature in order to accept new members.
The last ‘straw that broke the camel's back' was the decission to offer negotiations for Turkey to become a member of the EU. “Stop to the inner over-expansion!“ said Angela Merkel in the Federal Diet. Addressing the Chancellor she said: „A simple 'Weiter-So' ( a German pun for ‘go on') will distroy Europe.” She only wants to offer Turkey a ‘privileged partnership' but no full mebership within the EU.
The Turkey question finally brought forth the question about the European identity. Thus it became obvious that the European Union was not built according to plans but according to situations. Ovioulsly, there is no binding definition for Europe (finis lat. = the border!) - neither geographically, spiritually or culturally. Those that thought that Europe will reach up to the Bosporus was steam-rollered by geo-political necessities comncerning crisis regions in the middle East. Whoever thought that Europe was marked by Christianity and enlightenment had to hear Erdogan's insolent utterances that Europe wasn't a ‘Christian club' and has to agree that up to now, none of our European statesmen had the courage to give him an adequate reply and say: Indeed, this is what it is! Christianity makes a clear distinction between the Turkish, and European culture and history.
The Disaster in Brussels is to be conceived as a historical signpost. Later generations will look at what the Europeans made out of this shock: a messing about, a comfortable 'Weiter-So' ( the German pun for ‘go on') or a chance to change directions. From this point of view Tony Blair is not a ruin-er, but a saviour of the Union.
“You, oh God are seated in the highest, Lord of hosts, you reign from eternity to eternity.
Your word says “All who have raged against him will come to him and will be put to shame.” The same thing is still happening today. We have seen your works and shaken to the core about the reality of your judgements; we bow down before you.
This continent has ever belonged to you. Through judgements and mercy you shaped this continent. Yes, you love this little continent.
We can see your love in the kingdom of God priciples; the principles of forgiveness and solidarity, upon which you have founded the unity of the European peoples.
We pray for christian deputies and statesmen who will not make a name for themselves in the spirit of Babel but who will seek and do your will in humility and who will want to be hounoured by you.
Forgive us our pride, that we as Europeans, have shown to the other cultures.
Forgive us our pride of enlightenment and knowledge. Forgive us the pride in our science. Forgive us our numerous murders of children.
As the Church, we bow down before you, for our peoples, and pray for mercy.
We put our continet under Your authority and blessing. –
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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