THE POLITICAL PAGE

March / April 2007

Europe Today

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany's speech, at the European Parliament (www. bundeskanzlerin.de Speech - 17 th January 2007).

Angela Merkel delivered her inaugural speech as the new President of the Council on 17 th January 2007. She tried to present a picture of today's Europe, its strengths and its weaker points and other issues that she had decided to address; moreover, whoever knows Angela Merkel also knows that she does what she says.

Some fragments of her speech are quoted literally and compiled in this issue. But more than that I want to comment on her words, also I want to make points about the present state of affairs. The speech was no work of art, and was not a rhetorically outstanding speech, neither was it overflowing with vision – it wouldn't be Angela Merkel's speech if it had – but this speech had a very clear structure. Rhetorically it is sober and unsophisticated, and the content of her statements is basically realistic. Because of this, the European deputies reacted by applauding her speech but without too much enthusiasm; you could say: it was a pure German speech.

Still, there was something to this speech: the first part was especially significant.

The structure of the whole speech:

Part I Europe's Soul

Part II Europe's Cooperation

Part III Europe's Task

•  regarding foreign and security policies

•  home policy

Part IV The end

Part I Europe's Soul

I don't know whether a man like Blair, Chirac or Berlusconi would have dared to start their political speech this way; but Angela Merkel as a woman and with her charming openness, dared to share things about herself.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have spent my whole life in Europe. And yet I am still a relatively youngster in the European Union. That is because I grew up in the former German Democratic Republic, and only 17 years ago, after German reunification and the collapse of the socialist system, was I, together with many millions of others, accepted into the European Union. Consequently, until the age of 35 I only knew the European Union from the outside, and have only been an insider since 1990.
[...]

From the outside, the European Union is a historic success story without precedent. The European Union is one of the most impressive works of peace on Planet Earth. European unification is a happy achievement for the people of Europe . It safeguards their freedom and paves the way for prosperity .
[...] Yet from the inside, too, the European Union is a wonderful house . In fact I find it even more beautiful from the inside than from the outside. That, at least, has been my personal experience in the last 17 years.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don't ever want to leave this house.   I am convinced that there is no better place for us to live than in our shared European home!  

The words of a woman who lived for 35 years under the dictatorship of the GDR and who has experienced both the lack of freedom and suppression, are pleasant and credible.

How much do citizens in Europe, especially in Germany, need to hear such personal confessions made by top politicians? Such words which come from the heart, are used in order to identify the people of this continent, with a growing ‘construction site' called ‘Europe'.

The Chancellor's words regarding Europe are not rooted for economical advantage which Europe can offer to its citizens (especially Germany), nor is it rooted in the comfort of travelling beyond borders with only one currency – no, these words spoken by the Chancellor come from deep within her heart and therefore also touch many hearts. Thank you Angela Merkel!

We can also say: “I don't ever want to leave this house; there is no better place for us to live than in our shared European home” .   This is where the European spirit communicates among citizens, and where identification with Europe grows more and more. The speaker is putting the emphasis on this point; she feels the distance that many people feel toward the European Union:

Ladies and gentlemen, many people in Europe ask themselves [...]: “What should Europe be?” “Why do we need Europe?” "What holds Europe together at its core?" "What defines this European Union?"

Then she also quotes the famous words of the former Commission President Jacques Delors, who at the time when politicians were busy drawing up the regulations of this European mechanism, said: “We have to give a soul to Europe.” In addition to these words Angela Merkel boldly continued:

“Actually, we have to find Europe's soul. For we do not really need to give a soul to Europe – it already has one.”

In certain way a rhetorical searching process has been initiated, in a very interesting way, the speaker is leading us through until she finally reaches the core term; “Europe's Soul”.

First she quotes Karel Capek, an author from Prague who talks about a 'creator of Europe' behind the lines - and this is what Angela Merkel intended us to understand. “The creator of Europe, made her small and even split her up into little parts, so that our hearts could find joy not in size but in plurality.” What a good and true word! These small, and mini-states in which each one has and looks after its own history, traditions and culture, this European ‘rug made up of rags' is what makes America crazy in its dealings with ‘Europe'. When will the Europeans be able to talk with one single voice? Never, “Uncle Sam”!

Angela Merkel says this very clearly:

Undoubtedly it is correct to say that Europe thrives on its diversity . We want to preserve the differences between our nations, between the regions of Europe, the diversity of languages and mentalities . We cannot and will not harmonize everything which could be harmonized .

This statement made by the President of the Council regarding Europe's plurality should be taken very seriously, because she addresses the fears of many citizens regarding centralisation in Europe.

Thus, as the President of the Council of the heads of government in Europe, she gives clear directives to the commission which gathers the central power of administration. “No, we cannot and will not harmonize everything which can be harmonized .” A clear word from the Chief addressed to the administration in Brussels.

This individuality of European regions has officially been stipulated in the new constitution treaty: ”The Union preserves the cultural plurality as well as the linguistic diversity, and safeguards the development of Europe's cultural heritage” (1-3 (3) ). In article I -11 to 18 the principles and details for the cooperation and the clear definition of ability level between the nation states, and the Union are stipulated and described very precisely.

Core sentence: according to the subsidisation principle, the Union will only intervene in areas which do not fall within its ability level if the targets of the actions, which are taken into consideration by the member states, cannot be carried out to satisfaction on central, regional or local levels, and which due to their size or effect are easier to be carried out by the Union.

Examples for such 'areas of divided abilities'. I -14 quotes: agriculture, environment, crime etc. Also, support is needed in: industry, culture, tourism, disaster controls, which are mentioned in I-17 and this lines up completely with the abilities of the member states.

The words of the Chancellor strongly emphasize the independence of the nations and the regions, wherever this is possible.

But let us come back to the speech; to the question - what is the soul of Europe? and the issue of plurality.

Yes indeed, Europe thrives on its diversity. Yet it is also true to say that diversity in itself cannot be the universal European principle which helps us to understand what holds Europe together in its innermost being, what defines its sou l. [...]The question is: "What makes Europe's diversity possible?"

What would your answer be to this question?

I believe the answer to this question is clear: freedom is what makes our diversity possible. Freedom is the prerequisite for our diversity – freedom in all its manifestations: The freedom to express our opinions freely, even when others do not like them.

The freedom to believe or not to believe; the freedom of enterprise, the freedom for artists to create their work as they see fit. Europe needs this freedom just as much as we need air to breath; where this is restricted, we wither away.

Freedom is not something which can be achieved once and for all time. Freedom has to be won anew almost every day. And freedom, Ladies and gentlemen, does not stand alone. It is inextricably linked with responsibility. When we speak of true freedom, therefore, we are actually always speaking of the freedom of others.

Or we can say in Voltaire's famous words: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

I think Voltaire carried the soul of Europe within himself . For Voltaire's words show sentence: that what characterizes Europe, what defines its soul is the way we approach our diversity . [...]

It is tolerance. Europe's soul is tolerance. Europe is the continent of tolerance.

This was the core of Angela Merkel's speech. For her, as a former citizen of the GDR, it was the deepest statement she could make regarding Europe and the way she experienced Europe before and after the fall of the iron curtain. For her, tolerance does not mean random action and a lack of a point of view, but responsibility in order to maintain freedom as something active, always fresh; and to protect this, for me, for others and for the whole European Union.

This is the landmark of European culture when compared to other cultures (Africa, China, Russia and Islamic countries).

”Europe is the continent of tolerance.“

Today! But how long will it be before the fanaticism of religion and national fascism breaks through our ranks?

We have taken centuries to learn this. On the way to tolerance we had to endure cataclysms. We persecuted and destroyed one another. We ravaged our homeland . We jeopardized the things we revered. Not even one generation has passed since the worst period of hate, devastation and destruction that was perpetrated in the name of my people.

Our history over the centuries certainly gives us in Europe absolutely no right to look down on the people and regions of the world that have problems practising tolerance today. Yet our history over the centuries obliges us in Europe to promote tolerance throughout Europe and across the globe and to help everyone practise it.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, tolerance is a demanding virtue . It requires the involvement of both heart and mind. It requires something of us. [...]

Another thing is also very important. Angela Merkel makes a clear distinction between tolerance and intolerance. We can almost hear Gunther Lachmann's headline ‘Deadly Tolerance' at this point. When is tolerance wrong?

I therefore state quite clearly that Europe must never show the least understanding for intolerance, for violence perpetrated by right-wing or left-wing extremists, for violence in the name of a religion. Tolerance sounds its own death knell if it does not protect itself from intolerance. In the words of Thomas Mann, "Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil." [...]

Without naming it, the speaker addresses the Islam issue in the European civil societies and in the framework of beneficial cooperation.

“Tolerance” – why does tolerance have to stay as part of the “Soul of Europe”? Christians sometimes have difficulties with this word - one of the central terms for the European enlightment of the 18 th century which was used against the religious intolerance during the religious wars of the 17 th century. Maybe it would have been more appropriate if Ms. Angela Merkel would have used that which keeps Europe close together, which she claimed to be essential for the European Constitution during her audience with the Pope in November 2006:

A Jewish-Christian heritage?

On one hand however, we have to be aware that for 300 years, philosophy as a form of secularisation alongside church has become more and more popular in the Union and that on the other hand, values such as freedom – equality – fraternity including tolerance are ideals which were deduced from the biblical conception of man – but only explicitly in the enlightenment period, and without God.

Thus, the humanism of enlightenment, especially regarding pre-Christian antiquity has become a genuine counterculture to Christianity. At the beginning this was perceived as a form of salvation, but as a culture which is dissociated from God it has evolved from 'the abyss of the human race', up to the ideologies of the 20 th century, together with its wars.

How does Angela Merkel combine these differences? On the one hand she makes use of them – just as every other German does who wants to talk about tolerance – as Lessing's famous ‘Ring parable' entitled ‘Nathan the Wise'; on the other hand she is a professing 'Christian' who ‘explicitly supports Europe's Christian roots', a thing that no other German top-politician has publicly done before.

In Lessing's famous ring parable, Nathan the Wise tells of an argument between three brothers, about who is the true heir of their father's ring and hence of religious truth: the true heir is revealed by means of good deeds, and hence the brothers should outdo each other in doing them. Here, I believe, we encounter the soul of Europe once again – it calls us to strive for what is best through living peacefully with, and being there for one another. For me, and as a Christian I expressly acknowledge my allegiance to Europe's Christian principles, the most beautiful part of the play is what the Sultan asks of Nathan. Bridging all the divisions of faith, the Muslim requests the Jew to "Be my friend".

But how do we put this change of becoming ‘enemy to friends' into practice? Again Angela Merkel makes a personal statement:

There is a very simple way to reach Europe's soul, tolerance. We have to see things from the point of view of other people. Why don't you try it some time? It is an exciting adventure to discover the wealth of diversity on our continent through the eyes of the many peoples of Europe.

With these words Ms. Angela Merkel releases 'tolerance' from its conceptual paleness and places it attractively in the midst of the daily lives of humans, winking as she says “why don't you try it sometime?”

Fortunately, she does not fear speaking out an almost missionary statement; she aims very practically, at people's hearts. And she is right, because there is no other term which could stand in place of the 'Soul of Europe'. It has to be something which touches the heart; according to her, this is where tolerance becomes an adventure for bold people. This is where tolerance ends up, not as an abstract result from enlightenment, but becomes a lifestyle, which is not far from Jesus; who did not scorn people, because he saw them with the eyes of God and loved them.

Thus, we want to make a small addition to the Chancellor's sentence, which is surely seen in what she has said: “We also have to see the other person through the eyes of God".

This is more than tolerance, this is love; I believe in a deeper way that this is what the ‘Soul of Europe' is. Reconciliation between France and Germany, and solidarity with the weak—this was how Europe was started. This is the spirit of love; this is where the Soul of Europe has to be hidden.

It is clear that Angela Merkel could not continue with these thoughts in the forum of the European parliament. However, she managed to convey many things when using this tolerance term, and that's good!

Part II Europe's Cooperation

„Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is what we seek and for which we strive – harmony among nations.”

Thus, she points to the long series of concluded treaties after 1945, from the ‘Treaties of Rome' 50 years ago up to the Maastricht Treaty, in which European cooperation was recorded and extended step by step.

And then there is again this personal tone, this ‘me' of Angela Merkel, which is also a door of identification for the audience and at the same time, an invitation for them to do the same thing as she does, as President of the Council. According to her, she knows how to motivate the hearts and minds of Europe.

And what does she say herself? What is her understanding regarding cooperation in Europe?

And on this basis I am therefore committed to a Europe in which all Member States, large and small, old and new, can participate equally, to embrace the tasks we face today. In Europe we can only succeed if we join forces, which are why the motto of our Presidency is "Europe –succeeding together". [...] Europe can only succeed together.

I am committed to a Europe which focuses on what can best be regulated at European level and then does so with the necessary dedication and effectiveness. (1)

I am committed to a Europe which, on the other hand, consciously leaves to the Member States, their regions and municipalities those policy areas where a European solution would rather be a hindrance. (2)

I am committed to a Europe which relies on European solutions where it wants and indeed has to act together in order to live up to the challenges of the 21st century – globalization, the threat posed by new dangers, such as terrorism, to peace and security. (3)

The fear of our small neighbours, of Germans is far deeper then we as Germans can imagine; from time to time this fear rises again – we see this in the Netherlands as well as in Poland. Therefore, it is good for those Germans in positions of responsibility to meet others in humility and friendship, to honour and encourage the smaller states. In this context F. A. Z. noted: ‘Compared to France, Germany has always considered itself to be an advocate for the smaller member states. Ms. Angela Merkel emphasized this in Strasbourg… This is Germany's chance and responsibility for Europe. This has nothing to do with the Teutonic Hegemonial effort.” (20.1.2007)

Germany's paternity role is mentioned here in only a few words in this text. How nice to notice that Germany's attitude can be called ‘traditional' meanwhile.

•  It addresses the efficiency of the authorities in Brussels.

•  It supports the subsidy principle.

•  It stands for a Europe, which is learning to think and act together, wherever it is necessary.

How can this continent with its diversity reach such commonness in action? Answer: only through a common Constitution.

The draft of the constitutional treaty is the first text of a European treaty which refers specifically to the tolerance which is the hallmark of the European Union Member States, and which enables us to build the foundations on which the Europe of the future can develop new, sensible regulations. For we know that under the current regulations the EU can neither be enlarged, nor is it capable of taking the necessary decisions.

Eighteen states have already voiced their support for the Constitution and two (France and the Netherlands) were against it (seven haven't yet made a decision). On the other side there are countries such as England, which are pressing toward enlargement of the community (in order to avoid a contraction by ‘breaking up their identity').

The President of the Council teaches these countries a clear lesson and brings things to a boiling point in the following discussion. “Of course, these eighteen countries will not say: well then, we will expand and forget the rest.” What she ‘nobly mentioned' before was, referring to a solution for the Constitution, she now says more clearly: "On this basis today we will have no expansion.” (F.A.Z. 18.01.07) This was a clear message addressed to London.

This is why I, on behalf of the European Council, will be consulting all Member States, the European Commission and Parliament on how we can resolve the ratification crisis surrounding the constitutional treaty.

The phase of reflection is over. Our task now is to prepare new decisions by June. I intend to strive to ensure that at the end of the German Presidency a road map setting the way forward for the constitutional treaty can be adopted.

It is in the interests of Europe, the Member States and its citizens, to bring this process to a successful conclusion by the next elections to the European Parliament in spring 2009. Not to do so would be an historical failure.

It must have been our prayer as Christians that Ms. Angela Merkel succeeded in integrating Europe's Jewish-Christian heritage before the beginning of this process, something which is very important to her and something she never talks about officially, but surely does behind the scenes.

Whoever has the desire to write to the Chancellor, should do so.

Address: Chancellor Ms. Dr. Angela Merkel, Willy-Brandt-Straße 1, 10557 Berlin

Part III Europe's Tasks

A. Europe's foreign and security policy

I believe we should set two priorities:

First, foreign and security policy demands are being made on the European Union from all sides.

In Kosovo, the Union will support the implementation of a solution for the status issue. Stability in the Western Balkans is in our common interest. And I would add that without a European perspective for the states of the Western Balkans, this stability will not be achieved.

In the Middle East, the European Union has to drive forward the peace process in cooperation with the United States, the UN and Russia. In short, the so-called Middle East Quartet is called upon to act. The pre-requisite for any progress, however, is a united EU stance to bring about peace, stability and sustainable development in the Middle East. This also applies to our policy towards Iran's nuclear programme.

Likewise, Europe has a fundamental interest in the successful development of Afghanistan. We know that only a combination of military and civilian efforts can succeed. Anything else will be a dead end.

The EU has to show a greater will to shape events in its neighbourhood, for we cannot always comply with the desire of many countries to join the EU. Neighbourhood policy is the sensible and attractive alternative. We intend to develop such a neighbourhood policy particularly towards the Black Sea region and Central Asia during our Presidency.

Interesting - a new phrase! Until now Angela Merkel has offered Turkey a ‘privileged partnership'. She avoids these words in front of the European Parliament because she is aware that there are many supporters for Turkey's membership and therefore she uses the word: ‘Neighbourhood policy' - as an attractive alternative phrase for the ‘Black Sea region'. However, it has the same meaning.

Now the speaker addresses international issues. As the president of the G8-Group (part of the World Trade Organisation) she requires success in the Doha-Round, where the main issue is the liberalisation of world trade i.e. the cessation of high subsidies from industrially developed countries on their own products, and high custom duties on foreign goods, in order to support developing countries economically.

Moreover, we have to do everything in our power to ensure the success of the Doha Round. There is too much at stake for us, as well as for developing countries. We have little time at our disposal, but we are determined to do everything we can to succeed.

However, ladies and gentlemen, we do not intend to stop there. At the EU-US Summit we want to discuss the intensification of the transatlantic economic partnership. The United States is the European Union's most important trading partner. We are each other's key investment partner. [...] I am firmly convinced that a common transatlantic market is in Europe's own best interests.

[...] For Europe's partnership with Russia is also strategically significant and should be expanded as broadly as possible. That is why we have to negotiate a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

The question of cooperation on energy issues will play a key role in this. We will do our utmost to ensure that negotiations can begin during the German Presidency. I will say loud and clear that we need a reliable relationship with Russia, for only then can trust develop.

At the same time, difficult issues such as the media, civil society and Russia's conflicts with its neighbours must not be taboo.

At the end of her overview of the foreign policy Angela Merkel addresses two other major issues and concludes it later on with the conclusion that Europe has to speak with one voice if it wants to survive globally; that means that it will need a common foreign secretary – which is another reason for the Constitution.

Ladies and gentlemen, at the European Council in March and – since Germany currently holds this Presidency too – at the G8 Summit, we want to lay the foundations for a global climate convention beyond 2012. We know that on the one hand, Europe must play a pioneering role in this area. On the other hand, we also need the United States and other countries. It is therefore important to encourage the US to cooperate more closely with the EU on energy and climate policy than it has done to date. [...] The access to energy and climate protection, are the two greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.

Ladies and gentlemen, we also want to redefine the EU's relations with Africa.   Africa, our neighbouring continent, is changing. It is worthwhile and wise to invest there, both politically and economically. We will therefore swiftly begin the preparations for a EU-Africa summit which will take place during the Portuguese Presidency.

B. Europe – Home Policy

Ladies and gentlemen, just as Europe has to redefine itself externally, it must also do the same internally. Safeguarding our prosperity, growth, employment and social security; in short, preserving and developing our model of the European welfare state in the face of globalization – that is what citizens expect from Europe and from their governments. That is therefore the second priority of our Council Presidency work.

In short, she then mentions some issues which she would like to implement in this area of the agenda of her presidency.

•  Growth and economic power

•  (The Lisbon Treaty) and the simultaneous observation of environmental compatibility.

•  The creation of new jobs

•  Safeguarding energy for the European states

•  Cutback in superfluous bureaucracy within the EU (‘a better legislation')

•  Annulment of all incomplete draft legislations at the end of a legislative period i.e. a complete new start for the new parliament

She finishes this part of her speech with an interesting suggestion for structure, which she has already put into practice: team-presidency.

In order to oppose the change in the presidency of the council every six months, our Chancellor has included the next, and the next-but-one president of Portugal and Slovenia in her presidency as well as in her cabinet of these countries for the first time. Thus, she effectively opposed the discontinuity.

Ladies and gentlemen, all of these tasks certainly cannot be completed within six months. We have to move away from the short-term approach of six-month Presidencies. Europe needs continuity. That is why the team presidency is so important. I am looking forward to meeting my Portuguese and Slovenian opposite numbers here in Strasbourg this afternoon to kick off the first team presidency in the European Union's history.

Incidentally, idea of introducing greater continuity in Europe is another new element contained in the constitutional treaty [...] we need a constitutional reform.

Part IV The end

Unfortunately, the final part is strongly under time pressure. With all her might, the speaker tries to touch some themes which are still important to her by linking them together with the previous ones and then, finally, she finds an end for her words in the central term of her speech: tolerance.

First she successfully raises the question regarding general conditions of growth. In this context she quotes the American researcher Richard Florida who identified three factors which contribute to the growing economy of a region, namely: technology, talent and tolerance. “Good news for Europe!” Angela Merkel says. Unfortunately, she has no time to unfold this recipe for success, this pack of three things.

Instead she rushes to the next idea: to the development of the western culture of science, on the basis of an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and its free development – first in Universities, and from there to all other research areas. Tolerance is the prerequisite for the freedom of research. It requires a mutual tolerant attitude to accept the others as they are - and moreover, to learn from each other.

This liberal culture of learning from each other leads to something which is very significant for Europe, namely - steady innovation - which is never satisfied with the things it has achieved, but is continuously on the move and developing, according to the law thesis – antithesis – synthesis. She says:

“Without its outstanding innovative potential, Europe would not have become what it is today.”

In Strasbourg this speech ends with the words:

And I ask you how, in the wake of countless wars and immeasurable suffering, how, out of all our inconsistencies in Europe, out of all our contradictions, has something as magnificent as the European Union managed to emerge from the Treaties of Rome 50 years ago? You know what I'm going to say. It is that quality which, in my view, defines Europe's approach to its diversity - tolerance.

Why shouldn't we manage to do the same in the next 50 years?

Thank you for your attention.

PRAYER

•  Let us lift up the Name of our Lord over Europe, and exalt him in faith and with gladness.

•  God has put Angela Merkel in her unique position. Let us give thanks to God for this intelligent and energetic woman, whose leadership style in the cabinet is praised by the ministers of the SPD over and over again. Let us pray for this leadership style to also touch other European colleagues.

•  Let us pray for God's intervention in the Constitution process – in the form of judgement, and of grace.

•  Let us pray for physical and psychological power for Angela Merkel, and for spiritual protection against those who curse her.

•  Therefore, let us pray for a spirit of patience (= tolerance) to grow among the people in Europe; yes, for joy regarding diversity, to rise again.

•  Let us pray for the right relation between centralisation and national independence, for both today and tomorrow.

•  May the spirit of God blow over the people in Europe.

Ortwin Schweitzer

Sources:

•  Angela Merkel's speech, 17 th January 2007 held in Strasbourg - from the internet.

•  Treaty for a European constitution. Luxemburg, 2005

•  Günther Lachmann, Tödliche Toleranz, Piper Verlag, Munich 2nd Edition 2005.

•  The Fischer Weltalmanach 2007. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt 2006

•  F.A.Z. 18.01.2007, 20. 1. 2007

From 20th – 26th March 2007, the Group of leaders of the European Prayer network called ‘European Union of Prayer' will meet again in Berlin, in order to pray for the heads of states whom Angela Merkel invited to participate at the 50th anniversary of the ‘Treaties of Rome' in Berlin. On the 24th we will have a guided tour through the Federal Chancellor's Office and the Reichstag.

Please pray for protection and unity for us and for many effective behind the scene talks with current politicians.

The action regarding intercession for individual members of the European parliament (MEP) started successfully.

Many thanks to all of you who participated in this prayer.

At present there are approx. 190 people who are praying.

This is an encouragement for those others who feel free to pray as well.