THE POLITICAL PAGE
The European Union
Utopia and Reality
1. What's on?
In the last Political Page of May, I spoke about God's calling for Europe as
I have understood it from the history of our continent. This view has given
me much courage to be watchful and expect God's action in our continent.
This means we need to pay more attention to the things happening at the moment; it means prayer, much prayer and the revelation of His will from heaven above here on earth and it means praying for prophetic understanding to be able to interpret the complex, secular processes correctly and understand the meaning behind them. Thus, for me knowledge and spiritual interpretation are linked.
What is important at the moment is the election from 4th-7th July for the European Parliament. The election is only for parties and individuals. Voters have only one vote each. Christians are going to vote and see whether they can support a Christian party. The following parties have expressed their Christian values in their name:
Everybody will vote according to their understanding and conscience. This time I will put my cross next to the AUF-Party because I consider them to be more political than the other three small parties despite their relative political immaturity. Moreover, I know the top candidate to be a competent businessman with quiet judgement and an authentically true faith. I am also very pleased that some well-known personalities such as Christa Meves, Gabriele Kuby, Siegfried Buchholz and some others are involved in this party. The AUF Party is linked with the Libertas Party led by Declan Ganley, a businessman who organized Ireland's "No" to the LisbonTreaty.
1.2. The Lisbon Treaty
What is even more important than the elections at the moment is the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. 23 states have already approved it in a parliamentary poll by the majority of votes. In Germany, Horst K?hler, the Federal President, is still delaying his signature until the Federal Constitutional Court has decided whether the Lisbon Treaty is in line with the German constitution. In Poland and the Czech Republic, where the parliament has already approved the treaty, the president (who is against the treaty) is still delaying his signature until the Irish make their decision. According to the Irish constitution, in such cases as the Lisbon Treaty, a parliamentary decision is not enough - they have to ask the people in a referendum. In this poll 53.4% (i.e. 109,964 votes) were against the treaty on 12th June 2008 but 40% of the people who were against the treaty had not understood it.
Since the whole ratification process is only valid if it is unanimous, this NO brought the EU into a new crisis. Since the Nice Treaty had already failed to be ratified by Ireland in 2001, Cowen, the Head of Government, is aiming for another poll in autumn 2009 and hopes to receive a YES this time.
1.3. An Experiment
An election conference. It is about Europe, about the European Union and also about the Lisbon Treaty. The speakers and the public are in agreement: Europe - yes, but not according to the EU and even less according to the prescription of the Lisbon Treaty. Applause for every blow delivered.
I am sitting here, maybe a little bit heavy-hearted and am stirred by one thought buzzing around my head. I would like to carry out an experiment and in my thoughts I'm standing up, moving forward to the microphone and saying: "Ladies and Gentlemen please allow me to ask you three questions this evening:
→ How many of you are for the Lisbon Treaty in its present form? In my mind I see 2 or 3 hesitant hands.
→ And who is against the Lisbon Treaty in its present form? - I don't need to count as the whole congregation lift their hands.
→ Third question: How many of those who raised their hand have read the Lisbon Treaty? - Bashful silence. We didn't even touch it, not to mention studying it."
And nobody knows that they could have ordered a copy free of charge at: Vertretung der Europäischen Kommission in Deutschland, Unter den Linden 78, 10117 Berlin, Tel 030-2280-2000.
On what basis was the treaty rejected? Simply on the basis that the speakers
rejected it. And where did they get their opinion from? Did they study the treaty
and understand it?
One of the speakers says he has read the treaty; he started reading it as simple businessman and by the time he had finished he was father of four children. He made his point clearly. But whoever has seen the treaty might question the truth of this statement because out of the 416 pages, 200 pages consist simply of various reports and additional explanations...
Prior to the election many emotional and shocking examples, desires and utopias, had been used in speeches, in election flyers and talks. Therefore, it would be interesting to pick up some of the questions and try to answer them according to the letter and spirit of the treaty (lawyers use this distinction when interpreting law texts).
2. Utopia and Reality of the EU - Questions and AnswersQuestion no.1: The Lisbon Treaty Jeopardizes Democracy
"We say NO to a European general government with totalitarian powers. We refuse Brussels' EU Centralism, which is turning more and more into a dictatorship" (PBC). An example in this context: "Between the years 1998-2004, 84% of German legal decisions already came from Brussels and only 16% from Berlin." As an other example of the Brussels dictatorship, the AUF Party mentions the pressure on the Irish after their "NO" to the Lisbon Treaty. Very emotionally they said: "Who does such things? Only a totalitarian and ideologically-blinded power elite which considers democratic processes and civil rights to be annoying, inefficient and outdated".
In both cases the election speech and the duty to inform have been confused here, according to these election programme handouts.
"Dictatorship" according to the Duden - the German definitive book for orthography: "The rulership of a person or group with unlimited power within a state... despotic rulership, tyranny".
Examples in this context: the Roman emperors, the putsch generals, those who hold onto power or undemocratically elected cadres like in Communism. But who would compare the EU with such things
A short introduction to the committees of the EU and their duties:
The executive committee of the EU is the European Council. The European Council is formed by Heads of State and Government. They come together four times a year for so-called 'summits'. They set the general political guidelines. This is where our chancellors such as Merkel, Schr?der, Kohl, Schmidt etc. sit and meet. They compete for every decision. So we cannot talk about a despotic and tyrannical rulership.
The European Council of Ministers is one step lower. This is where the ministers for the special affairs of the member states meet together. They advise and decide in their political areas. They decide about the draft legislation prepared by the Commission. This is where our MEPs sit and try to support German interests (e.g. milk quota). Dictatorship?
The Commission consists of EU Commissioners and each country proposes one commissioner. They introduce themselves to the parliament and need their consent: A very democratic process! The Commission cannot pass a bill. They can only suggest and supervise their implementation within the EU. Therefore, the commission is the executive administration of the EU.
The actual centre of power is the European Council and the Council of Ministers. Until now the Parliament only had the right to refuse the laws of the Commission and the Council. It could only participate in parts of the budget.
In its struggle for more democracy, the Lisbon Treaty has now reinforced the rights of the representatives elected by the people in such a way that, if the Irish agree, the Parliament can help form 90% of EU laws.
How can the cooperation of 27 larger and smaller states be regulated in order to have fair voting and avoiding anybody feeling steamrollered? When there were only six states the answer was: long discussion until everybody could agree (I.e. right of veto for everybody until a consensus was reached).
It was hard with 15 states but it is impossible today. Therefore they aimed to reorganise before the admittance of the 10 new member states on 1st May 2004. Therefore, many issues which weren't successful as a 'constitution' were included in the Lisbon Treaty. A mere factual necessity and no deceitful wickedness. By the way - the author is Angela Merkel.
The solution now found works like this:
(a) Unanimous consent only for the very few most important issues.
(b) The "qualified majority" applies to all other votes i.e. "at least a majority of 55% of the members of the Council formed by at least 15 members, as long as the represented member states make up at least 65% of the population of the Union" (art. 16(4) of the 1st part of the Lisbon Treaty - quite honestly, isn't this understandable?)
The NO which was the Irish veto is a good example of the dictatorship or democracy question within the EU.
How democratic is this if 110 000 Irish can block a democratic process for 500 million people? Percentage-wise: 0.02%
Moreover, over 40% of those who said NO said that they didn't understand the treaty i.e. like in the example beforehand, nobody had ever touched the treaty and the information presented was conveyed emotionally and one-sidedly.
Who reminded the Irish that they no longer have to be Europe's poorhouse since they became members of the EU in 1973 and are supported by it? Today Ireland would be bankrupt just like Iceland without the EU.
Who told the Irish that there is a possibility of a minority of four states that could block legislation in the Lisbon Treaty. Even a single state can opt out of certain decisions if it wishes. Isn't this an extremely democratic system of minority protection?
Who has told the Irish that, for the first time, the Lisbon Treaty makes it possible for a country to opt out of the EU in an official manner? You don't have to demand it, it will be granted.
But who could have told them this in 2008, when the new head of government had only been in office for two months? Is it dictatorial and "totalitarian and ideologically blinded", if you show uninformed people the other side of the story so they can judge objectively? One-sided information is manipulation. Democracy, however, wants mature citizens.
For your information: The German Basic Law hardly recognises referenda at all. With good reason! The historical experience of mobilizing and manipulating masses of people is different in Germany than in Switzerland. But in order to make room for the referendum the Lisbon Treaty stipulates that 1 million citizens from different states can sign a petition and which thus can lead to a legislative initiative of the Commission. This might play an important role in the admission of Turkey as a member state!
The European Union is a unique construction. Nobody before planned anything like it, it simply grew and, step by step, had to find a new shape. There is no historical precedent - neither the Roman empire nor the Commonwealth; not even the United States of America. And this was its development:
1951 On the basis of the Schuman plan, France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux states decide to submit their coal and steel production to a common administration and stop using it for warring against one another ("European Coal and Steel Community").
1957 (25th March) Based on the success of the six-state European community, they expand their cooperation in further economic areas. The Treaty of Rome is signed and the "European Economic Community" established; the EEC, also known as the "Common Market". The free movement of persons, services and goods was their target.
1968 Abolition of the internal duties among the six member states and common external duties. Start of the largest free trade area worldwide. The EEC changes into the "European Community".
1973 Denmark, Ireland and the UK join.
1979 For the first time the European Parliament in Strasbourg is elected directly. Until now the national parliaments only delegated deputies. The members of the fractions come together now in the EP and no longer in national delegations. The EP and its democratic rights are increased in the Lisbon Treaty.
1981 Greece joins.
1986 Spain and Portugal join.
1992 Maastricht Treaty: The treaty stipulates the future common currency as well as the foreign and security policy and closer cooperation in the area of justice and domestic policy. This treaty turns the "European Community" into the "European Union"
1995 Austria, Finland and Sweden join.
2002 Introduction of the Euro in 11 countries, all except for Denmark, Sweden and the UK.
2004 Eastern European expansion: 10 new member states join the EU
2007 Romania and Bulgaria join.
In this short summary, it is obvious how the present EU has been drawn closer
together both geographically and internally. It grew from a coal and steel union
via further economical areas into a customs union, political union, currency
union and finally into a union of values. Step by step, it has transpired that
the European countries have the same problems and can often solve them better
together than on their own. More areas were included, not due to pressure but
by common consent. Thus, "84% of the German legal decisions were made in
Brussels" - which is not true because German law is not made in Brussels.
But it does mean that practically every German legislative initiative has to
be in agreement with European law, or that it needs a dispensation from Brussels
before it becomes federal law. From this point of view it is clear that European
law is ranked first before the national law because it applies to everyone in
Of course, this is not always convenient but it is the price we - and all the others in the EU as well! - have to pay in order to be part of this community of states.
The resulting tension between Brussels and the nation states, which look out for their own interests, is natural and healthy. There are the two permanent poles in the development of the EU.
This is what the EU - i.e. our representatives - had in mind during the constitution development meeting in 2002/03. Thus the autonomy of the states was emphasised alongside their cooperation in art. 4 and 5: "The Union shall respect the equality of member states as well as their national identities, inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional and local self-government " (Art. 4(2)).
Whoever does not take this article seriously should note how art. 5(2) continues: "Under the principle of conferral, the Union shall act within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the member states in the constitution to attain the objectives set out in the constitution. Competences not conferred upon the Union in the constitution remain with the member states." In art. (3) the subsidiary principle is pinpointed which says that the Union can only act if and insofar as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states, either at central level or at regional and local level. . National parliaments shall ensure compliance with that principle of subsidiary."
Whoever has understood that the nation states and even the regions are equal partners within the community from the EU's point of view, can also do what the community needs. "Pursuant to the principle of sincere cooperation, the Union and member states shall, in full mutual respect, assist each other in carrying out tasks which flow from the constitution" (Art. 4(3)). This is how a community works and also how the EU works. It circles like an ellipsis around the two poles: Nations and EU Community. Whoever says something else has not taken note of the documents or considers them to be a lie. The letters and spirit of these articles are clear.
I would like very much for the poisonous criticism of the EU to disappear and make room for constructive cooperation among Christians in particular.
Almost everything the small parties requested from the EU is either already there or will be offered in the Lisbon Treaty. But nobody has read the treaty.
We especially, as Germans, should be used to a federal state structure and understand the cooperation of the individual and common interests of states.
The 2nd part of the Lisbon Treaty, the so called "Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union" (TFEU) brings clarity in the arguments which always arise between the two poles of interests if competences are not clearly delimited. Art. 3 mentions the extent of the competence of the Union on its own, in art. 4, together with the member states, and in art. 6 only for support of countries. The lists for a Political Page would be too long. Anyone wishing to know more may have a look.
In any case it is clear that Brussels is not "snaffling anything". The demand: "All states have to adapt to EU tasks in Europe and cannot simply be assimilated by the EU" (AUF) - has already been fulfilled and precisely described in the Lisbon Treaty.
There were some more points mentioned from the platform of the AUF and PBC Parties
which we cannot mention here due to lack of space.
In this context the PBC talks about "combat mission" whereas art. 42 and 43 talks about "peace missions" and "unanimity" in the Council! It talks about the "enabling law" according to art. 48 which actually talks about highly complex democratic processes for the case in which the treaties need to be changed. Both examples make an allusion to the terms of the Nazi dictatorship and influence the reader unconsciously. They are unfairly inducing fear and rejection towards the EU.
An AUF party flyer demands: "Simplification of the EU administration monster" - regardless of the fact that the Commission recognised the need and has already shortened the paragraphs. Even this expression demonises the EU. But these, however, are people who are trying to do their best: Translators into 20 languages, lawyers with specialized knowledge etc. and a host of secretaries.
The EU - these are people elected by us, our heads of government and ministers, elected EU Commissioners and, finally, the host of helpers and preparatory workers.
Surely it is not so much about reducing red tape and efficiency control in the administration of such size, as it is about cheap propaganda. This can be staged anonymously more easily than if you are out in the open. Then the EU comes alive and stops being a monster or a Moloch.
1. What Does "Community" Mean?
Community means two or more individuals coming together to reach their targets, which would be hard or even impossible to achieve for one person on their own. These are targets like the provision of food, protection, reproduction and preservation, learning processes etc.
In order to achieve these targets every community creates orders: Social structures (hierarchies), specialists, accepted behavioural norms etc.
It does not matter whether we talk about a wolf pack or a human community. Because all communities have one thing in common, namely that new members who join the group cede individual rights to the community. The closer the community, the closer the individual range. Often this a common group process which leads to more binding forms of community through crises. Whoever does not want this will argue first, then try to find allies and form an opposition. If it is not possible to influence the course of the majority, the individual has no other possibility but to abandon the community.
These are sociological processes everybody has experienced. Now it is important to transfer them into the community processes of the European countries. Answer 5 (see above) presents this way in time lapse and is therefore easily comprehensible.
The 84% of German laws which meanwhile "depend" on the EU are no accident but an expression of a large and growing community. They demand a high confidence factor of the members regarding the community. Whoever complains about it has not transferred his or her knowledge regarding a growing human community to the larger horizon of a continent - which, admittedly, requires a conscious expansion of spirit and heart. We have to join Europe in order to shape it and we, as Germans in particular, have to trust it and learn from the others about how to trust it.
If God is shaping our history, God has done many good things for us in past centuries. And He did it through the seed of the trust of Europe's founding fathers such as Schuman (French), Adenauer (German) and De Gaspari (Italian). This seed bore fruit and God has always given new harvests of trust from treaty to treaty. The changing names reflect the stages of the European community process.
Let us look at European history from God's point of view. Why should God stop this process of closer community all of a sudden and turn 40 years back? Why go back to the early stage of reserved and cautious economic relations between insular nation states? In my opinion, this thought is without "historical logic".
2. Federal State or State Federation of the Fatherlands
The question regarding the end target of growth has come up many times and was voiced from the very beginning: Federal State or Federation of States? The Federal Republic of Germany is an example of a well-functioning democratic federal state. Every federal state maintains its individual characteristics and yet they all form one nation with its centre in Berlin.
NATO or the Commonwealth would be examples of the federation of states. These federations allow individual rights for the states. Their common ground is mutual protection or certain economic advantages.
In its early stage in 1950-57, the EU was a federation of states for common control purposes over the production of coal and steel within six nations: the European Coal and Steel Community. The way to a closer unity of the European countries was opened after the Treaty of Rome in 1975.
But can the EU become a Federal State like Germany, even in future? The individuality of the nation states, which has been cultivated for centuries, will always be strongly felt. So, surely, there will be no standardisation in the sense of a federal state? If individuality alongside centrality could be maintained in a state like the Federal Republic of Germany, how much more could it be maintained in a construction which, like the EU, is not a state and has less rights compared to the true historically grown nation states.
Therefore, the "nationalists" who are worried about their independence should care for it... but no longer block, because of fear, all the other states who are longing to have, and will always have, the same independence.
The Lisbon Treaty tries to meet precisely these expectations of competence details and rules, defining where European help is wanted and where it isn't (the subsidiary principle).
Of course, this desire is strong. Thus the British had written into the Lisbon Treaty that the EU should no longer have a flag or anthem. Nevertheless, 16 states including Germany acknowledged it for themselves.
On the other hand we have to say that the EU has not reached the end of its community development through the ratification and implementation of the new treaty yet. It considers itself more and more as a political union. Thus, the treaty provides for the EU to become a legal entity in future. This is very important for foreign trade, for the EU would then be able to sign an international contract (with China or the USA for example) on behalf of the EU member states as a whole without needing the signatures of all member states first.
This signature of the EU will be signed in future by the president of the European Council who will be elected by this committee for 2.5 years. This position has been created recently (art. 15 (5) of the TEU) in order to replace the six-month change in presidency, thereby enabling more continuity in EU policy. (Whoever has noticed the chaos of the Czech EU presidency in the last few months will understand the need for this change.) Since the president is only allowed to speak for the EU upon consultation with the member states, his is not an enviable job. Job rotation will still be carried out at ministerial level (art. 16 (9)).
I consider the establishment of an office for a "High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy" (in short a Foreign Secretary of the EU) to be more important for closer cooperation on a political level. In his person, he would hold together all foreign political actions of the Union. He would have a new European foreign service at his side, which cooperates with the diplomatic services of the member states. This representative would have much influence, wearing three "hats". Therefore in future much will depend on who takes this position. Much prayer is needed here.
Also a solidarity clause will be included according to which member states can help themselves in the case of an terrorist attack, a calamity or man-made disaster. This is also true for the case of defence if a member is attacked by a third party.
But also in future the member states will not be able to be forced to participate in military action if the national parliaments decide something else.
3. Slandering the EU has a Long Tradition
Many years ago, EU politicians like Jean-Claude Junckers/Luxembourg and others criticised the bad tradition of politicians. To the public at home, all EU-resolutions which are useful to their nations are good; but if resolutions demand something from certain countries they are bad and it is "Brussels'" fault.
Of course, that is right as long as they fought for their country but in majority votes they where outnumbered. They often fail to organise a majority or at least a blocking minority beforehand.
First of all it would be a duty of the EU politicians to report regularly in the media about the progress of the European unification process, to stir up interest, to create a collective spirit and to explain "Brussels" and some resolutions in this way.
4. Proximity to Citizens
The proximity to the citizens does not become obvious in a multitude of national referenda. It needs the strong will of EU politicians to present "Europe" consciously as interesting and relevant to the citizens. It needs to show interest in the reservations of the people and reduce the fears people have through clear factual information and positive emotional signals. On the other hand citizens also have an debt to pay with respect to honour and duty. Whoever considers a lack of interest and scaremongering to be European policy can not help shape Europe because he has not arrived in Europe yet.
It is like in school lessons: The teacher has the duty to win the class over, to stir up interest and to motivate. If the pupil, however, has decided to be disinterested or to scorn the teacher or even reject the whole school system, it is no longer the teacher's responsibility.
Before complaining about the EU's remoteness from the citizens one should first ask whether he or she was interested in the EU at all.
5. The EU and the Antichrist
Many believers have a negative attitude towards the "European Union" due to secret judgements saying that the EU is getting ready for the coming of the Antichrist.
In doing so they point to the beast with ten horns or to the construction of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, which resembles the architecture of the "Tower of Babel" as presented by the painter, Jan Breughel.
I leave such a connotation of secret apocalyptic expressions on present processes to others. But I would like to point to the fact hat the EU has 27 governments and not 10 today. First of all Revelation 13 does not say anything about the duty of Christians to hinder the coming of the beast. In verse 7 it even says: "He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them." God himself is giving the animal the power to persecute Christians. "If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed." (verse 10). There is a holy serenity in these words. God holds everything and everyone's individual fate in his hand. The target of all these testimonies for Christians is in verse 10: "This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints!"
If there is political relevance for the EU in Revelation 13, then - in my opinion - it is the infinite confidence of the children of God in their God to be filled with a supernatural measure of patience and faith in the midst of bloody persecution.
It would be tremendous if Holy Spirit-filled Christians would start to help shape this Europe and not focus on the animal and the beast. This is for sure: Europe's history includes the EU and the Lisbon Treaty is part of God's history. His children have a duty to prepare the way through prayer for God's will to happen in this world and on this earth. We need to help shape the world actively while it is still possible.
An agreement in prayer of the European prayer networks regarding God's Europe-wide targets would be suitable from a strategic point of view. Because the amazing experience in nationwide prayer movements is that God is answering this prayer for political and social matters surprisingly fast.
P.S.: I am very conscious that the EU can also be seen from a different point of view and that I haven't painted the potential dangers strongly enough. This may be. But what I wanted was to give those Christians who are anxious an objectively-founded and also spiritually thought-out view of Europe (Pol. Page May) and the European Union (Pol. Page June). I believe that if Christians want to be a factor shaping Europe's future they have to break through into a different view of European history; into one which has God's favour. Before demanding a "different Europe", we need a different understanding of Europe and a deeper knowledge of its future intentions. I believe in God's continuing and loving will for Europe. And, therefore, I want to speak out for Europe - for a Christian Europe.
The Lisbon-Treaty, Bonn 2008 with an introduction by Elmar Brok and Jo Leinen. The Lisbon Treaty of this issue includes
the Treaty of the European Union (TEU)
the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)
Charter of Basic Laws of the European Union
Confession of the European Council for Israel (ECI)
The elections for the European Parliament (EP) will take place in the 27 member states from 4th - 7th June. 736 members of the EP will be elected by proportional representation to represent approx. 500 million Europeans. This election can become the largest transnational election in European history.
Christians have a duty to pray and vote. That means that we have to get involved in political processes to help shape Europe's future.
ECI has created a website www.prayandvote2009.eu, which informs the voters of 27 countries about the position of the various political parties regarding Jewish-Christian values and Israel. Please click on this site and get informed because you don't vote for candidates but for parties. Each party office was asked 5 questions. See answers on the site.