Christians in the European debate
At the beginning of his talk at the Session 2017 of the Semaines Sociales de France, the philosopher Jean Marc Ferry characterised the three crises that are currently undermining Europe and calling into question its very existence: “A technical crisis of economic regulation, linked to an ethical crisis of solidarity and joint political responsibility, to which is added a historical crisis of legitimisation of the very European project.” The public debate is polarised around regulation and favours its locations and players, a necessary method for managing the economic community, but not suited to analysing the ethical crisis and putting forward a vision capable of legitimising a political project.
The solemn admonishments of Pope Francis on the responsibility of Europe are not only addressed to political decision-makes – the range of audiences he questions and mobilises represents a major element of the Church's thinking on Europe: Christians should rework the ethics that underlie the project.
Backed by more than a hundred years of dialogue within the Church about its social doctrine, the Semaines Sociales de France are a tool for spreading the message and a force for proposing ideas. In 2017, they once again took up the cause of the European project. Over more than a year, regional debates were held, concluding with an open session on our shared cultural heritage, on the everyday lives of young people and on the ecological challenges, with the ultimate aim of analysing the current political tensions. A record of the proceedings and the distribution of a Manifesto bear witness to the appetite of our participants for debate on these subjects, flying in the face of scepticism and rejection. This manifesto reiterates the necessity for the voluntary sector to seek partnerships between related European associations in order to enrich the horizontal dimension of the political project. From Enrico Letta to Nathalie Loiseau, the French Minister for European Affairs, as well as Michel Barnier, the participating political figures welcomed this reappropriation of the European issue by a Christian association.
It represented an investment that was necessary but insufficient, since despite the presence of participants from a number of countries, the problems faced by the Session were still marked by national analysis. It is a different matter with the objectives and issues covered in the meetings of the IXE, the Initiative of Christians for Europe, where some fifteen lay associations varying widely in size and status, with a range of objectives, represented a similar range of European countries. The first characteristic was the geographical scope – European subjects of interest were debated in Riga and in Krakow over a number of days, enabling delegates to understand the environments of our hosts; a fundamental experience. The six founding countries have forged a joint history that integrates their past conflicts; today it is essential to recognise and share national histories without reducing them to the recent events that brought 28 countries together. The IXE’s fundamental intuition is justified: despite the heterogeneousness of the situations and issues faced by everyone, a shared Christian commitment facilitates a dialogue that starts from the basis of shared surprises and avoids snap judgements on what should be done or whether such-and-such a partner country should be shunned.
Once this prerequisite has been satisfied, there is the question of the effectiveness of this dialogue. It is first and foremost a tool that enables everyone to be aware, in their own country, of discoveries and analyses that are often very different from those relayed by the political powers or dominant media. Should the movement go further and aim for a joint political stance? Mobilised since its creation in the direction of rediscovering the European construction, should the IXE promote a joint position of partner Christian associations prior to the European elections of 2019, and if so, how? Having been asked, the question has triggered a dynamic that is already leading us to jointly prioritise subjects that we will argue for in each country in the run-up to these elections.
Towards the end of the Session des Semaines Sociales it became apparent that there could be a consensus in favour of the term co-sovereignty to describe the relations to be built between nations, enabling politicians to rediscover their powers in the economic sphere while respecting the legitimacy of the Nation State that forms the structure of our democracies. It would, however, be necessary for this institutional dynamic to be complemented by strong commitment to our shared values. This is where the European Christian associations once again have a role to play.
Member of the council of the Semaines Sociales de France
Translated from the original text in French
The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Social Centre.