Hopes for the Estonian Presidency of the European Union
It has been several weeks since the European heads of state met to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the founding legislation of the European Economic Community. It is particularly revealing that the heads of state were also keen to meet Pope Francis. We can see in this a desire to inscribe the building up of Europe with the spiritual heritage of our continent.
It is within the current context of a certain identity crisis and of a return to the fundamentals of the European Union that the Estonian Presidency of the Union is taking hold of the reins.
Like so many other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Estonia has suffered the trauma of 20th century totalitarianism and materialist ideologies. A large part of the population was deported and lots of families were broken up. Religious tradition – tolerated on paper, repressed in practice – was interrupted in many families, which explains, at least in part, why Estonia is today one of the least religious countries in Europe.
Finally, the very signs of the existance of Estonia as a state were suppressed. Estonia has emerged wounded from this painful past. It has gradually retaken its rightful seat within the European family. The very idea that we are now embarking on an Estonian Presidency of the European Union is in itself a near-miracle, almost unimaginable 25 years ago after the the country passed so close to pure and simple annihilation. The Estonians are justifiably both proud and happy to be fully participating in the European construction.
Estonia also has a unique experience, painful but useful, of a fallacious and meaningless unity like that which constituted the former Soviet bloc. The word “Union” is not in itself a miracle cure against egocentricities. The tragic experience of the Soviet Union has been testimony to this and unfortunate events during recent years give rise to legitimate fears about European Union cohesion. The word “Union” is no longer a cure for the Promethean desire to impose a new model of man. This was the basis of the Soviet project whose consequences were inhuman, this bears out what the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “He who wants to make the angel makes the beast”. Fortunately, this has not been the basis of the European project, born from a desire for peace and mutual respect amongst people, taken in their historical identity and according to the daily reality of the human person.
As the Church, we are hoping that the Estonian Presidency of the European Union will contribute to the development of what will become a more balanced continent. The European construction can not end up with some countries being drained of their young people and their labour force for the benefit of others. There is in the European construction an equality that we all must seek.
We hope that the Estonian Presidency will contribute in truly putting the human person at the centre of the life of the Union while respecting the convictions and values of each individual. We also hope that it will support and strengthen the family as an indispensable anchoring for the individual. European values are not about spreading the model of a new man. They are essentially the reflection of who we are and what we believe. We are just a family, born of a family.
An important part of this value is definitely a sincere and open dialogue amongst religions, without prejudice and mistrust from either party.
Finally, we are hoping and we are praying that the Estonian Presidency will help to better resolve the very serious refugee problem and their welcome by creating a new effort to achieve solidarity amongst countries.
Mgr Philippe Jourdan
Apostolic administrator of Estonia/Delegate of COMECE
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.