“Ten Commandments” for Europe
The core of his speech centred on his “Ten points for the self-assertion of Europe”. At first sight, they are simple and obvious – but actually they are not. We set out below a slightly abbreviated version of these “Ten Commandments”.
“ In former times, European unity was an ideal expounded from every political soapbox. Now it has become reality in many areas, and even a huge success. But Europe’s honeymoon period is now over. In many areas the European Union is part of our everyday life. Europe’s citizens look towards Brussels because they expect it to provide solutions for the really big problems. We will only be able to preserve our peace, our prosperity, our European values and way of tackling problems – in brief, the European way of life – if we manage to succeed in getting Europe to function better. To do this we need to observe the following “Ten Commandments”.
1- Finally celebrate Europe’s success. Before Europe was united, our continent was probably the most warlike territory in the whole world. Now peace reigns. Today, however, Europe as a peace project is all but self-evident. Europe represents understanding and solutions forged around the negotiating table. Let us not cover up these successes or take them as self-evident.
2- Do not think in egotistical, nationalist terms. Europe is more than the sum of national interests. Joint solutions can only be forged at an early stage if we act together with solidarity and empathy for our neighbours. If we wait until each and every problem has become firmly entrenched in all Member States, we shall always be lagging behind.
3- Take the rules seriously. Europe is a community founded on the rule of law, not a self-service shop. Rules must be complied with. Trust is the basis for any coexistence.
4- Be open to change. Only those who recognise the need for change early on and get to grips with it positively are able to deal with it successfully. In Europe we finally need to abandon our habit of putting matters on standby.
5- Accept responsibility. Democracy thrives on straightforward dialogue, not on avoiding the issue. No decision is made in Brussels to which the national governments have not agreed. However, it is not the place of national governments to raise their hands in agreement while sitting round the negotiating table behind closed doors in Brussels but later, when back home, to indulge in constantly criticising Europe.
6- Develop Europe into a full parliamentary democracy. It should be elected politicians, not technocrats, who hold the future of Europe in their hands. Capacity to act must be coupled with democratic legitimation. But this can only be managed successfully if citizens are presented with clear alternatives on which to base their decisions.
7- Take democracy in Europe seriously. A parliamentary democracy can only function if it is in good working order. As in the German Bundestag, we should likewise seek to prevent fragmentation in the European Parliament. We also need a 5% threshold for European elections.
8- Let us be European patriots. Being at the same time a good Bavarian, a good German and a good European are not mutually exclusive ideas; in fact, they go well together. Forty years ago, Franz-Josef Strauss recognised that the nation state was an anachronism if it did not understand that only through belonging to Europe could it remain strong in a globalised world.
9- Let us defend Europe’s values. We have to take care that the soul Europe has won is not lost. Europe is more than a marriage of convenience or a community of interests springing up out of necessity. Europe is much more a community of Judeo-Christian values imbued with the spirit of Enlightenment. We use our understanding of the values of Christian humanity to shape our true strengths. The European social model developed from this understanding is a unique European achievement that should be held up with pride.
10- Let us be proud of Europe. Europe is characterised by its enormous cultural diversity, the beauty of its landscapes and its rich abundance of ideas. No other continent has marked its presence worldwide as strongly as we have in Europe. Democracy, the rule of law and our Western way of life all have their roots in Europe.
Let us see Europe as a home to live in rather than a place that is merely administered. Then we can tackle future challenges and – despite all our everyday difficulties – continue Europe’s success story. In all our dealings, let us give Europe new vision, justification and acceptance. Now more than ever, Europe stands for the upholding and re-establishment of its citizens’ sovereignty and the capacity to act of its Member States. Europe stands for democratic self-determination and the assertion of our values. Europe is our life insurance in a globalised world. So let us work together to ensure that Europe and our future are a success.”
Manfred Weber MEP
Abridged version of the original speech and compilation of the quotations: Michael Kuhn, COMECE
The complete speech was published in: Zur Debatte. Themen der Katholischen Akademie in Bayern 6/2016, S. 2-4.
Translated from the original text in German
EN The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Office.