“… the Union has no other choice and it does not have any future unless it includes and cherishes the various histories, traditions, and identities of Europe’s constituent nations. Brexit shall stand as a reminder to all of us that ignoring such claims leads nowhere.”

INTRODUCTION

Europe is our cradle, and has been a homeland for our communities to flourish over millennia. Europe is our school and our church, enriching our culture and giving us faith. Europe guards the diverse histories of our communities and nations, which have always been a source of strength for us, enabling us to show courage and heart in the face of grave difficulties and challenges. We are proud of this cultural diversity, faith and courage, which once elevated Europe to become a bastion of civilization. We are proud of our ancestors who believed in this culture, shed their blood for it and sacrificed their own lives to protect it.

European history has included plenty of mistakes and self-inflicted wounds. Fraternal wars and totalitarian ideologies tore us apart. Out of the ashes of a devastating World War, the free nations of Europe agreed to form a community to help preserve and nurture their unique European heritage, in the face of oppressive and expanding totalitarian regimes. The Christian Democratic idea was at the forefront of these efforts, which once again elevated the western part of Europe as a beacon. A record of resilience attributable to the wellspring of Christian heritage within Europe led the freedom-loving nations of Central Europe to tear down the Iron Curtain, which had kept European brothers and sisters apart for too long, enabling them to join the expanding project of European integration. However, the freedom of Europe could not be completed or secured without extending membership to the other European nations, especially the Western Balkan countries. Their rightful place in the European integration is key to preserving the stability and peace of our continent, along with their rich European heritage of culture, religion, folklore, and common values. In this spirit, by rejecting the idea of primary and secondary member states, or a multispeed European integration, we also believe in the principle of equality among EU member states and candidates for European integration, who have fought hard and often for their freedom and to achieve membership in the Union. European integration is a unique endeavour, based upon a great civilization, and a vision that nations across Europe all share and cherish. It is a spiritual and economic alliance, with an ultimate mission to strengthen, safeguard, and treasure those nations, which, by their geographical location and history, gravitate to this civilization. However, in the meantime, European integration has also been built for the benefit of citizens across Europe. The four freedoms of the European Union, along with the subsequent common European projects, have always served the interests, and shall continuously expand and enrich the rights, of the citizens of Europe. European integration has ‘two faces’: while its overall aspiration is to cherish and elevate the nations of Europe, it constantly seeks ways to facilitate and help the lives of citizens across Europe. Whilst serving the interests of its citizens, European integration starts and ends with its member states, who continue to remain the ‘Masters of the Treaties’.

The reunification of Europe, and the continuous enlargement of European integration, have been our true success story over the past seventy years. The nations of Europe once again own their homeland, and we should be proud of this historic achievement. We have established strong, institutionalized cooperation among the European nations, to preserve our great heritage and nurture our unique European way of life. Europe and our European Union, nevertheless, have multiple challenges to cope with. The past decade has brought a period of crisis in Europe, from the financial and economic crises through the migration crisis to the current pandemic. This period has put the European Union to the test, and shows the urgent need to contemplate our future. This moment provides an opportunity for dialogue which we must seize. We still want to own our homes, to nurture our cultures, to speak our languages, to maintain our lifestyles, here in Europe. We Christian Democrats are destined to bear the historical responsibility for pointing the way towards that great vision.

We cannot have any vision for our future without recognizing our historical roots, and without cherishing the values that make our culture, and therefore us, unique. Our policies will have meaningful and salutary effects only when they are embedded in our historical roots. To this end, we need to build on our precious Christian Democratic tradition when we formulate our ambitiously realistic vision regarding the future of our continent. Our values will guide us in shaping the policy preferences which we Christian Democrats wish to follow. Our policy preferences will provide the safe path to envision the institutional settings of our Union. Instead of putting the cart before the horse, our draft position paper thus follows a structure that first reflects the values that we think bind us Europeans together. It then outlines the challenges facing our common policy preferences, along with the looming dilemma of institutional settings.

  

THE VALUES THAT FORGE A COMMUNITY AMONG EUROPEANS

A river that has no banks is a swamp, a truth which always draws attention to the significance of definition and delimitation. First and foremost, Europe is the cradle of a unique civilization that connects each and every European. The acknowledgement of this distinctiveness is the spiritual basis of a European way of life that distinguishes us. A historical and intellectual origin we all have in common, a set of traditions we are all proud of, a value system we all cherish, a geopolitical reality we all share, and a common fate, all create a distinct link that binds the diverse nations of Europe together. Europeans shall be proud of their common mindset, which has always combined a certain inner freedom with wholehearted dedication to stand up to challenges.

We shall never forget that we remain diverse in being European. We Europeans cannot peel off our national identities, the cultures and traditions of the communities that we grew up in. They define our perspectives and attitudes, along with our expectations of the Union itself. European nations and their constitutions resemble ancient temples that are perhaps not built according to modern architectural taste and design, but in which one’s life is safe. Thus, the Union has no other choice and it does not have any future unless it includes and cherishes the various histories, traditions, and identities of Europe’s constituent nations. Brexit shall stand as a reminder to all of us that ignoring such claims leads nowhere.

Like the treaties and various resolutions of the European Parliament, we also recognize that Europe has long been home to diverse and indigenous minority groups as a result of the unique and often stormy historical path of our continent. For us Christian Democrats, the rich ethnic, cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity of the peoples of Europe, including the Roma and many other communities, is part of our common heritage and constitutes a precious value that is always worth nurturing. Instead of regarding these minority groups as potential sources of conflict, we acknowledge their invaluable contributions to a stronger Europe that is more capable of withstanding the challenges that confront us. Thus, their cultural, religious, and linguistic distinctiveness is a cherished wellspring of our common European identity. We shall therefore take steps to preserve their distinctiveness, and also to encourage the flourishing of their communities.

We shall recognize the cultural dimension of Europe. In this spirit, we shall treasure the unique European way of life as the linchpin holding our diverse cultures together. This way of life has to adopt a bottom-up approach by elevating the principles and values that we Europeans all share. In our diversity, this unique way of life points to a sense of common destiny that forges community among nations and citizens across Europe. It is an organic heritage that shall be nurtured and safeguarded by the European Union, while also protecting the Union itself, since it should serve as the philosophical foundation for organizing European integration. Such a way of life would lead to the growing recognition of common interests and common values, which would ultimately become a solid basis for the future direction of European integration.

As Christian Democrats, it is our firm belief that the institutions and the law are for human beings, and not the other way around. In this spirit, the European projects shall always seek and serve the interests of citizens across Europe. Human beings are not means to other ends, or cogs in a wheel. Instead, human beings are the ends, while other things such as legal, political or educational systems are means. Regarding the question of justice and morality, ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’ (Matthew 7:12) is the guiding principle we cherish. By embracing the long-established natural law tradition, we believe in inherent and equal human dignity, and that we are entitled to human rights simply in virtue of our humanity and our human nature, and not by virtue of any quality or trait. This also means that human rights are inalienable, as they do not come from political authorities, nor are they vehicles to achieve societal goals. Instead, they are rooted in our humanity and in the human good. Thus, in our understanding as Christian Democrats, we are not the authors of our own human rights, nor can we alienate them, as we are endowed with them by a power higher. This perception shall guide our thinking on fundamental rights, freedoms, and responsibilities.

The history of Europe is full of regional memories of long-fought battles for freedom. The freedom-loving nations of Europe cherish the liberty and rights their citizens now enjoy. However, we Christian Democrats also believe that individual freedom is necessarily coupled with the precious European concept of public or common good. Virtuous people committed to common concerns have always been the building blocks of European societies, as well as of the unity of Europe, since the Athenian democracy or the Roman Empire. The pursuit of goodness and the fulfilment and flourishing of individuals are conditioned by the public good and, therefore, the responsibility to uphold it lies at the heart of our intellectual tradition. The sense of responsibility has also become key in the face of modern challenges that lead to new forms of alienation and disenchantment with governments, as well as with the European institutions. We shall especially recognize our responsibility to preserve the cultural and environmental values that we inherited from our ancestors. We also have a responsibility to pass on this unique heritage to future generations by protecting our European assets, as well as by preserving our environmental and natural resources.

Among the key elements of our common Christian Democratic heritage are the concepts of democracy, subsidiarity, and constitutional systems that are founded on and bound by law. In modern times, rooted in the encyclical teachings of the Rerum novarum and Quadragesimo anno, the organizing principle of subsidiarity points to a path between the evils of individualism and collectivism or communism. According to this principle, we believe in the importance of empowering the smallest social unit or competent authority that is able to address a question on its own. Consequently, larger units or authorities can only have a subsidiarity function. As the Quadragesimo anno points out: ‘one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry’. In that spirit, we also cherish democratic rule because, on the one hand, the legitimacy of public power is rooted in popular sovereignty which is rule by the people. On the other hand, we Christian Democrats also believe that the concept of popular sovereignty is the best guarantor of the dignity of the human person, through respect for individual rights, the rights of communities, and brotherly love. We also treasure the pragmatic principle of subsidiarity as a means of enhancing democratic rule at the local, regional, and national levels, while most effectively preserving the autonomy and dignity of the human being. Democratic governments are limited by constitutions that are founded on and bound by the law. However, we must emphasize that no constitutionalism can be comprehended without understanding its theoretical and cultural foundations. Even though we aspire to define and uphold common elements of European constitutional systems that are bound by the law, we also recognize that different communities of people wish to follow their own heritages, their own cultural aspirations and economic aims. Our own Christian Democratic culture calls upon us to respect this pluralism, just as the motto of European Union aspires to ‘unity in diversity’.

Our Christian Democratic way of thinking favours pragmatism over ideologies, and thus prefers not to think of European integration in ideological or abstract ways. Neither the concept of a federative Europe nor a Europe of nations are adequate perspectives for envisioning the future of our continent. European integration is neither an ideology, an objective or an end goal in itself, and therefore the concept of the ‘ever closer union’ cannot be justified without the consent of the member states and citizens of Europe. Brexit showed that the European Union can no longer take its own member nations for granted. Instead, the peoples of Europe are interested in what benefits EU membership bring to their own lives and nations, and what leverage European integration can secure for their country on the global stage. It is thus European integration that needs to justify its own raison d’être, and the purpose of its policies and common projects. Moreover, due to the diverse interests of Europe’s nations, these policy justifications might vary among member states. We think that this kind of pragmatic approach should dominate our policy conversations and considerations on the future of Europe. These are the major Christian Democratic values that should serve as guiding principles for elaborating individual policy areas, ahead of Europe and European integration.

  

THE GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF THE POLICY QUESTIONS

In elaborating our European policy views, we shall first recognize that the dawn of the new century has witnessed the emergence of challenges that are global in scope. Among such challenges are the growing number of terrorist attacks, financial and economic crises, the rise of transnational corporations and global business operations, environmental challenges as well as the widespread use of new technologies in every walk of life. These new societal challenges point to the need for the protective role of governmental regulations, made even more urgent by the ongoing public health crisis. States owe their citizens a duty to tackle these new challenges and, where necessary, to protect them from the threats they pose. In the meantime, the EU has to stand ready to support and encourage these aspirations and, where appropriate, assume its competence to act. Therefore, when exposing individual policy areas, it is worth considering them together with the most pressing challenges. Accordingly, we need to take into account the demographic crisis, the question of economic globalization, environmental challenges, the challenges brought about by the Information Age, as well as the security threat.

OUR DEMOGRAPHIC CHALLENGE AND FUTURE GENERATIONS

The nations of Europe are facing a serious demographic crisis. The family is not only the most fundamental building block of our societies, it is also the key to remedy the demographic crisis of Europe, as well as to guarantee the survival and flourishing of the unique cultural traditions in Europe. Family is the primary place where life and culture are inherited. This is why it is of the utmost importance to create and solidify policies on both national and European levels that are committed to supporting families across the continent. There is also an urgent need to implement a family perspective in other related European policies in a joined-up manner, in order to create a socio-economic environment that encourages families to grow.

Flourishing families are a fundamental precondition so long as young people are the pillars of our future. We therefore recognize that the youth of Europe is key to our future, as they will be the dynamic builders of the dreams we now envision. Thus, it is of utmost importance to provide them with the opportunity to see, experience, and learn about the precious and diverse heritage they possess in our continent. To this end, Europe shall encourage and support student exchange programmes such as Erasmus, and inspire youngsters to actively participate in those programmes. To preserve Europe’s rich linguistic diversity, we shall also encourage young people to learn and cherish other languages of Europe. New technologies are not only our future, they are already our present. In order to secure strategic advantages for our continent, Europe needs to support higher education and innovation, while encouraging talented young people to pursue their studies and educate themselves. Europe also needs to address the current employment crisis by supporting job creation, and also by increasing the mobility of young employees across Europe. By recognizing the invaluable role that youth plays in the future of Europe, we shall embrace our responsibility for them.

THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE SINGLE MARKET AND THE CHALLENGE OF GLOBALIZATION

Among the greatest achievements of European integration is the Single Market, along with the four freedoms on which this market is built upon and which citizens across Europe enjoy. This is not only the major and essential precondition of a prosperous Europe that wants to set ambitious future goals, but this achievement also shows and justifies the concrete and practical value of the European integration to the citizens across the continent. We shall therefore recognize the Single Market as a value in itself and shall also strive to work on its completion and continued improvements.

While cherishing the achievements of the Single Market, we recognize that the age of economic globalization poses a grave challenge to the production capacities and competitiveness of the European economy. Although the European Union is still the second largest economic power, its relative weight has long been shrinking. The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis have revealed the vulnerability of global supply chains and the fragility of certain European industries that rely on one or just a few non-EU countries. A common European approach should help reduce the exposure of the European market to foreign governments’ decisions or market failures. Member states look to the European Union and expect it to use its leverage in its common commercial policy to preserve the competitiveness and interests of European companies in foreign markets, while at the same time protecting the public interest regulatory space of weaker capital-importing European countries. We Christian Democrats also have a responsibility to help create a competitive European environment that is centred on entrepreneurial freedom and a strong work ethic. Flourishing economies have always been built on a work ethic that serves the purpose of individual fulfilment, as well as national pride. These principles shall guide the European conception of industrial and commercial policies, which shall also promote the cohesion necessary to withstand the challenges of globalization.

In that spirit, a shared destiny creates a natural bond of solidarity between the nations and citizens of Europe in a world increasingly dominated by emerging global powers. We witnessed this kind of deep solidarity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, as member states urged and continue to urge help for one another, and to provide assistance or medical equipment in case of necessity. For us Christian Democrats, this natural bond is the primary proof of the common vision for our future. Thus we also recognize the continued importance of the European cohesion policy as an expression of this European solidarity. Different European nations have different historical paths, often due to geopolitical forces that have greatly influenced their opportunities, levels of development, infrastructure, and overall wealth. Although each of them is an integral part of our Union and is capable of contributing to the remarkable achievements and success of Europe, the European Union shall continue to strive to reduce these disparities.

OUR ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGE

Europe, along with other regions and continents around the world, is facing multiple environmental challenges. The responsibility for nature implies the need for a paradigm shift in our attitude and approach towards, and our relationship with, nature. The starting point for a responsible ecological vision and a sound conservation policy is the recognition of the ethical dimensions entailed in envisioning a state of harmony between men and the environment. This harmony is also an essential precondition of a healthy human environment, as well as of the enjoyment of human rights. Thus, instead of a conqueror, the human being shall become a humble member and citizen of its broader environment. This assumes the responsibility of individuals and local communities, and therefore a sound environmental and conservation policy shall not be trapped in global ideologies; it shall instead aspire to adopt a bottom-up approach. The environmental challenges are diverse, and localism or local solutions have a major role to play in tackling them. A common European approach shall embrace this vision where the European Union assumes a strong coordinative role.

While contemplating a sound environmental and conservation policy, we shall also recognize the long traditions of our agriculture and food industries, which have strategic importance in our times. Our great agricultural heritage not only determines our particular culinary traditions, but is also regarded as a source of pride and value in many nations of Europe. The European Union shall cherish and continue to support its agricultural policy, while finding ways to create harmony with its environmental objectives.

THE INFORMATION AGE

We should recognize that the Digital Revolution brought about by the development and widespread use of digital technologies is not only our future, it is already our present. These new technologies change the way we work, pay, commute, do business, communicate, manage our tasks, heal, carry out medical research, and keep ourselves secure. They help raise the level of overall wealth and living standards, while at the same time reducing harmful environmental effects and supporting sustainable growth. They also increasingly affect the way governments, including public administration and courts, function and make decisions. The Information Age affects every walk of life. Innovation is thus key not only to achieving a competitive advantage in today’s global economy, including both industrial and agricultural policies, but also to securing political leverage and societal well-being. Thus, Europe cannot afford to fall behind, and it should aspire to secure strategic advantages. To this end, the European Union shall encourage and coordinate investment in the innovations of its member states, and shall aspire to design an adequate competition policy for achieving a strategic advantage. We Christian Democrats shall also address the ethical dimension of emerging technologies, as well as their impacts on our fundamental freedoms and rights. In pursuing the common good, the European Union shall stand ready to assist the nations of Europe in preserving their own constitutional values in the face of these new technologies.

THE SECURITY CHALLENGE AND THE EUROPEAN WAY OF LIFE

Security is a basic precondition for preserving our fundamental freedoms, the common good, and our unique way of life in Europe. Every European citizen has a legitimate right to be safe in his or her home and in the streets. This sense of security has also become part of our particular view of life. Thus, the European Union shall provide coordinative assistance in maintaining internal security; it shall also design strategies to combat terrorism and organized criminal activities, including human trafficking networks. Borders define what a nation is and what citizenship means to people. Likewise, the Schengen area and acquis define the borders of our continent and its cultural heritage. While the European Union shall continuously seek to expand the Schengen acquis to the geographical frontiers of Europe, it also needs to assist its member states with the protection of the external borders of our continent in order to secure the homeland of the member states and citizens of Europe in the face of the threat of mass migration and proliferating terrorist attacks. We Christian Democrats believe that everyone has a right to live safely in their homes, and in a culture, a society, a language, and a way of life they belong to. To this end, we shall strengthen our European Neighbourhood Policy, and must commit ourselves to effectively supporting the fragile and unstable communities in the regions and countries of Africa and the Middle East. This shall be followed as a strategic priority, aiming to preserve the peace and stability of the various civilizations the world inherited, as well as the security of people beyond our borders, by preventing them from becoming victims of human trafficking networks and by forestalling mass migratory flows. We Christian Democrats owe a distinct duty to our own communities, as the Bible teaches us: ‘anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever’ (1 Timothy 5:8). We therefore also have a responsibility to pass on to future generations our traditions, cultures and unique way of life, as we inherited them. The European Union thus needs to stand ready to assist member states in meeting this responsibility.

  

THE INSTITUTIONAL SETTING OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

When addressing the institutional setting of the European Union, our foundational principle is that the institutions shall always serve the interests of the people. The current institutional setting of the European integration is the result of various compromises among different interests, and thus reflects a status quo that is capable of forging a functioning system. Committed as we are to conservative ideas, we recognize the value of past compromises, and of the functioning status quo. We thus also recognize the value of such an institutional balance in which the member states, the citizens of Europe, the experts, and the judiciary are all represented, and are all provided with a seat at the table.

Based on the current institutional setting, the European Council brings together the heads of state and governments of all EU countries who decide on the overall policy direction of Europe, and sets the general political objectives. The European Council therefore has an orientation role in terms of strategic policy-settings, while leaving the concrete legislation to the Commission as well as to the Parliament and the Council. Thus, the European Commission is both responsible for preparing and proposing concrete legislation, as well as for monitoring the implementation of European law. Thus, the European Commission has the right to submit legislative proposals on its own initiative and, as the ‘guardian of the Treaties’, it is also responsible for monitoring whether EU laws are applied in a timely and correct fashion. In the meantime, the European Parliament has a major control function over the European Commission, which has evolved over many decades. The various institutional functions are separated in the current institutional setting. Therefore, only a well-elaborated policy reform that would better serve the interests of the European people would justify any major reconsideration of the current institutional framework. As we see it, institutional changes can only be a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

In accordance with our great Christian Democratic tradition, we cherish democracy and subsidiarity as organizing principles that originated in Christian social teaching. Being aware of the growing alienation and disengagement of the peoples of Europe, we need to stress the importance of reinforcing citizens’ sense of ownership of European integration, as well as their own destiny. This is not only key to the future viability of the European project as a whole, but is also necessary for finding policy directions that truly reflect the choice of the nations of Europe, for meeting global challenges with common determination and willpower instead of disagreement and division. The European Union arose from the consent of diverse democratic European nations, and thus their national parliaments, as depositaries of popular sovereignties, shall be given a more significant voice in the elaboration of our common policies. They shall seek an active role in helping the engine of the integration, the European Commission, to operate smoothly by continuously hearing and transmitting the voices of the citizens of Europe.

We also cherish the national constitutional traditions and values of Europe: we recognize these constitutional values as the wellspring of the European Union. Our common European idea and policies can only have benign and significant effects if they preserve a nurturing relationship with their historical roots, including the national constitutions and constitutional traditions. We shall also recognize that over the past decades, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has been at the forefront of developing the law of the European Union, and of safeguarding its autonomy and supremacy. However, we shall also acknowledge that this enormous endeavour has not always been without contradiction or even confrontations. Thus, the political and accountable institutions of the European Union—such as the Parliament and the Council—should bear larger responsibility for developing European law. While the CJEU shall remain an important guardian of the Founding Treaties, including the operations of the EU institutions, as well as the law made by these democratic institutions, single court decisions handed down in individual cases should not transform the nature of European law, or result in integration without the consent of the citizens and member states of Europe. In addition to empowering democratic institutions, we shall also seek the advice and guidance of national constitutional cultures as the wellspring of the architecture of European integration, to secure a more harmonious functioning of European law. To this end, the judges of the CJEU shall be required to embrace and nurture the precious common heritage of national constitutional values in the same way as judges of national courts are required to safeguard and apply the law of the European Union.

The ongoing pandemic provides an opportunity to deliberate on the future of Europe, and we shall seize and embrace this opportunity. But we Christian Democrats firmly believe that our house in Europe should be built on a rock, especially in times of uncertainty and fragility. Our roots and our Christian Democratic values and heritage can guide us safely through these uncertain times. We therefore believe that a major precondition of building a flourishing European community is remaining true to our values and heritage in the coming years and decades, in the face of global challenges.

Most recent

Newsletter signup

Like it ? Share it !

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pocket
Share on email

More
articles

THE FUTURE OF EUROPE

“… the Union has no other choice and it does not have any future unless it includes and cherishes the various histories, traditions, and identities of Europe’s constituent nations. Brexit

THE ROLE OF THE UNITED STATES IN HUNGARY’S TRIANON TRAGEDY

“The extremely influential pan-Slavic movement and the idea of dismantling Austria–Hungary emerged in Cleveland and Pittsburgh after a long period of Germanization in the nineteenth century, while the quasi-declaration of