Waarom ‘de ziel van Europa’?

Europa wordt aangevallen. We kunnen deze dreiging alleen afwenden als Europa eensgezind is. Zolang eensgezindheid ontbreekt, is Europa een speelbal van kwade machten.

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unanimously defending human dignity

On the Soul of Europe

Dit bericht is ook beschikbaar in: Nederlands (Dutch)

Henri #Bontenbal, the party leader of the #CDA, the Dutch Christian Democratic Party, on the upcoming election to the European Parliament on June 6-9 for the 2024-2029 term. He was on the weekly program on political issues on Dutch public broadcaster #NPO on Sunday, March 24, repeating on Europe what he had also said before at his party’s congress.

But few politicians talk about the soul of Europe. Mostly it’s about the European interest. That is why I find his comment on this remarkable. This is emphatically not further voting advice on my part.

It was about the soul of Europe. Here are some excerpts from his speech at the congress:

“The war in Ukraine is ultimately about who we want to be as Europe. What is really important to us, what is really of value to us. If Europe were just an economic project, we would do the math on what a free Ukraine would bring us economically.”(…)

“I am then reminded of Robert Schuman. In 1950, five years after the terrible World War, European leaders were determined to prevent a repeat. (..) The European Community was first and foremost a community of shared values, of a shared moral horizon.

The European dream was deeply rooted in the existential experience of the tragedy of both world wars, which the founding fathers carried with them. If the EU is more than an internal market and first and foremost a community, what are its shared values? What is the soul of Europe?

Europe’s identity lies in a task, namely building a community in which every person counts and people can freely dedicate themselves to service to another and the community.

For too long, Dutch politics has been based on technocratic and procedural narratives. But politics is and must be based on vision, ideology and beliefs. That is what the Netherlands is yearning for, is my belief. The soul of Europe exists, I believe, from the following principles: the dignity and equality of every human being; the freedom to shape one’s vocation in one’s life; responsibility for another, the world and our earth; solidarity between, and brotherhood with, other people and peoples; democracy in which everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s interests count; and the social rule of law that protects the fundamental rights of every citizen.

The realization of these ideals is thwarted by two enemies. I already talked about the war in Ukraine and what is at stake there for Europe. Here are not just two countries fighting over a piece of territory; with unimaginable suffering and grief in families and households; here are two fundamentally different ways of looking at the world.

That is also what is at stake in this war: the soul of Europe. Therefore, we must also be honest about that other, less visible enemy. That enemy is in Europe itself, in our own collective thinking and actions. Or in the lack thereof. In recent decades, we have lived off the peace dividend.

Are we as Europe still willing to make sacrifices for our freedom? Are we still willing to dedicate ourselves to something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our own fat selves? Do we still want to fight for the soul of Europe? Then we will have to start with ourselves, in our own homes. Because in Europe, and certainly in the Netherlands, we see right-wing populism going strong.

Populists claim to want to stand up for people, but undermine the very rule of law that protects people. Populists claim to put the Dutchman first, but in fact they put selfishness first. Freedom, as we Christian Democrats see it, always goes hand in hand with responsibility and solidarity. These are not available separately.

Can Europe respond to populism? I am convinced that we can overcome skepticism about the European Union by seeing it again first and foremost as a community of values. And so not just as an economic project.”

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