Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reinventing Europe

What went wrong? This was the basic question that was discussed in a three day conference  in Brussels at the initiative of the French Magazine 'Nouvel Observateur' and the 'Notre Europe' Institute. The conference gathered more than 100 policy makers and experts with one message - let's reinvent Europe'

Europe is not popular nowadays. In most countries, less than one national citizen supports the European project. There is a serious risk that an anti-European coalition could win the next European elections. Only in Germany there is political stability; elsewhere, the turnout of political elections was unpredictable like in Italy with the surprising victory of the M5S or resulted in the defeat of the governmental party.

When governance fails, can Europe re-invent itself ? J. Delors, the most admired European Commission president  expressed his disappointment and distress by the EU's failure to restore leadership by creating a job creating growth model instead of an austerity minded policy. France’s former president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, and author of the constitutional Treaty said that Europe has worked  but it " has no more objectives.”

The rise of populism is today the main European social and political issue. Recently, we have experienced the absence of Europe in the tragedy of Lampedusa where earlier this month hundreds of migrants boarded in Tunisia died after their boat capsized. But instead of agreeing on common policy to arrest growing, uncontrolled immigration of Africans seeking refuge in most EU member States , EU leaders prefer national solutions. The result is an increasing appeal of  Europe’s extreme-right political parties, ever-stronger notably in Italy, France, Greece, Hungary, Belgium and most Nordic countries,  hostile to their governments while using as scapegoats growing income inequality, foreigners, the euro or EU institutions. 

The solution to these complex economic, social and political issues is not less Europe. Some prefer the 'federalist' approach, but may underestimate the fact that Europe is not the United States, since its is fundamentally polycentric, with a huge diversity of traditions, cultures, languages. But at the same time they share values, social norms and a 'State of Law'. J.Habermas is right to put at the heart of a renewed European project the issue of democracy and citizens' participation.

We need a vision and concrete action to mobilize Europeans.  A true political Union... Our only hope is audacity. But discussing ideas about Europe and its future is already a good start.

P.S: Last week has been quite rich in debates in Italy with the excellent initiative of the newspaper 'La Repubblica' in Venice. A journalist and writer, Barbara Spinelli, (Spinelli's daughter) presented an interesting paper on the Europe we need.  An intense debate on European democracy also took place with Massimo Cacciari,  the Italian philosopher and former mayor of Venice and Eugenio Scalfari, writer and founder of the newspaper 'la Repubblica'.   

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Inhuman crisis

 Pope Francis said that "the current world economic crisis is inhuman, being a grave symptom of the disrespect for man and for truth with which governments and citizens make decisions" . These strong words were pronounced at the end of a 3 day Vatican conference gathering experts from Catholic universities and institutions and from the UN, Council of Europe, the African Union and the organization of American states  to discuss the relevance of the Encyclical letter 'Pacem in Terris" (peace on Earth) in the promotion of a more peaceful world.

The Encyclical underlines the importance of respect of human rights as an essential pillar of modern Christianity. It clearly establishes: "Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services".  But it also calls for better relations between men and States, the need for equality among  nations and mutual assistance.  

John's call for peace in 1962 was an attempt to promote international dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and solidarity.  This message was not heard by world powers, as tensions escalated with the rise of the Berlin Wall, the Vietnam War, the nuclear race and so on. Now, Pope Francis urges to build on this universal message to meet the challenges of peace today; what he described as an "educational emergency", " the impact of the mass media on consciences, access to the earth's resources, " the ethical use of biological research", " the arms race and national and international security measures".

The basis of peace making exists because it is in the nature of men. Individuals, families, the society and the States are called to contribute "to build peace, on the example of Jesus Christ... by promoting and practicing justice with truth and love…(and) contributing…to integral human development” through solidarity. And that means an end to “egoism, individualism, and group interests at every level. ”But has today’s world learned any lessons from Pacem in Terris?  “Are the words justice and solidarity” found “solely in our dictionary or are we all working to realize them?”

Pacem in Terris reminds us that “there can be no real peace and harmony if we fail to work for a more just” and jointly supportive society. Every human being shares a common dignity “to promote, respect and safeguard always. ”Priority national and international action,  must work towards a world where everyone is able “to effectively access food, water, shelter , health care, education and (be given) the possibility to form and support a family.” 

"Pacem in terris traces a line that goes from the peace to be built in the heart of men to a rethinking of our model of development and action at all levels, so that our world is a world of peace". Despite the fall of walls and barriers, the message of the Encyclical remains extremely relevant. There cannot be peace if there is no fair development of all men of the Earth! These words have a savor of revolution today. 

P.S: All quotations are extracted from the English version of the address made (in Italian) by Pope Francis on 3rd October