Friday 22. October 2021
#140 July-August 2011


It’s not enough to refer to our values


Philippe Herzog is the Director of the Confrontations Europe think-tank and special adviser to Commissioner Michel Barnier. After discussing forms of solidarity from nation state to the EU, and the constraints since the renewal of the single market, as well as the platform for new growth and cohesion, he ended his address to the Mönchengladbach conference by drawing attention to the real danger facing the Eurozone and the need for progress in economic integration.


There is now a pressing need to make a profound improvement in our test bed of multinational European democracy for success in  creating new actions of solidarity designed around the new objective of sustainable development. This demands that we wriggle out of the straitjacket of nationally-based culture and practices in order to enable every individual to become a citizen of democracy on several levels (local, national and European). On the other hand, at EU level, it is not a matter of relying only on deliberation over the choices by the Parliament; we also see the limits of national delegations for bringing out what is in the interests of Europe. It should be possible to put up multinational political parties for public elections. It is vital to renew European civil society, including its transnational and multinational networks. The Euro Pact is a possible milestone towards national citizens making more appropriate choices at European level. And at EU level, a reform of the Commission will be needed. It is no longer the church in the middle of the village, nor even a real college. It needs to have a strong political mandate and a restored authority.


What ethical and spiritual resources can we draw upon now to give a new meaning to Europe? How can we not be struck by the way in which Europe has become rubbed out by party politics? We should pay more attention to the u-turns of social and civic actors when confronted with European challenges, the amateurism of most political leaders and their experts, and the procedural bubble in which a number of European institutional actors enclose themselves. Well, watch out.  The ground is now ready for an easy radicalism which shoots at everything that moves, whether this is the unfortunate draft constitution or even today the positive initiatives of the World Food Summit and the Euro Pact. Our democracy is in danger when you allow the public arena to be invaded by information which makes sound-bite appeals to emotional reactions and where there’s no room for the actors who are trying to work out their practical actions.


Even today, the meaning of Europe is in the promotion of a common good which goes beyond our individual interests and which carries with it the notion of universal progress. You only have to look at the real challenges faced every day to understand that the work of peace and reconciliation must be focused on the progress made in the practical tasks of sharing public resources at regional and world level. The rich resources of the planet, whether energy sources, water or land, are still being pillaged and laid waste today; sharing them out, not only for restoring the environment but also to make better use of it in the spirit of solidarity, is obviously on the agenda. The pooling of information and know-how cannot be simply left up to the spontaneity of discussions on the Internet. It calls for a revolution in education and in life-long learning in a total opening up to areas of knowledge, traditions and experience of other peoples around the world. Money should also be made to work as a public good, because it is a major factor in how people inter-react with each other, and also affects socialisation. Above all, we should consider the richness of human relations as a common good, with new ethical and practical choices for the reintegration of marginalised people and making the most of migrations.


It’s not enough to refer to our values. If you don’t work on values they fade away.  While after the war forgiveness had been made a condition for the promise of a common project, today we must make this promise real. This requires a realisation of the fact that our indifference towards others in the European Union harms us as well as our neighbours. Indifference generates as much violence as war, and it is our duty to fight this so that the promise will be reborn. A promise for radically new thinking. In days of old the Jewish prophets enabled their society to see the prospects of improving in order to forge their future in a context that was as violent as it was unsure. Today Europe must dig deep to find within herself the capacity to imagine and build her future in solidarity with the world of the twenty-first century.


Philippe Herzog

Director of Confrontations Europe

Translated from the original French

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Note: The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Jesuit European Office and COMECE.