Just What are European Values? By Jan Mortier

by Jan Mortier

The Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust convened a discussion meeting as a follow-up to the Eleventh Charlemagne Lecture: ‘Europe’s Place in the World of the 21st Century’, that was given in November 2006 by Peter Sutherland KCMG to the Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust, preceding the Berlin Declaration and the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome. The meeting was hosted by the London office of the Representation of the European Commission in the United Kingdom on 15th February 2007 and Jan Mortier wrote the report of the meeting.

The discussion was chaired by Sir Stephen Wall GCMG LVO of the Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust, with panel contributions from: Mr Reijo Kemppinen, Head of the UK Representation of the European Commission in London; Revd Dr. Keith Clements, former General Secretary, Conference of European Churches; Mr Maurice Fraser, Fellow at the European Institute, LSE; and Sir Peter Marshall KCMG of the Diplomatic Academy of London and Chairman of the Joint Commonwealth Societies Council. The discussion meeting’s mandate was to broaden out from Peter Sutherland’s Charlemagne Lecture by seeking to define just what the European values are.

Peter Sutherland’s Charlemagne Lecture

Peter Sutherland’s Charlemagne Lecture outlined the internal, institutional, and external global challenges that now face Europe as it embarks on the 21st Century and seeks to overcome the implementation impasse of the Constitutional Treaty. His central theme was that Europe faces a number of challenges that cannot be resolutely addressed unless it alters its collective mindset and transcends inter-governmentalism by adopting a “community method” on an array of common issues, so that Europe can speak with one voice. Following up on this, the Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust then sought to define which common European factors might constitute the foundation of this unified voice and to discern some common values, shared by European states, that would support this suggestion. The foundation of European values around which the citizens and institutions could be inspired were outlined by Peter Sutherland as follows: firstly, that Europe has unique external values of internationalism and humanitarianism, based on its internal historical and evolving ethos, as demonstrated by Europe accounting for more than half of all development and humanitarian assistance worldwide; secondly, Europe’s Venusian internationalism, exemplified by its support for global issues such as the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Kyoto Protocol, where the EU has shown global leadership by addressing these issues with a unified voice. He also outlined how Europe’s model of integration and its contribution to regional peace and security has proved a great inspiration to the rest of the world by setting the global standard.

As a value system, the EU’s main reason for success has been adherence to the rule of law, with the EU becoming a “community of law”. Through its commitment to a rules–based, community of law approach, the EU sets the standard for the post-modern world, by applying this approach to its internal dynamics and external affairs, thus creating a centripetal gravitational values based attraction through peer emulation of the EU project. He also called upon Europe to promote this message in an increasingly unstable world and to use Javier Solana’s ‘effective multilateralism’ concept, outlined in the European Security Strategy, as an effective and streamlined means of engaging and encouraging the USA, China and the other major powers into a rules-based world order now (rather than in 20 or 30 years when circumstances may not be so optimal).

With regard to European trade, he outlined the European Union’s effectiveness, since it was agreed that this area of policy should be based on the ‘supranational decision taking approach’ built on common interest. Here, the EU Trade Commissioner has full authority to speak for the 27 Member States, thus elevating Europe to the status of a major player in world trade. It follows then that, were the EU to emulate this supranational ‘decision-taking’ approach in other fields of foreign policy, with a commissioner mandated to speak with the full authority of all the Member States on areas of common interest, Europe would replicate its success in world trade in other external policy fields. However, he pointed out that the Common Foreign Security budget is still inadequate for this task and that a streamlining of policy making and operational procedures within the EU is required. In particular, this could be achieved through the implementation of these decisions into the national policy development and execution process. In this way, the EU could make demonstrable progress towards fulfilling its global ambitions in the 21st century international order.

The foundation of such a European approach has to be the gradual adoption of the ‘community method’ across the whole range of policy processes, as and when needed. The success of the community method to ensure increased European influence in the world will depend on the ability of the EU Member States to take their decisions in a timely, community-based manner, transcending inter-governmentalism in order to speak to the world with one voice. The European voice can be based only on commonalities of interest, history and mindset, all of which are inherently derived from the common values of European civilisation. It is these common values that the Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust sought to identify and define, so as to lay the foundation for a European voice.

Europe’s values and its place in the world of the 21st century

The guiding value in the design of European integration has been peace and the promotion of peace and this should remain the case. The pacification processes adopted by the European Union, which aim to avert war both internally and amongst its neighbours, provide a powerful example for other countries to folow.The challenge for the EU will be to define what its contribution to the construction of peace in the world will be.

Peter Sutherland’s description of the EU as a ‘community of law’, and his call for the EU to promote the rule of law in the wider world, is an excellent description of the way in which Europe can spread peace. However, the EU still does not possess a clear legal personality (something that the proposed Constitution had aimed to rectify) and it lacks the combined consciousness to assert itself globally. We, as Europeans, are too dependent on the idea of a western identity when, in fact, it is a European identity and the values that it is based on that will allow our continent to face the challenges that will confront its people in the future.

There is a need to examine the ways in which the European process has succeeded in building unity whilst maintaining diversity, allowing citizens to affirm multiple ethnic, cultural, religious and national identities within the broader context of being ‘European’. This recognition of unity in diversity, combined with the understanding that the current uni-polar world system is by no means permanent, is profoundly relevant to the issue of global governance. This guiding concept of unity in diversity was recognised in the Constitutional Treaty as a principle of the European Union. Europe should promote this message in a collective foreign policy.

Whilst there is a European preference for human security and civil liberties, we should be careful of hypocrisy in our values. If we believe that these values are universal in application then we should be prepared to promote them around the world. The massacres in Darfur are an abhorrent affront to universal values that have brought shame on all those who have the capacity to act but choose not to. Europe cannot claim to be championing enlightenment values if it allows genocide to continue in the 21st century.

There are however problems facing any proposed increase in the amount of humanitarian interventions by Europe. There is still a collective unease amongst Europeans towards any such interventions, given Europe’s history of using ‘hard power’ to promote its influence in the world. Acutely aware of the law of unintended consequences, European states tend to opt for the ‘soft power’ Venusian route of foreign policy, preferring not to embark on military missions aimed at putting the world to rights. The European aim of a more orderly world based on international law is inconsistent with the violation of the sovereignty of other states in the current international legal architecture.

Does this mean that Europe should stand by and do nothing? If we want a safer world, then allowing the atrocities that are currently taking place in Darfur and Zimbabwe to continue is not an option. If other countries behave abominably to their own people, by flouting universal values, by committing acts of genocide and by abusing fundamental human rights, then we have to act. Europe must be careful to avoid a completely pacifist mentality by ensuring that the humility contained within its intellectual inheritance does not incline it to inertia.

There is a common European voice on the world level. It is a voice based on European values that speaks on global issues: on climate change, on the breakdown of non-proliferation, and on the activities of transnational companies around the world. In terms of trade and climate change, it is evident that there is such a thing as collective preferences based on a particular culture and originating in a particular set of values. Europe should define what these preferences are. We should look to apply these values to efforts within the under-resourced United Nations. If Europe intends to be serious about multilateralism then it must build a new type of multilateralism that ‘has teeth’.

A first step towards creating this peaceful world might be to incorporate the principle of the Responsibility to Protect, endorsed by the UN General Assembly, into a future EU Foreign Policy. A second step would be to endow Europa with her own peacekeeping instrument that answers only to Europe but works in partnership with others. The third step may be the possibility of a single European seat in a reformed UN Security Council. Italy while holding the EU Presidency offered to place its seat at the disposal of the EU. A single Eurpean seat would be a significant contribution to the long term project of peace and an integrating world through a transformation of the Security Council, into one in which each of the greater regions of the world represents its own regional security organisation and would help solve the problem of regional insecurity. However, Britain should retain its seat on the Security Council until the other powers of the world are prepared to take such an enlightened step to transfer their Security Council representation to regional communities.

Consolidating the European Civilisation, a Pax Europa

We Europeans have a particular concept of the importance of social networks, of the dignity of the individual, and of our responsibilities to others. To be serious about social justice and social cohesion within Europe requires that we have to will the means to achieve it. This means encouraging economic growth that creates jobs and in turn advances social values and social progress. The ageing population of Europe will require social support and to honour this social contract we must maintain economic growth. To date the consensus has been to do so by encouraging immigration, which produces more tax payers that generate more funds for social care.

The influx of peoples into Europe from far beyond its boundaries will not only create diversity but will also change the set of values that we traditionally define as European. There are two approaches to this issue. One approach argues that people who come from other cultures to settle in Europe should adopt our values. The other argues that we have much to learn from other cultures and that we can be enriched by them. The challenge is not to assimilate other values to our own, but rather to ensure that those who do come here assimilate our norms and values whilst having the best of their values included within the whole. Turkey, as a state with a considerable population of native Muslims that straddles East and West, is as a fitting example. The challenge will be to bring the best of Turkey’s values into Europe, rather than dictating our values to them. For the promotion of a Pax Europa the European Union should be careful not to say to states beyond its current borders that they will never be able to accede to our union of peace. Europa ad infinitum is the world’s best hope and perhaps its last hope.

Whilst the EU has been successful in containing conflicts between states, it has been less successful in containing conflicts within them. The EU is still far from being a community of enlightenment. We need to acknowledge the fact that some countries to the east of our Union hold very different values to our own, and that in certain instances, for example in the obligation of revenge and in the harsh treatment of women we must not be afraid to stick to our own more enlightened and just values. Nevertheless, people should recognise that society is enriched by, even when removed from, other cultures, such as Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This will require Europe to unite around common inter-cultural values in the processes of integration.

It is not possible to think of abstract values without thinking about their application and thus the realm of policy. Values may start off as abstractions but, by the time they are put into practise, they need definition based on a common heritage. The draft European Constitution stated that we are ‘inspired by Europe’s common, cultural humanistic and religious heritage’ but policy may need to go further so as not to exclude other cultures from future accession to the European Civilisation. Since 1975 the dominant discourse about Europe has concerned the economy, but equally important is that Europe has a sense of purpose and destiny. With this in mind, Christian values and the values of forgiveness as opposed to revenge should not be played down.

Europe has become a realm of peace. It is inconceivable now that France and Germany would ever go to war with each other again. The great experiment of the founding fathers of Europe has been a categorical success. Europe has achieved an unprecedented historical example for peace and prosperity for its people. The example of our union is being keenly observed by the rest of the worlds states who are emulating our working peace system.

Pacem in Terris, is not a ‘code of conduct’ according to the strict meaning of the term but does represent a path for those of us in search of a new world order. To found an order in Europe based on the four pillars: truth, justice, charity and freedom means drafting constitutional documents that assert the human right to individual sovereignty in a simple, inspirational style that the peoples of Europe can warm to.

It is highly improbable that the European common market would ever have come about if we had not been aware of the fact that we stood in a divided Europe during the Cold War. The disappearance of the USSR has had a huge impact on the dynamic of the European project. Forgiveness has also played an important part in the European tradition and the (still ongoing) process of post-Second World War European reconciliation is an example of this.

In the Cold War “Eastern Europe” meant Communist Europe, whilst today it means Orthodox Europe. This remains an important difference that needs to be grappled with. Perhaps the events leading to the Treaty of Rome twenty years ago need to be analysed and compared with the current context so we can establish a vision and framework of values for the next phase of the European project that must now pay greater attention to the local and to the chasm that has developed between the peoples and institutions of Europe. The failure of the Constitutional and Lisbon treaties now necessitates a rethink of the modus operandi to date. It is now time that the European Parliament as the only truly legitimate representative of the consciousness of Europe’s 500 million people, should become the executive organ of the European family of institutions. This will reconnect the people with the processes of European governance and allow Europe to lead the world to the next stage of global civilisation.

Europe remains an entity based on the idea of democracy and the principle that the state must take responsibility for ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity within European society. Recently acceding countries have had to work to build democratic principles into their constitutional structures, some within the Union are backsliding and should be admonished for this and be required to come up to par. Democracy is more than just a voting system or a parliamentary system. To make democracy work requires a lot of other things as well: the belief in and the constitutional protections of: freedom of expression and the right to be heard, freedom of conscience and religion, the right to a private life, the right to justice and the right to live in peace. There is also the duty to ones fellow man and the responsibility to others and the environment. All these things must be constantly worked at. Freedom must be reinvented in every age.

If we are to assimilate other peoples and creeds into our union of peace, does it mean that everyone thinks exactly the same way according to their respective traditions? Or does it mean that they can find in their particular traditions means to support the common good? We might learn from British history. A hundred years ago members of the Church of England and Protestant Dissenters were at each others’ throats, whilst Roman Catholics were thought of as dangerous foreigners. Modern British society has reached its current level of integration because different religions have found, within their respective traditions, grounds for supporting the growth of a liberal democracy. For Anglicans within the established church, democracy was the best way of keeping an overall balance within a conflict-ridden society whilst, for Dissenters, democracy guaranteed individual rights and freedoms. To continue this process, we must allow people from different religions the space to find reasons for supporting common concepts of democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law. It is right that we do not press any one particular religious tradition and, in looking at Church statements, such as COMECE, it is notable that the emphasis is on pursuing the common good rather than on pressing a particular viewpoint.

Europe has a duty to protect its people, as the value of a civilisation is measured by how that civilisation treats the marginalised of society and the weak. The European social model is unique to the world and it is one based on human dignity, the equality of men and woman, peace and freedom, reconciliation and respect, solidarity and subsidiarity, the rule of law, justice, and the pursuit of the common good. Pope John Paul II said of European integration: “it is of capital importance to remember that the union will lack substance if it is reduced to its merely geographic and economic dimensions; rather, it must consist above all in an agreement about the values which must find expression in its law and in its life” (Ecclesia in Europa, 110). Europa’s corporeal incarnation must therefore be endowed with a soul, conscience and voice so that she show the way for the world toward a new world order of peace.

Europe as a “community of law” can be a positive agent of change in the world, inspired by its values and working for the common global good it can promote stability and peace in its neighbourhood and further afield. The European Civilisation has already given much to the world throughout the ages. Now the European Union shows a way to peace and is an example to other states and regions of the world through our model of integration and Venusian internationalism. As the EU charts the path to peace in the world, the European Union must be prepared to define its shared European values and be confident enough to welcome the best of the values of others into our own as the EU grows. In foreign policy, we must seek to promote these values through a consolidated European Union, speaking with “one voice” to the rest of the world. The European voice can be based only on commonalities of interest, history and mindset, all of which are inherently derived from the common values of our European Civilisation. As we Europeans define our place in the world of the 21st century, the task must now fall to the European Union to carry forward the great enlightenment project through the promotion of peace, unity in diversity, the universal right to human dignity and the respect for the rule of law.

Jan Mortier, Civitatis

Advertisements