Background Reading

The European Union - its contribution to a just and sustainable world

Edy Altes

In previous Chapters we have made an effort to relate spirituality to economics as well as to peace and security. A risky undertaking, especially in view of the divergence of opinions about the course that should be followed. A similar exercise for the European Union is posing even greater difficulties because of the very nature of the integration model. Yet, an attempt has to be made.

The main focus in this Chapter will be on the impact of a spiritual renewal on the policies of the EU. Within this limited context only scant attention will be given to institutional problems. For those interested in a more detailed analysis of the EU - its institutions and problems - abundant literature is available. Something, which cannot be said for the pertinent question raised by Jacques Delors about the need for a new Heart and Soul for Europe.

There can be little doubt about the historic importance of the European integration process. For centuries this continent was torn apart by hatred and a seemingly endless range of bloody wars. Countless lives have been sacrificed in blind idolatry on the altar of nationalism. Certainly, even during the dark years of violent conflicts and hatred, the dream of a united Europe, living in peace and security, was kept alive by prominent intellectuals and statesmen like: Bossuet, Saint Simon, Coudenhove Kalergi, Briand and others. Winston Churchill presented his great vision of a United Europe even amidst the cruelties and intense hatred of the Second World War. Farsighted statesmen like Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi, Spaak and Beyen pursued with great courage the process of integration. All shared the conviction that the mistake of another Treaty of Versailles should not be repeated. A new approach to the European problem had to be found in a spirit of reconciliation. There was the vision that common institutions had to be created, excluding the possibilities of a recurrence of future wars between the two perennial enemies France and Germany. Jean Monnet was the driving force and practical genius in forging the instrument for lasting peace: The Treaty of the Coal and Steel Community signed in 1951. The ensuing dynamics of the integration process led in 1957 to the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Economic Community.

A unique feature of the integration process was that it created the necessary space for the smaller nations. The new Europe was not to be based on the hegemony of one nation imposing its will on the other states. A carefully worked out institutional framework provided the context for a permanent process of negotiation, enabling the member states to achieve agreement on a give and take basis.

Gradually a habit developed of a careful listening to each other in an attitude of respect for each other's vital national interests. Quite an impressive achievement for states that had been cultivating their sovereignty over centuries!

A brief and accurate description of the EU is not an easy undertaking. It risks to run into similar difficulties as the blind men in the well known Indian story, trying to describe an elephant on the basis of what each of them can feel with his own hands. Some will exclaim in disgust: "it is a big body with a cold heart". They may be referring to the underdeveloped social dimension of the EU or to its attitude towards the economically less developed nations. Most likely to be joined by others, criticising the large bureaucratic feet trampling upon valued national structures and cherished traditions. Others may point to its formidable economic strength and scoff at the clumsy movements of the huge body in the international arena whenever foreign policy and security issues are being discussed. Many however will probably agree to praise certain virtues. The EU is – notwithstanding its shortcomings – slowly but decisively marching forward with well coordinated movements in an international jungle fraught with danger. Although it would be unwise to trumpet about its strength, few observers will deny that its teeth of a common trade policy look quite impressive. Besides, the inner cohesion of the animal may inspire respect in view of the substantial transfers of resources from the stronger to the weaker parts of the body. Certainly, excessive droppings from the huge structural funds are corrupting the environment. However there is some hope that this situation will improve by ensuring a more effective system of control. A real problem – which will be discussed later – is how to endear this animal to the larger public. Clearly, without a widespread support there will be no future for the EU.

In several respects is the EU a unique creature. It is not a state neither an intergovernmental organisation such as the UN or the OECD. Still it has the right to receive and send Ambassadors. The Diplomatic Corps accredited to the European Commission is one of the largest in the world. The EU is to a large extent an economic institution. Its other dimensions are still underdeveloped. Important progress towards further integration was made during the Maastricht Council meeting in 1991. Some vital areas of intergovernmental cooperation were added to the existing Community system. New goals were set for a common Foreign and Security Policy and common action in the field of Internal Affairs (Police and Justice). Symptomatic for the new European dynamism in the past decade was also the introduction of the single European currency.

The European Economic Community, with its original six members in '57, evolved to the European Union with fifteen members in 1995. After the end of the cold war followed a wave of new applications for membership. This resulted in 2003 in an enlargement to 25 members. Other applications - notably Turkey - are now being considered. The EU is therefore still engaged in a dynamic process of evolution.

The rejection of the Constitutional Draft Treaty by France and the Netherlands has opened a serious crisis about the future of the EU, its structure, procedures, policies and geographical extent. The European Community, now the European Union, has however weathered many storms. It withstood them all and moved ahead, in spite of crisis upon crisis. The same may be expected now. Surely, there are wide divergences on crucial issues but the challenges of the modern world are such that Europeans have no other choice than to continue with the integration process.

Individual member states do not stand a chance to safeguard their vital interests in a world, which is at present dominated by one superpower but wherein several colossal powers are emerging. Waking up to this reality has become a matter of survival!

Quo Vadis Europe?

The future of the European Union will be determined by: vision, character and structure.

  • Vision, based on spiritual values is the crucial factor, decisive for the future of Europe. Without spiritual renewal there is little chance to overcome the present spirit of gloom. A Europe without a heart and soul – in the grip of hedonism and consumerism - will not succeed in developing a new attitude towards man and material goods and nature. A change, which is indispensable for arriving at a just and sustainable European society. A society, wherein a spirit of true solidarity prevails over narrow national interests. A society, where priceless values – decisive for the quality of life - are not sacrificed for the sake of a never-ending striving for material growth.
  • Character. Open or closed? Is the EU going to be an open hospitable house with windows on the world, where inhabitants are aware of their responsibilities for fellow men, living in less fortunate circumstances? Or, shall it be a house with small windows and iron bars like an awe inspiring fortress, heavily armed and surrounded by a high `wall in order to protect its prosperous inhabitants from hungry crowds outside? Will it be prepared to establish just internal social conditions and responsible relations with the external world or will the iron laws of a ruthless competition determine these relations? Is a different development possible in which the human dimension will be considered to be more important than purely materialistic considerations? Are European citizens prepared to accept a fundamental change in lifestyle in which the quality of life prevails over the quantity of material goods?
  • Structure. Does the EU opt for a solid structure with supranational elements in key areas or will it devolve into a light structure - some sort of a 'free trade zone plus'? A choice, which is of particular relevance after the recent enlargement with 10 members. It seems to me that we have to move into the direction of a more solid structure in order to meet the formidable challenges confronting humanity. This won't be easy because the tradition of attaching prime importance to what is perceived as a national interest is deeply rooted in each of the member states. A simple free trade zone however will not be able to withstand the stormy weather ahead on an unruly international ocean! The EU needs not only a clear vision of its common interests but also an effective decision-making process on vital issues - even in the political field.

Some major challenges

Whether the EU will be in a position to contribute to a new approach in economics chiefly depends on its ability to overcome some major internal and external challenges.

The challenge of enlargement

Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the European Union was confronted with the explicit wish of Central- and Eastern European states to join this area of peace and prosperity. It was clear from the outset that leaving these countries to themselves would lead to chronic instability on our doorstep. To ignore their legitimate demands would also be against the fundamental values of peace and solidarity standing at the origin of the integration process. Hence the historic decision of the Council of Ministers in Copenhagen to welcome ten more countries to join the EU in 2004.

Naturally there were formidable difficulties to overcome before enlargement could be realised. The adaptation process to the EU of candidate members - excluded during more than 40 years from the dynamic western economic development – was long and painful. For both sides! A revision of the agricultural and regional policies of the EU has become inevitable as otherwise the financial burden for the member states will turn out to be unbearable. An even greater problem presents the adjustment of institutions - designed for the original six - to 25 and eventually 30 states. Indeed, the EU stands at a crossroads. Either it will move forward and adapt its institutions and procedures to its vastly enlarged membership or it will fall back into some sort of a glorified free trade zone.

Of crucial importance for the future of the EU will be the cultivation of a European spirit, a sense of belonging together. Right from the start of the integration process a genuine effort was made to develop a sense of responsibility for the common good. The institutional arrangements aimed at a careful equilibrium between the interests of the smaller and bigger states in order to avoid the danger of hegemony of the powerful. During deliberations prevailed the communitarian spirit time and again over an egocentric way of thinking, intent on drawing maximum benefits from 'Brussels'. Certainly, sharing in the common responsibility implies a careful taking into account of the effect of common decisions on the individual member state. Success or failure of the EU ultimately depends on the readiness of the new and older members to work together in a truly communitarian spirit for the interest of the whole!

The challenge of differentiation

The greater the number of countries adhering to the EU, the more complex it will be to take care of the variety in needs, interests and traditions of its component parts. Obviously it will be more difficult to agree on common policies. This insight led to the proposal of accepting a different treatment for certain categories of problems or regions. Critical is here the 'double principle' according to which it is not possible for certain member states to prevent their partners from progressing towards more integration whenever they want to do so. At the same time however should those countries – which are prepared to go further – not try to force the hands of the nations reticent to follow the same course.

The challenge of legitimacy

Recent European elections suffered from a marked loss of interest, reflecting a growing indifference of the public. An increasing number of European citizens are looking with diffidence upon the vast Brussels structure with its wide range of committees, countless regulations and directives. Symptomatic for this critical mood was the rejection of the Draft Constitution for the EU, during the referenda in two of the original member states: France and The Netherlands.

In a certain sense it could be said that the EU has become a victim of its own success. A growing number of Europeans is waking up to the fact that their daily life is increasingly shaped by decisions taken in Brussels. The huge bureaucratic machinery with its complicated decision-making process seems to be beyond control of citizens. No wonder that the EU fails to inspire much enthusiasm. More transparency is definitely needed. Governments should also make a greater effort to meet the democratic deficit. But of no less importance - for a vital Europe enjoying public support - would be a strict application of the principle of subsidiarity. This would eliminate widespread irritation about interference in matters, which could be better handled at a local, regional or national level.

The challenge of economic interdependence

Prosperity in the EU is to a high degree dependent on its competitive position in international markets. European leaders decided in March 2000 to face this challenge in a radical way. During the European Council meeting in Lisbon they committed the EU to become by 2010, "the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion and respect for the environment". When it became clear, that these ambitious objectives were unlikely to be met a High-level Group was invited to carry out an independent mid-term review. Their Report emphasized with much poise that: "the Lisbon reform programme has sought to marry economic dynamism to create higher growth and employment rates with longstanding European concerns to advance social cohesion, fairness and environmental protection". In all likelihood this is going to be an unhappy marriage in which everything will be subordinated to the supreme goal of higher growth and employment rates. An impression, not only confirmed by the tone of the Report - aiming at: "the development of a world-beating European economy" - but also by its recommendations with regard to the 'knowledge society'. Indicative is the top priority given to Research and Development, which is seen as a prerequisite for Europe to become more competitive. Little comfort can also be found in recurring statements like: "the Lisbon strategy reflects Europe's commitment to 'embed' respect for the environment in the core of the growth and jobs generation process so that it is a part of Europe's competitive advantage". The use of the word 'embed' is highly revealing as it implies that the growth dynamic will prevail over environmental and social concerns instead of the other way round!

Surely, the challenge of economic interdependence should not be neglected. The present course of action is however most unfortunate as it ignores the dynamics of the global environmental crisis. The EU is giving a misleading signal of unlimited growth instead of recognizing the limits imposed by the natural environment. And this at the very moment in which all attention should be directed towards a responsible use of natural resources! The EU is therefore worsening the global environmental crisis instead of slowing it down. Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that new technologies often create grave social problems undermining the social cohesion in the EU. Economic growth does not lead automatically to greater employment! The persistent effort to reduce labour costs in order to increase profitability is frequently the cause for an upsurge in structural unemployment and exclusion.

Global challenges

The EU is not an island but an integral part of an endangered world. The above-mentioned challenges should therefore be placed in a wider context. Some of the major global threats - putting the survival of mankind at risk were identified in the first Chapter. Among these is the permanent threat of weapons of mass destruction. A danger looming large but which is vastly underestimated. Of a completely different character - but certainly not less serious – is the peril of widespread upheaval caused by the unjust and unsustainable economic development in our world. A threat, not about something that could happen in the future but claiming already now its victims among the poor in many parts of the world! Finally, there is the scale of an environmental crisis, which is more serious than many think. Indeed, the basic conditions for human life will be endangered, if we do not change our economic behaviour!

Present production- and consumption patterns in the EU (together with those in Central- and Eastern Europe) are the major cause of the large-scale destruction of the environment. This is a morally unacceptable situation as countries, which are the least responsible for causing environmental degradation will be the most likely to suffer from it! There is therefore a real urgency for a reappraisal of the current concept of economics and a revision of the present production- and distribution patterns. Europe carries here a special responsibility!

Need for change

In Europe stood the cradle of modernity. From our continent spread the industrial revolution over the whole world. Trade and imperialism were effective instruments for expansionism, bringing a sharp rise in prosperity. This however at the expense of the original inhabitants of the affected regions who were subjected to great injustice, suffering and even elimination! The European Union claims to be more than a social-economic conglomerate of states. The Draft European Constitution states that the EU is a Union of the peoples and States of Europe, based on values such as: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. But how can these values - and the objective to promote peace and the well-being of its peoples - be brought to life if we continue to burden future generations with the negative consequences of unsustainable consumption and production patterns? Shouldn't we reconsider our extravagant standard of living in order to make life bearable for future generations? Last, but not least: can these values carry any moral conviction if they are not applied at a global level? The EU is in a position to give a convincing signal that it is determined to set course towards a more responsible way of running economics. With its huge internal market as well as its vast intellectual and financial resources, it disposes over powerful instruments to put its full weight behind a fundamental change. A change, reflecting a more mature attitude towards human beings, material goods and nature!

The contribution of the EU to a just and sustainable world

Spiritual renewal is the primary condition for a valuable contribution of the EU to a just and sustainable world. This could lead to:

  • A new concept of economics
  • Constructive relations with economically less developed countries
  • A more responsible attitude towards our natural environment

Adoption of a new attitude towards economics

The greatest contribution of the EU to a just and sustainable world would be the implementation of a new attitude towards economics. These should be relegated to their proper place and no longer be worshipped as something to which everything must be subjected. In this approach are 'economics' no longer considered as being a goal in itself but as an instrument for meeting basic needs. Of all human beings - present and future generations - however within the limits imposed by nature! If this concept could be accepted it would remove the driving force behind the progressive rate of environmental destruction resulting from the ways we now run our economic activities.

The EU with its large internal market of well over 450 million people is large enough to develop an economic model assuring a reasonable level of prosperity while meeting basic human, social, and environmental conditions. Obviously, this will demand a new more sober lifestyle, based on a new balance between material welfare and well-being. Economic growth – measured in terms of the present clumsy yardstick of GNP – will probably be less, genuine well-being is however likely to increase. A decrease in possibilities to spend on consumer goods does not necessarily mean a loss in the quality of life. On the contrary, less pressure in our hectic society - now in the grip of a relentless growth ideology – will in many cases lead to an improvement in the quality of life. There will be more time for things, which really count in life: love, affection, friendship, harmony, beauty, nature, silence and… time. Values, which have no price!

The European Union should therefore no longer be obsessed by the drive to become the most competitive, knowledge-intensive economy in the world. This is a misguided ambition. Other goals, more in line with Europe's great spiritual traditions, should be set! Surely hard and efficient work remains essential, but the blind idolatry of the golden calf, claiming the sacrifice of the most precious things in life on its altar, should be brought to an end. A more relaxed attitude towards the Lisbon strategy would offer a better – more humane – perspective for future generations than adhering to the materialistic vision, which has now been adopted by the European leaders. Enough is enough!

Constructive relations with economically less developed countries

A genuine effort to translate spiritual values into economic life calls for a reassessment of current EU policies:

  • Trade. The EU, the largest trading partner in the world, enjoys a high level of prosperity. As such it carries a special moral and political responsibility to help less developed countries to escape from the poverty trap and to assist in the improvement of living conditions of millions of poor people. Lifting trade barriers on products from the poor countries and eliminating all sorts of impediments to the generation of wealth could be one line of action. Here, a careful balance has to be found between the legitimate interests of those living inside the EU and the population in developing countries. The ultimate goal of fair and free trade will however not be easy to achieve as we have seen in Chapter 6.
  • Agriculture. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) should be revised as it is causing great hardship to developing nations. The subsidies and dumping - at extremely low prices - of the huge surplus of agricultural products on African and other markets is destroying traditional patterns of trade and causing great misery among local farmers and cattle growers. Attention should also be given to the fact that vast tracts of land in Africa, Asia and South America are subtracted from use by local farmers in order to grow products for the European market. Many of the local farmers, who sold their land for a handful of dollars, lost their livelihood and were forced to join the slum dwellers in big cities.
  • Fisheries. During negotiations over fisheries-agreements full consideration should be given to the vital interests of the economically less developed countries who are in a weak position in relation to the powerful EU. These agreements are often causing great hardship to the already poor population. The EU - with its large fleet of modern fishing vessels - shares a great responsibility for the depletion of fishing stocks. Aggressive fishing methods create considerable problems for depressed coastal regions in Africa, Asia and South America. Every year it becomes more difficult for the local fishermen to eke out an existence. Many are pushed to the slum areas in big cities!
  • Development assistance. Efforts should be made to halt the dwindling interest in providing financial aid to the poorer countries. Most countries are far below the agreed UN objective of 0.7% of GNP. Although several EU countries live up to their pledge a substantial increase in financial aid of all prosperous nations is urgently needed. A weak point is that much aid goes straight to governments (feeding corruption) or to projects under donor control. Far too little is done in helping these countries (especially the poorest) to develop internal administrative and legal structures allowing local enterprises to create value. A different way of implementation of development assistance could lead to a greater effectiveness. This should be worked out in a true partnership with receiving countries, insisting at the same time on good governance and accountability.
  • Debt relief. The EU should come out strongly on debt relief and the cancellation of debts, in particular for the poorest countries. Present debt obligations and IMF requirements are mostly met by drastic reductions in minimal budgets for medical, social- and educational facilities. The legal argument that debts should be repaid ignores completely the essence of Biblical thinking on compassion and justice. The reverse stream of financial resources from the poorer to the richer countries is morally repulsive and definitely not a mark of statecraft.
  • Micro-credit. A great proportion of financial aid goes to big projects, often of little benefit to the poor. Micro-credit helps people to escape the poverty trap and facilitates the emergence of a more educated and competent upper lower and middle class. It should be strongly encouraged.
  • Arms trade. Substantial arms deliveries are an important factor in the worsening of the debt position of poor countries. Excessive military expenditures are often the cause to reduce essential services in health, education, and the social sector. These cuts in vital services are seriously enlarging the misery in an already tense situation. Even a minimal sense for values like peace, justice and compassion should bring the EU to a sharp reduction of its considerable arms-exports.
  • Migration and Asylum policy. In coming decades will the EU be confronted with a substantial decline in the working population. At the same time, millions of desperate people from poor countries try to enter the EU, eager to build up an existence in our affluent society. The EU needs a common approach to a policy promoting integration as a reciprocal process with an active role for migrants as well as for the receiving society. A true commitment to global solidarity and the dignity of the human person demands a balanced approach towards migrants and asylum seekers. The objective should be an inclusive and welcoming society. Of considerable importance for the numerous asylum seekers would also be the formal recognition of a European fundamental right to asylum and subsidiary protection. Special attention should be given to the Lisbon Strategy, envisaging an intensification of efforts to attract promising economic migrants in order to stimulate further growth in the EU. Member states should give serious attention to the possible negative effects of such an outflow of talent on the country of origin. A brain drain may be a shortsighted boon for the EU but would be a serious blow for developing countries!

A responsible relation to the environment

Stewardship of the earth implies a definite No to the ruthless exploitation of the planet. The frequently used argument that environmental considerations should be subordinated to 'what is good for the economy' is ignoring the fundamental truth that human activities are taking place within the limited context of a vulnerable planet. This means that producing and consuming should be carried out within the limits imposed by nature. European and other modern nations are however acting in a completely different way. The result is a disproportionately large share in the destruction and pollution of the environment. A positive step of the EU towards a more responsible attitude would be the implementation of the recommendations and commitments of the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in '92 and later conferences. An exception should however be made with regard to the issuance of 'pollution certificates' as this proposal would shift the burden of the negative effects of our economic development to the poor countries. Besides, it will prolong their economic dependence on industrialised nations. The export of our waste to the poor countries seems to me difficult to combine with justice, solidarity and respect for creation. Basic values, appearing proudly on the banner of the EU!

Although - within the EU - substantial efforts are made to mitigate the effects of the environmental crisis much more remains to be done. Without a fundamental change in mentality it will be almost impossible for governments to get enough support for measures, which need to be taken. Illustrative is the strong resistance against the introduction of a carbon/energy tax and application of pricing policies based on real costs, reflecting also the scarcity of energy and other resources.

A more responsible use of natural resources and energy could be obtained through:

  • Sobering of consumer demand. This could result from higher prices, deliberate policies and restraints in advertising, notably for luxurious goods. Of crucial importance however would be the change in attitude we have been insisting upon. This would help to debunk the myth of 'endless material needs'.
  • Efficient use of resources and energy (innovation, internalising environmental costs, higher quality standards, greater durability of products; recycling). Correct pricing could greatly encourage innovation.

The EU is however moving in the opposite direction!

Despite the obvious need for a major reappraisal of economic thinking and acting is the EU still following the trodden path of a superseded economic model. The neo-liberal course in many member states leaves little room for the implementation of a more mature attitude towards economics. The Lisbon Strategy provides a good illustration of the determination to pursue the narrow-minded goal of 'more economic growth'. Do we really believe that a further increase in our high level of prosperity would bring us greater happiness? Did we somehow forget that endless growth within the limited environmental space of our planet is impossible? This refusal to read the unmistakable signs on the wall greatly impairs the living conditions for coming generations! Persistence in the present economic growth strategy is bound to end in collective disaster.

The EU is setting an example for the economic development of many countries in the world. A reappraisal of the permanent growth ideology could therefore exercise a great influence on other nations. This has become an absolute 'must' for our part of the world in view of the limited environmental carrying capacity of our planet. The EU – as a responsible actor - should therefore be prepared to give a convincing signal that it is deliberately setting course towards a sustainable world with a higher quality of life. A similar action would be in conformity of the spirit of its founding fathers. Naturally, this process needs time, in order to avoid a sudden disruption of the social fabric. A timely mental preparation on the inescapable wide-ranging changes will be necessary, especially since material sacrifices will be inevitable. Does the EU dispose over the vital resilience?

Spiritual renewal: essential condition for a relevant role of the EU

Europe's role in the world depends to a large extent on its economic strength, its political clout and – of course – progress in the integration process. A solid structure for our European house - built on adequate institutions - is certainly of great importance but without a 'Heart and Soul' the EU will fade away. It will be irrelevant in a modern world, which is in dire need for a new spirit. But here we touch on one of the main problems of our time: the spiritual crisis in modern society. The European house is at present haunted by Mammon! His ghost is dominating in culture, education, media, and personal relations. The price we are paying for the spectacular increase in prosperity is high: dehumanisation, destruction of the natural environment and last but not least a spiritual void. Indeed, an arid spiritual climate prevails in our society of plenty! This was clearly recognized by Jacques Delors, a former President of the European Commission, who has insistently warned that a technocratic, bureaucratic and materialistic Europe has no future:

"If we do not succeed in giving Europe its soul, a spiritual dimension, true significance, then we will have been wasting our time. …Europe cannot live by legal argument and economic know how alone. The potential of the Maastricht Treaty will not be realised without some form of inspiration. "

The problem is that a new heart for Europe, freed from the grip of consumerism, will not simply emerge as a result from a rational and functional analysis about the need for a spiritual dimension. A stronger force, nothing less than a new spirit, will be needed to break the spell of 'horizontalism'. This spiritual dimension is not something additional, next to the economic, political, cultural and other dimensions. It is - as we have seen in Chapter 3 – the dimension, inspiring all others. Just like what the heart is doing for our body, bringing life to all its parts including our mental faculties! Without this breakthrough of a new spirit there will be little chance for developing a more mature attitude towards man, material goods and Mother Earth.

Whether the EU will be in a position to render a constructive contribution to justice, peace and a sustainable economy will to a large extent be determined by this fundamental change in attitude. Precisely here lies however Europe's weak spot as the spectacular progress in science, technology, and economics has not been matched by a deeper understanding of the spiritual dimension in life. Symptomatic for the narrow mindset was the discussion around the Preamble of the Constitutional Treaty. The refusal to mention Christianity as one of the main roots for the European civilization is not only a distortion of history but hangs also a shroud for a deep source of inspiration which Europe needs badly. Recognition of the historical fact of the contribution of Christianity to European culture does not constitute a threat to the separation between religion and state. Surely, this general principle should be maintained. Neither religion nor state should rule over each other. However, times have changed since the religious wars and gross abuse of power by monarchs and church. We are no longer living in a relatively simple world but in a society confronted with highly complex issues, requiring weighty ethical decisions.

This underlines the relevance of an open dialogue between the European Commission with religions and other convictions of life. Spiritual renewal is an essential condition for a valuable contribution of the EU to a new approach both in the field of economics as well as in that of peace and security. Here lies the challenge for religions and other convictions of life. Together, they could be instrumental in bringing this about. Without spiritual renewal it will be difficult for Governments to obtain sufficient support for policies inducing a more sober lifestyle!

Europe is in urgent need for a renewal of its inner motivation!
Only then, will it develop a more mature attitude towards man, material goods and nature.
Only then, we will have a chance to free ourselves from the stifling influence of economic dominance now pervading all sectors in society.
Only then, we will be able to leave the present culture of greed and become resistant to the aggressive publicity campaigns aiming at even more consumerism.
Let us keep the vision alive of a European house in which human values and culture flowers.
Where the sense of truth, goodness and beauty is cultivated.
Where people are not looking at each other with Euro signs in their eyes.
Where being counts more than having and quality goes before quantity.
Where education should aim to become more human instead of being primarily oriented towards economic results.
Where our grandchildren can play in green and unspoiled nature instead of leading a miserable existence amidst asphalt, concrete and noise.

Europe should heed the prophetic words of Romano Guardini. When he received the Erasmus Prize in 1962, he warned against the demonic dangers of a wrong use of the enormous power which man has now acquired over nature and fellow men. He challenged Europeans to answer the crucial question: "What will, in the future, be the relationship between the increasing power of man and his humanity?" Here, in this handling of power sees Guardini the special vocation for Europe.

The special responsibility of the EU should not be shrugged off with the argument that this can't be done alone in a global world. A determined step – even if it is a modest one – could help to break the deadlock of the 'after you mentality'. It would greatly encourage all those in the USA, Japan, and other countries, who are also deeply concerned that modern society has to change course. Those inclined to consider this approach as too far-fetched and prefer to muddle through, may be advised to ponder once more upon the issues raised in the first Chapter!