Future of Europe position paper

2020. 11. 23.

I. Introductory remarks
Europe is our cradle that has provided homeland to our communities to flourish for millennia. Europe is our school and our temple that enrich our culture and give us faith. Europe guards the diverse histories of our communities and nations, which have always been a source of strength for us in order to show courage and wholeheartedness in the face of grave difficulties and challenges. We are proud of this cultural diversity, faith and courage that once elevated Europe to become the focus of civilization. We are proud of our ancestors who believed in this culture, shed their blood for it and sacrificed their own lives to protect it.

The European history included plenty of mistakes and self-inflicted wounds. Fraternal wars and totalitarian ideologies tore us apart. Out of the ashes of a devastating world war, the free nations of Europe agreed to form a Community to help preserve and nurture their unique European heritage in the face of oppressive and expanding totalitarian regimes. The Christian democratic idea was at the forefront of these efforts that has once again elevated the western part of Europe to become a beacon. A record of resilience attributable to the wellspring of Christian heritage within Europe led the freedom loving nations of Central Europe to tear down the Iron Curtain that had kept European brothers and sisters apart for too long to join the growing European integration. However, the freedom of Europe could be neither complete nor secured without providing membership for the other European nations, especially the Western Balkan Countries. Their rightful place in the European integration is key to be able to preserve the stability and peace of our continent along with the rich European cultural, religious heritage, folklore and common values. In this spirit, by rejecting the idea of primary and secondary Member States or a multispeed European integration, we also believe in the principle of equality of the EU Member States of the European integration who many times fought hard for their freedom and to become members of the Union.

The European integration is a unique endeavor that is based upon a great civilization and a vision that nations across Europe all share and cherish. It is a spiritual and economic alliance with an ultimate mission to strengthen, safeguard and treasure those nations, which, by their geographical location and history, gravitate to this civilization. However, in the meantime, the European integration has been also built for the benefits of the citizens across Europe. The four freedoms of the European Union along with the subsequent common European projects have always served the interests and shall continuously expand and enrich the rights of the citizens of Europe. The European integration has “two faces”: while its overall
aspiration is to treasure and raise the nations of Europe, it constantly seeks ways to facilitate and help the life of the citizens across Europe. Whilst serving the interests of its citizens, the European integration starts and shall end with its Member States who continue to stay the “Masters of the Treaties”.

The reunification of Europe and the continuous expansion of the European integration are our true success story in the past 70 years. Nations of Europe once again own their home and we should be proud of this historic achievement. We built a strong institutionalized cooperation between the European nations to preserve our great heritage and nurture our unique European way of life. Europe and our European Union, nevertheless, have multiple challenges to cope with. The last decade brought a crises period in Europe from the financial and economic crisis through the migration crisis up to the current pandemic. This period put the European Union to the test and shows the urgent need to contemplate our future. This moment provides the opportunity for dialogue that we must seize. We continue to want to own our home, to nurture our cultures, to speak our languages, to maintain our lifestyles here, in Europe. We, Christian democrats are destined to bear the historic responsibility for pointing the way towards that great vision.

We cannot have any vision for our future without recognizing our historical roots and without cherishing the values that make our culture and therefore us unique. Our policies will have meaningful and salutary consequences only when they are embedded in our historical roots. To this end, we need to build on our precious Christian democratic tradition when we formulate our ambitiously realistic vision about the future of our continent. Our values will guide us in shaping the policy preferences we, Christian Democrats wish to follow. Our policy preferences will provide the safe path to envision the institutional settings of our Union. Instead of putting the cart before the horses, our draft position paper thus follows a structure that first reflects the values that we think bind us, Europeans together. Then it outlines the challenges ahead of our common policy preferences along with the dilemma of the institutional settings come to the fore.

II. The values that forge a community among Europeans

A river that has no banks is a swamp, which always draws attention to the significance of definition and delimitation. First and foremost, Europe is a cradle of a unique civilization that connects each and every European. The acknowledgement of this distinctiveness is the spiritual basis of a European way of life that distinguishes us. A historical and intellectual origin we all have common, a set of traditions we are all proud of, a value system we all cherish, a geopolitical reality we all share and a common fate we are now all destined for create a distinct link that binds the diverse nations of Europe together. Europeans shall be proud of their common mindset that has always combined a certain inner freedom with wholehearted dedication to stand up against the challenges.

We shall never forget that we remain diverse in being European. We, Europeans cannot peel off our national identities, the culture and tradition of the communities that we grew up in. It defines our perspectives, attitudes along with our expectations towards the Union itself. European nations and their constitutions resemble ancient temples that are perhaps not built according to the tastes of modern architectural design, but in which one’s life is safe. Thus, the Union has no other choice and it does not have any future unless it includes and cherishes the various histories, traditions and identities of the nations throughout Europe. Brexit shall stand as a reminder before all of us that the reverse is not necessarily true.

As the Treaties and various resolutions of the European Parliament do so, we shall recognize that for a long time, Europe has been home to diverse historical and indigenous minority groups as a result of the unique and often stormy historical path of our continent. For us, Christian Democrats, the rich ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic diversity of the peoples of Europe, including the Roma and many other communities, is part of our common heritage and constitutes a precious value that is always worth nurturing. Instead of regarding these minority groups as potential source of conflicts, we shall acknowledge their invaluable contributions to a stronger Europe that is more capable to withstand the challenges ahead of us. Thus, their cultural, religious and linguistic distinctiveness is a treasurable source of our common European identity. We shall therefore take steps to preserve their distinctiveness and also to encourage the flourishing of their communities.

We shall recognize the cultural dimension of Europe. In this spirit, we shall treasure the unique European way of life as the linchpin of bridging our diversities. This way of life has to adopt a bottom-up approach by elevating the principles and values that we, Europeans all share. In our diversities, this unique way of life points to a sense of common destiny that forges community among the nations and citizens across Europe. It has not been created but it shall be nurtured and safeguarded by the European Union while it also protects the Union itself since it should serve as the philosophical foundation of how to organize the European integration. Such a way of life would lead to the growing recognition of common interests and common values, which would ultimately become a solid basis for laying the groundwork for the future direction of the European integration. As Christian Democrats, our firm belief is that the institutions and the law are for the human beings and not the other way around. In this spirit, the European projects shall always seek and serve the interests of the citizens across Europe. Human beings are not means to other ends or cogs in the wheel. Instead, human beings are ends to which other things such as legal, political or educational systems are means. Regarding the question of justice and morality, “do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) is the guiding principle we cherish. By embracing the long-established natural law tradition, we believe in the inherent and equal human dignity and that we are entitled to human rights simply in virtue of our humanity and our human nature and not in virtue of any quality or trait. This also means that human rights are inalienable, as they do not come from political authorities; nor are they vehicles to achieve societal goals. Instead, they are rooted in our humanity and in the human good. Thus, in our understanding as Christian Democrats, we are not the authors of our own human rights nor can we alienate them, as they are endowed upon us by a power higher than we are. This perception shall guide our thinking on fundamental rights, freedoms and responsibilities.

The history of Europe is full of memories on long-fought battles for freedom. The freedom loving nations of Europe cherish the liberty and rights their citizens now enjoy. However, we, Christian Democrats also believe that individual freedom is necessarily coupled with the precious European concept of public or common good. Virtuous people committed to the common concerns have always been the building blocks of European societies as well as of the unity of Europe since the Athenian democracy or the Roman Empire. The pursuit of goodness, the fulfillment and flourishing of individuals are conditioned by the public good and, therefore, the responsibility to uphold it is at the heart of our intellectual tradition. The sense of responsibility has also become key in the face of modern challenges that lead to new forms of alienation and disenchantment with governments as well as with the European institutions. We shall especially recognize the responsibilities to preserve our cultural and environmental values we inherited from our ancestors. We also have a responsibility to pass on this unique heritage to future generations by protecting our European assets as well as by preserving our environmental and natural resources.

Among the key elements of our common Christian democratic heritage are the concepts of democracy, subsidiarity and the constitutional systems that are founded on and bound by the law. In modern times, rooted in the encyclical teachings of the Rerum novarum and Quadragesimo anno, the organizing principle of subsidiarity points to a path between the evils of individualism and collectivism or communism. According to this principle, we believe in the importance of empowering the smallest social unit or competent authority that is able to address a question on its own. Consequently, larger unit or authority can only have a subsidiarity function. As the Quadragesimo anno points out “one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry”. In that spirit, we also cherish democratic rule because, on the one hand, the legitimacy of public power is rooted in popular sovereignty which is a rule by the people. On the other hand, we, Christian Democrats also believe that the dignity of the human person through the respect of the individual rights, rights of the communities and through the brotherly love can be best guaranteed by the conception of popular sovereignty. We also treasure the pragmatic principle of subsidiarity as a means to enhance the democratic rule at local, regional and national levels while best preserving the autonomy and dignity of the human being. The democratic governments are limited by constitutions that are founded on and bound by the law. However, we must emphasize that no constitutionalism can be comprehended without understanding the unique theory and culture behind it. Even though we aspire to define and uphold common elements of European constitutional systems that are bound by the law, we shall also recognize that different communities of people wish to follow their own backgrounds, their own cultural aspirations and their economic circumstances. Our own Christian democratic culture calls upon us to respect this pluralism as the motto of European Union also desires a “unity in diversity”.

Our Christian democratic way of thinking favors pragmatism over ideologies and thus it prefers not to think of the European integration in ideological or in abstract ways. Neither a federative Europe nor the nations of Europe concept are adequate perspective to envision a future for our continent. The European integration is neither an ideology, nor an objective or an end goal in itself and therefore the concept of the “ever closer union” cannot be justified without the consent of the Member States and citizens of Europe. The Brexit showed that the European Union can no longer take their own member nations for granted. Instead, the peoples of Europe are interested in what benefits the EU membership of their respective countries bring to their lives and in what leverage the European integration can secure to their country on the global stage. It is thus the European integration that needs to justify the “raison d’être” and purpose of its policies and common projects. Moreover, due to the diverse interests of the nations of Europe, these policy justifications might vary from member countries to member countries. We think that this kind of pragmatic approach should dominate our policy conversations and considerations on the future of Europe. These are the major Christian Democratic values that should serve as guiding principles in elaborating the individual policy areas ahead of Europe and of the European integration.

III. The guiding principles of the policy questions

As elaborating our European policy views, we shall first recognize that the dawn of the new century witness the emergence of challenges that are global in scope. Among such challenges are the growing number of terrorist attacks, financial and economic crises, the rise of transnational corporations and global business operations, environmental challenges as well as the widespread use of new technologies in every walk of life. These new forms of societal challenges point to the need of the protective role of governmental regulations, which has become even more urgent by the ongoing public health crises. States owe their citizens a duty to tackle these new challenges and where necessary to protect them from the threats they pose. In the meantime, the European integration has to stand ready to support and encourage these types of aspirations and, where appropriate, assume its competence to act. Therefore, when exposing individual policy areas, it is worth considering them together with the most burning challenges. Accordingly, we need to take into account the demographic crises, the question of economic globalization, the environmental challenge as well as the challenges that brought by the Information Age as well as the security threat.

III. a) Our demographic challenge and the future generations
The nations of Europe are facing a serious demographic crisis. Family is not only the most fundamental building block of our societies, but it is also the key to remedy the demographic crises of Europe as well as to guarantee the survival and flourishing of the unique cultural traditions in Europe. Family is the primary place where life and culture are inherited. This is why it is of utmost importance to create and solidify policies on both national and European level that are committed to support families throughout Europe. There is also an urgent need to implement a family perspective in other related European policies in a cross-cutting manner to create a socio-economic environment that encourages families to grow.

Flourishing families are the precondition while the youth are the pillars of our future. We shall therefore recognize that the youth of Europe is key to our future as they will be the dynamic builders of the dreams we now envision. Thus, it is of utmost importance to provide them with the opportunity to see, experience and learn about the precious and diverse heritage they own in our continent. To this end, Europe shall encourage and support student exchange programs such as Erasmus and inspire youngsters to actively participate in those programs. To preserve Europe’s rich linguistic diversity, we shall also drive youngsters to learn and cherish the unique languages of Europe. New technologies are not only our future, they are already our present. In order to secure strategic advantages for our continent, Europe needs to support higher education and innovation while encouraging young talents to pursue their studies and educate themselves. Europe also needs to address the current employment crises by supporting job creation and also by increasing the mobility of young employees across Europe. By recognizing the invaluable role that the youth plays in the future of Europe, we shall embrace responsibility for them.

III. b) The achievement of the Single Market and the challenge of globalization
Among the greatest achievements of the European integration is the Single Market along with the four freedoms on which this market is built upon and which citizen across Europe are continuously enjoying. This is not only the major and essential precondition of a prosperous Europe that wants to set ambitious future goals, but this achievement also shows and justifies the concrete and practical value of the European integration to the citizens across Europe. We therefore shall recognize the Single Market as a value in itself and shall also strive to work on its completion and continued improvements.

While cherishing the achievement of the Single Market, we shall recognize that the age of economic globalization poses a grave challenge to the production capacities and competitiveness of European economy. Although the European Union is still the second largest economic power, its relative weight has been long shrinking. The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis revealed the vulnerability of global supply chains and the fragility of certain European industries that rely on one or just a few third countries. A common European approach should help reduce the exposure of European market to foreign governments’ decisions or market failures. Member States look to the European Union and expect to use its leverage in its common commercial policy to preserve the competitiveness and interests of European companies in foreign markets while at the same time protecting the public interest regulatory space of weaker capital importing European countries. We, Christian Democrats also have a responsibility to help create a competitive European environment that is centered on entrepreneurial freedom and work ethic. Flourishing economies have always been built on strong work ethic that also serves the purpose of individual fulfillment and flourishing as well as national pride. These principles shall guide the European conception of industrial and commercial policies that shall also aspire cohesion to withstand the challenges of globalization.

In that spirit, a shared destiny creates a natural bond of solidarity between the nations of Europe and citizens across Europe in a world increasingly dominated by emerging global powers. We could witness this kind of great solidarity in the face of the coronavirus pandemic as Member States urged and continue to urge to help each other and provide assistance or medical equipment in case of necessity. For us, Christian Democrats this natural bond is the primary proof of the common vision for our future. Thus we shall also recognize the continued importance of the European cohesion policy as an expression of this European solidarity. Different nations of Europe have different historical paths, many times due to geopolitical forces that have greatly influenced their opportunities, levels of development, infrastructures and overall wealth. Although each one of them is an integral part of our Union and is capable to contribute to the remarkable achievements and success of Europe, the European Union shall continue to strive to reduce these disparities.

III. c) Our environmental challenge
Europe along with other regions and continents around the World are facing multiple environmental challenges. The responsibility for nature implies the need for a paradigm shift in our attitude and approach towards and in our relation with nature. The starting point of a responsible ecological vision and a sound conservation policy is the recognition of their ethical dimensions that envision a state of harmony between men and environment. This harmony is also an essential precondition of a healthy human environment as well as of the enjoyment of human rights. Thus, instead of a conqueror, the human being shall become a humble member and citizen of its broader environment. This assumes the responsibility of the individuals and local communities and therefore a sound environmental and conservation policy shall not be trapped in global ideologies; it instead shall aspire to adopt a bottom- up approach. The environmental challenges are diverse and localism or local solutions play a major role in tackling them. A common European approach shall embrace this vision where the European Union assumes a strong coordinative role.

While contemplating a sound environmental and conservation policy, we shall also recognize the long tradition of our agriculture and food industry that have strategic importance in our times. Our great agricultural heritage does not only provide a unique European taste to the citizens of Europe but it is also regarded as a source of pride and value in many nations of Europe. The European Union shall cherish and continue to support its agricultural policy in finding ways to create harmony with its environmental objectives.

III. d) The Information Age
We should recognize that the Digital Revolution brought by the development and widespread use of digital technologies is not only our future, it is already our present. The new technologies change the way we work, pay, commute, do business, communicate, manage our cases, heal, carry out medical research and secure ourselves. They help raise the level of overall wealth and living standard as well as reduce harmful environmental effects and support sustainable growth. They also increasingly affect the way governments, including public administration and courts are functioning and making decisions. The Information Age affects every walk of life. Innovation is thus key not only to achieve a competitive advantage in today’s global economy including both the industrial and agricultural policies, but also to secure political leverage and societal well-being. Thus, Europe cannot afford to fall behind and it should aspire to secure strategic advantages. To this end, the European Union shall encourage and coordinate the investments in innovations of their Member States, and shall aspire to design an adequate competition policy to achieve a strategic advantage. We, Christian Democrats shall also address the ethical dimension of the emerging of new technologies as well their impacts on our fundamental freedoms and rights. In pursuing the common good, the European Union shall stand ready to assist the European nations to preserve their own constitutional values in the face of these new technologies.

III. e) The security challenge and the European way of life
Security is a basic precondition to preserve our fundamental freedoms, the common good and our unique way of life in Europe. Every European citizen has a legitimate right to be safe in his or her home and in the streets. This sense of security has also become part of our unique way of life. Thus, the European Union shall provide coordinative assistance in maintaining internal security, shall also design strategies to combat terrorism, and organized criminal activities including human trafficking networks. Borders define what a nation is and citizenship defines what people are. Likewise, the Schengen area and acquis aspire to define the borders of our continent and its unique cultural heritage. While the European Union shall continuously seek to expand the Schengen acquis to the geographical Europe, it also needs to assist its Member States with the protection of the external borders of our continent to be able to secure the home of the Member States and citizens of Europe in the face of the threat of mass migration and proliferating terrorist attacks. We, Christian Democrats believe that everyone has a right to be able to live in their homes; in a culture, a society, a language and a way of life they belong to. To this end, we shall strengthen our European Neighborhood Policy and must commit ourselves to effectively supporting the fragile and unstable communities in the regions and countries in Africa and in the Middle-East. This shall be followed as a strategic priority that aims to preserve the peace and stability of the various civilizations the world inherited as well as the security of people beyond our borders by preventing them from becoming victims of human trafficking networks and by inhibiting mass migratory flows from taking place. We, Christian Democrats owe a distinct duty to our own communities as the Bible teaches us “anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). We therefore also have a responsibility to pass on to the future generations our traditions, cultures and unique way of life as we inherited. The European Union thus needs to stand ready to assist their Member States in meeting this responsibility.

IV. The institutional setting of the European Union

When addressing the institutional setting of the European Union, our foundational principle is that the institutions shall always serve the interests of the people. The current institutional setting of the European integration has been a result of various compromises among different interests and thus reflects a status quo that is capable of forging a functioning system. As committed to conservative ideas, we recognize the value of past compromises and functioning status quo. We shall thus also recognize the value of such an institutional balance in which the Member States, the citizens of Europe, the experts and the judiciary are all represented and are all provided with a seat at the table.

Based on the current institutional setting, the European Council brings together the heads of state and governments of all EU countries who decide on the overall policy direction of Europe and set the general political objectives. The European Council therefore has an orientation role in terms of strategic policy-settings while leaving the concrete legislation to the Commission as well as to the Parliament and the Council. Thus, the European Commission is both responsible for preparing and proposing concrete legislations as well as for monitoring the implementation of the European law. Thus, the European Commission has the right to submit legislative proposals on its own initiative and as the “guardian of the Treaties”, it is also responsible for monitoring whether the EU laws are applied in a timely, correct and rightly fashion. In the meantime, the European Parliament has a major control function over the European Commission that has evolved for many decades. The various institutional functions are separated in the current institutional setting. Therefore, only a well- elaborated policy reform that would better serve the interests of the European people would rightly justify any major reconsideration of the current institutional setting. As we believe, institutional changes can only be a means to an end instead of an end in itself.

In accordance with our great Christian democratic tradition, we cherish democracy and subsidiarity as organizing principles that originated in the Christian social teaching. Being aware of the growing alienation and disengagement of the peoples of Europe, we need to stress the importance of reinforcing the citizens’ sense of ownership of the European integration as well as their own destiny. This is not only key in the future viability of the whole European project but also necessary in finding the policy directions that truly reflect the choice of the nations of Europe to meet the global challenges with a common determination and willpower instead of disagreement and division. The European Union has risen from the consent of diverse democratic European nations and thus their national parliaments as depositaries of popular sovereignties shall be given a more significant voice in the elaboration of our common policies. They shall seek an active role in helping the engine of the integration, the European Commission to operate smoothly by continuously hearing and transmitting the voice of the citizens of Europe.

We also treasure the national constitutional traditions and values in Europe: we recognize these constitutional values as the wellspring of the European Union. Our common European idea and policies can only have benign and significant effects if they preserve a nurturing relationship with their historical roots including the national constitutions and constitutional traditions. We shall also recognize that throughout the past decades, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has been at the forefront of developing the law of the European Union and of safeguarding its autonomy and supremacy. However, we shall also acknowledge that this enormous endeavor has not always been without contradiction or even confrontations. Thus the political and accountable institutions of the European Union – such as the Parliament and the Council – should bear larger responsibility for developing the European law. While the CJEU shall remain an important guardian of the Founding Treaties including the operations of the EU institutions as well as the law made by these democratic institutions, single court decisions handed down in individual cases should not be capable of transforming the nature of the European law and the integration without the consent of the citizens and Member States of Europe. In addition to empowering the democratic institutions, we shall also seek the advice and guidance of national constitutional cultures as the wellspring of the architecture of the European integration, to secure a more harmonious functioning of the European law. To this end, judges of the CJEU shall be required to embrace and nurture the precious common heritage of national constitutional values in the same way as judges of national courts are required to safeguard and apply the law of the European Union.

This ongoing pandemic provides an opportunity to deliberate on the future of Europe and we shall seize and embrace this opportunity. But we, Christian Democrats firmly believe that our house in Europe should be built on a rock, especially in times of uncertainty and fragility. Our roots and our Christian democratic values and heritage can guide us through these uncertain times safely. We therefore believe that a major precondition of building a flourishing European community is if we remain true to our values and heritage in the coming years and decades in the face of global challenges.