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On European Integration

2/18/2007 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Europe Cannot Close in on Itself"

DUBLIN, Ireland, FEB. 18, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the text of the message which Archbishop Diarmuid Martin addressed to the Forum on Europe in Dublin Castle, on Jan. 18, the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

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The Values Underpinning European Integration

The European Union is a remarkable achievement. It is the most developed model of shared sovereignty to materialize since the emergence of the nation state. As such the EU is inevitably going to create hesitation among some and indeed it is also inevitable that mistakes in one direction or the other will be made along the process of European integration.

The project of European integration is a complex and an on-going project on which people can legitimately take different positions. Whereas the majority of Europeans, according to the European Values Study, applaud Europe's integration, there are others who strongly oppose it and as the "Atlas of European Values "notes: "Very few experience really warm feelings when seeing the [EU's] blue flag fluttering."

Let me say first of all that my views on Europe are not part of the infallible teachings of the Church. Some people may have been surprised at the strength with which Benedict XVI in his recent Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" stressed the distinctive role of politics from religion. Here are some extracts: "The just ordering of society and the state is a central responsibility of politics. ... The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle. ... Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot be the Church's immediate responsibility ... "

These texts which stress the legitimate autonomy of the political order do not represent an abdication of social responsibility on the part of the Church. I quote again from Pope Benedict: "The Church ... cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice." The Church's primary mission is that of preaching the message of Jesus Christ, but that message is a message relevant to the vision we have of society.

In the context of the debates about the EU it is interesting to remember that Catholic social teaching if anything has been traditionally cautious about nationalism and any ideology of the nation-state. The two most disastrous wars in human history arose, as the present Pope wrote some years ago, "when nationalism, elevated to an ideological barrier, had shattered the nations of the old continent." Catholic social teaching tends to look rather, on the one hand, at the obligation of the state to foster subsidiarity and respect individual and family rights in a participative society and, on the other hand, to underscore the unity of the human family and international solidarity rather than any narrow nationalism.

I think that all of us agree that there is the need to reflect on and develop the democratic framework within which the European vision must be developed. Yesterday I read further reports of the claim by a former German president that the EU is "threatening parliamentary democracy in that 84% of the legal acts in Germany over a five year period emanated from Brussels and that a great number of these decisions are the work of the European Council." Then in the same newspaper I read an article on the new European Parliament president which states that the Parliament "has the power to approve nearly 80% of legislation proposed by EU institutions." Probably both are true. If there is confusion on such simple matters of fact how can citizens in the EU be expected to feel they can influence policy on complex scientific and ethical issues? The procedures and mechanisms involved in addressing admittedly complex questions of bioethics and national sovereignty seem to put the debate beyond the reach of interested parties.

It is not just a problem of structures. It is about the way those structures work. We need to improve the level of interaction and debate between MEP's and their constituents. We need to develop our systems of information and the formation of public opinion on EU issues on an EU-wide basis. European civil society is developing, but lobbying in Brussels, and even more setting up a representation there, is a costly affair that even larger NGO's are finding more and more difficult to maintain. All of this could lead to a lack of a sense ownership of the Union by the people of the EU. Lack of sense of ownership can give rise to indifference or even hostility. The institutions of the Union need attend to such questions urgently to avoid frustration and misunderstanding arising.

I belong to those whose judgment on the European Union is on the whole positive. I believe that we have enjoyed extraordinary peace and ...

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