Dienstag, 2. Juli 2002

How can the Catholic laity help to implement Christian values in European society? - Beata Farkas (University of Szeged, Hungary)

Europäisches Laienforum in Erfurt vom 28.6. - 3.7.2002
The title of my paper contains two statements:

On the one hand the Catholic laity is obliged to promote the realization of Christian values in European society.
On the other hand Christianity has values even in today's pluralistic society, which can be accepted, moreover necessary.
The first statement can be proved from the official document of the Catholic Church.
To prove the second statement we have to study the history of European integration, as the values of European society appear in this process most obviously.
In the third part of my paper I am looking over the values that in my opinion should especially be supported by Christians.
Finally I am dealing with the question how the Catholic laity can represent Christian values.

The mission of Catholic laity in social teaching

While there are severe differences between opinions on the position and role of Catholic laity inside the Church organization, it is generally accepted in the Church that the laity has to transmit the Catholic social teaching towards other social groups.
The Second Vatican Council composes in the document "Apostolicam actuositatem" unambiguosly:
"The laity must take up the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation. Led by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church and motivated by Christian charity, they must act directly and in a definite way in the temporal sphere. As citizens they must cooperate with other citizens with their own particular skill and on their own responsibility. Everywhere and in all things they must seek the justice of God's kingdom. The temporal order must be renewed in such a way that, without detriment to its own proper laws, it may be brought into conformity with the higher principles of the Christian life and adapted to the shifting circumstances of time, place, and peoples. Preeminent among the works of this type of apostolate is that of Christian social action which the sacred synod desires to see extended to the whole temporal sphere, including culture."

Values in European integration

After the Second World War European integration began as a political, value-regulated process. That time the main goal of leading politicians and political movements was to form co-operation among European countries, which made the outbreak of a new war impossible. In the spirit of this idea the Council of Europe was established in 1949, later the European Convention of Human Rights, the European Commission of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.
As it is well-known, in the fifties Christian Democratic governments ruled which regarded Christian culture and value order as the basis of integration.
Although the aim of politicians of the age was to create the European United States, they had to realize that it is impossible in the foreseeable future. They thought, firstly economies should be intertwined, and integrated economies, as means, should lead to political integration. To achieve this goal, the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was signed in Paris in 1951, the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community was signed in Rome in 1957.
At the beginning of the fifties, France had a leading role in European integration. This is the reason why in the Paris Treaty we can find the ideas of French planned economy. In France private property was maintained - in contradiction to communist countries, but powerful state intervention directed the development of economic structure.
At the end of the fifties, West Germany was already stronger in economic terms and the economic philosophy of social market economy appeared in the EEC - with compromises. It means that individual liberty has got greater emphasis in economy, legitimacy of state or social intervention has been limited by the principle of subsidiarity. In this model the functioning of free market ensures not only the efficiency, but personal liberty. It builds on responsible person against state paternalism.
To sum up, the goal of economic integration was the creation of free and single market. Social policy, which expressed social solidarity, remained mostly at the national level. Apart from some measures, labour was taken into account only as a factor of production, for which free movement is needed, like for goods, services and capital.
Economic integration was successful and sufficient quite until the outbreak of oil crisis in 1973. Then a paradox situation came about. Welfare state got into crisis and the demand arose to answer social challenges at community level. It was paradoxical because the budget of social transfers had to be cut during the economic recession at national level and the member states did not accept the increase of community budget.
In 1987 the Single European Act entered into force which aimed at the completion of the single, internal market. In the eighties the EEC position became weaker in world economy against the USA and Japan. The removal of barriers of internal market was expected to intensify the competition between European companies and this way the EEC would be more competitive at international level. In the nineties the keyword in EU documents is competitiveness.
It was predictable that competition would threaten social achievements because the decrease of wages and non-wage labour costs meant advantages in competitiveness. That is the reason why minimal social standards and equal conditions for competition had to be secured at community level. That time the United Kingdom caused troubles because the libertarian Tory government refused this approach.
In the nineties employment policy got more and more emphasis besides social policy. The EU intended to find the model of strengthening competitiveness, which jobs at the same time create.


The Maastricht Treaty in 1992 is important not only because of the social policy. The Community Charter of the fundamental rights of workers in 1989 and the Agreement on social policy attached to the Treaty of Maastricht were adopted without the United Kingdom but European Communities were reorganized as European Union (official title of the Treaty is Treaty on the European Union). The Union has three pillars: the first is the European Community, the second is the common foreign and security policy and the third is the justice and home affairs.
The reason for reorganization was the collapse of socialist world system. It was rightly raised that Europe should take care of its own security. It meant not only new activities, but also the fact that new values should be presented at community level. The EU has become the actor of world policy which requires that the EU replies to questions concerning basic Christian values, like conflict handling and prevention, safeguarding of peace.
The EU has already played an important role in world economy and has represented a common policy in world trade, e.g. in the WTO. The EU has an impressive store of development aid instruments. In the nineties, the EU and its Member States provided 43% of official development assistance, whereas the United States provided 18%.
As a key actor of world economy, the EU was able to participate in the regulation of international trade together with the USA and Japan. But the crisis on the Balkans showed that the coordination of common foreign and security policy was weak.
The deepening of the European integration raised the necessity to lay down the common political foundation into a constitution. This issue basically refers to Christian values as well. The main task of a constitution is to protect human rights, to put down the principles of building and its functioning.
What he EU set as a goal was to preserve cultural diversity besides economic and political integration. The system of education will not be harmonized, either. But the economic integration forced them to deal with these issues as well. In the age of knowledge based society and economy diplomas and degrees must be compared and mutually recognized. This is assisted by European Credit Transfer System. The success and competitiveness of European research and development depend on the concentration of their scientific capacity.

Politicians in the EU recognized that the preservation of diversity of national and regional cultures, the knowledge of each other's cultures and strengthening common European identity must be assisted at the same time. The basis and organic part of European identity is Christian culture. At this point we returned to the beginning of the story, after the Second World War the "Founding Fathers" wanted to build the European integration on the basis of Christian culture.
Up to this part we overviewed the process of deepening European integration. The deepening process was accompanied by enlargements in 1973, in 1981, in 1986 and in 1995. In each case not only economic and political coordination became more and more complex, but incorporation of newer and newer cultures and value orders. Accession of eastern and central European countries gives bigger tasks then formerly. It is about regions, the developments of which were diverted from the main stream of European history forty years and some of them were never part of it.
I hope the agenda of Sevilla Summit will be kept and the enlargement will not be postponed. It is necessary to preserve credibility of the EU among the population of candidate countries. If the short run financial problems are solved, surmounting of development differences will require huge efforts.
Beyond the economic and administrative challenges it is uncertain what the position of new members will be. It is also a challenge for Christian values to succeed in enforcing principles and spirit of partnership, equality of rights.

Solidarity at community level

European development shows special features according to both North American and Japanese models. One of its decisive elements is that social inequality is not allowed to be formed by the market freely, but state accomplishes significant redistribution for welfare purposes. The state, the society as a whole takes responsibility to take care of the needy, and voluntary charity is not considered sufficient. Standard level of health services is ensured by social insurance. Social transfers succeeded in creating wide middle class.
Since the oil crisis and the crisis of welfare state this model has had face very severe difficulties. In the eighties both pure-market-regulated economies (e.g. the USA) and state-regulated-economies (e.g. South Korea) seemed to be more competitive than European economies. (Among them there are significant differences. That is why we overviewed the European integration, the common European trend expresses the best here.)
Although since the eighties market regulation has got more room in European countries and social security systems have had to cope with serious problems, the EU has not given up the double requirements of its value order, efficiency and solidarity.
Since the nineties it has been stressed in a series of documents that competitiveness and economic, social cohesion should be maintained and strengthened together. Among the policies of the EU the structural policies, that is regional and social policy, have got more and more emphasis on supporting economic and social cohesion, that is limited spatial and social inequalities.
One of the most important tasks of the Christians is to preserve this feature of European model, which coincides with one of the main principles of Catholic social teaching, solidarity. In the strong international competition enormous pressure will always sit on European politicians to make concession of solidarity in favour of profitability, competitiveness.
As I have already mentioned, enlargement of the EU will especially test solidarity. We should utilize the experience of Germany, where people had to face very suddenly not only the economic, but also the social integration of eastern Länder, which were cut off form western development forty years. Now we have more time till the enlargement and the connections are not so intensive among countries as inside one country but public opinion must be better prepared for enlargement.
Teaching of the history and culture of Central Eastern and Eastern Europe fell out of western education This lack of knowledge in itself can be a source of misunderstanding and conflicts.
The Christians should form a strategy to prepare public opinion which is accessible by Christian organizations for enlargement and coexistence. Naturally, states would have a lot to do because the results of public opinion show that recently reservations of EU citizens have increased against enlargement.

Solidarity of international level

It is a well-known problem that the power of national states has decreased to regulate the processes of world economy, international economic relations. At the same time it is also well-known that a range of problems has increased which requires international cooperation. The growing gap between developed and developing countries, environmental problems, terrorism occur on the pages of newspapers every day.
A region like the European integration has much more opportunities to enforce its willingness at international level than a national state. Christians should be active to promote that European foreign policy represents solidarity and responsibility for environment.
Enlargement brings new problems and tasks in this respect as well. People in the eastern countries compare their standard of living and way of life to that of people in western countries. The thought of international solidarity with the poor in developing countries is very strange for the overwhelming majority and they are not willing to bear the costs of solidarity. Activity in environmental protection is also weaker in eastern countries. Where the per capita GDP is one third of the EU average it requires huge efforts to catch up with the EU standards.
At the same time solidarity and environmental protection should be enforced more powerful in European foreign and trade policy and should have these values accepted by new Member States.

Subsidiarity and democracy

Western observers always wait for the results of elections in eastern countries anxiously to see whether extremist parties get into the Parliament. Recent results of western elections show the defence of democracy is a never ending process.
Let me demonstrate the fact that stereotypes cannot be used and are misleading with a real story. A Jewish journalist of Hungarian origin, who lives in France, called a Hungarian diplomat terrified, who also works in France, after the first run of president election: "Have you already heard that Le Pen is on the second place?" "Escape to Hungary peacefully, there the extreme right wing party could not get into the Parliament!" - was the answer.
In an age when people are mistrustful of big institutions, when oppressive social issue like immigration offers no good solution, terrorism shadows every-day life, functioning of democracy is not self-evident. The deepening of European integration involves the danger of bureaucratism. The Christians have to strengthen the values of democracy, human rights and subsidiarity.
It should pay severe attention to the elaboration of feasible solutions. E.g. it seems to be insufficient simply to repeat liberal principles in the issue of immigration, because it produces counter reactions. But we have to be aware of the fact that if developed world wants to slow down immigration, the order of world economy must be changed, which brings forth sacrifice. Distribution of resources, development opportunities must be more just.
One of the biggest enemies of democracy is corruption. The past decade regretfully did not show that after the system change corruption would have disappeared in the former socialist countries, rather also in western countries corruption scandals swept over. In Hungary, Pax Romana in its programme and activity focuses on corruption. In my opinion, it is a crucial task for the Christians in general.

European identity in its programme and activity - Christian cultural heritage

Nowadays identity is a very fashionable subject in economics, to investigate what the impact of identity on economic decision is. In psychology, political science, sociology the importance of identity is not a new finding. To be an influential actor of world politics and economy European citizens must have a strong European identity.
The basis of European identity is common Christian culture. This is the case even if it does not mean a lively religious tradition for the majority of society. The Christians can help to find balance among different levels of identity, that is national, European and general, human identity. The latter is needed to establish our responsibility for world politics and economy.
The content of European identity is not obvious, we have to elaborate it concretely in our age. I have already referred to the fact that for forty years Eastern and Eastern Central Europe fell out of the cultural and historical knowledge of Western Europe and out of the content of European identity. In Hungary pupils learn very much about the history and culture of Western Europe. (There are stories according to which a Hungarian pupil knows more about Shakespeare than an English one.) But at the same time Eastern and Eastern Central European history and mainly culture is almost completely lost in our education system.
Several programmes of the EU support the teaching of European Studies and student mobility to promote getting to know each other. The Christians have to strengthen this process via its own network.
To harmonize national and European identity is a sensitive task all over in Europe. Protection of the rights of minorities is also an issue, which requires continuous efforts.

Channels of achievement

The above mentioned aspects can be supplemented with others. I thrived to seize values which I think to be crucial. At least it is very important to reply to the question how we can enforce these important issues.
Basically there are two levels which do not exclude but strengthen each other. These two ways are well-known for persons who participate in Christian public life. We do not need to discover them, but to strengthen our determination.

a/ Persons whose jobs make it possible (like economist, lawyers, etc.) have to represent Christian values.
b/ The Christian Churches and Christian organizations have to utilize their networks, their capacity for lobbying in EU organizations to enforce their values in European society.

Beata Farkas (University of Szeged, Hungary)