Samstag, 2. März 2002

Statement von Doekle Terpstra

Europäisches Kolloquium vom 28.2. - 2.3.2002 in Berlin

European Social Weeks
Doekle Terpstra, chair of the IESW

The First European Social Week in Brussels, 1997, started a tradition for European Christians. Here they could talk together about the future of Europe. From its start, the European Social Weeks have been an ecumenical en societal platform. Ecumenical, because Christians from both Protestant as well as Roman Catholic churches are involved. Societal, because not only people from the world of labour and labour relations are present on this platform, but also people form universities and educational institutions, cultural organisations and sports.
The European Social Week of 1997 concluded that in the process of European unification, it should not be the case that only economical motives would matter, and that the then emerging ‘I-culture’, rather than being discarded, should have a counterweight in, what Ruud Lubbers called, ‘we-groups’. Democratising European politics and justice and solidarity in European economics do not mean much if the quality of the European society is not subject of our discussion. Democracy, justice and solidarity should be embodied in ligatures (to use a term of Ralph Dahrendorff) in which people self can take up and bear responsibility. Subsidiarity in Europe can only exist when people also have the sovereignty to bear responsibility in the contexts where it is being asked.
The Second European Social Week in Bad Honnef, 2000, succeeded in strengthening this societal basis but, more importantly, established a significant participation of people and organisations of Middle and Eastern Europe -- those countries who are now on our doorstep to become members of the EU in 2004. In Bad Honnef we talked about the so-called ‘civil society’ and the quality of the European society. We saw how democracy, justice and solidarity will be realised ‘as we go the road’ when people take up responsibility for what their society needs. The multi coloured society is existing and newly formed relations, organisations and networks contains a promise for the future.
A Third European Social Week, probably in co-operation with SSF and ZdK, can be an important next step for a European-wide platform where Christians from the existing European Union and those who will become members shortly can meet. The European Social Weeks thus are a public forum for the debate which is asked for by the manifest which was presented this morning.
The European Social Week is about the future of Europe and the constructive commitment of Christians in this process. In the session yesterday -- Europa ad intra and Europa ad extra -- valuable and important issues where brought to our attention. I will not repeat these, but stress some points that were said.

Much is expected of Europe -- by ourselves, by the new members of tomorrow and by the immigrants from elsewhere. We should be generous and clear in what we promise and what we will fulfil of these expectations. And for all these important tasks before us, the way we realise democracy in Europe is of paramount importance.
However one may think about the political form of Europe -- be it a federation, be it union of states which is itself not a state, not subject of a sovereign -- the institutions of the European democracy should be inherently connected with the commitment of its civilians. That means that people not only should feel that these institutions are legitimate, but they also should be able to participate in these institutions. Democratic structures do not float in the air -- democracy lives in the spirit, maybe one might say, in the hearts of people. Justice and solidarity, the care for others, cannot be a matter of laws and rules only, but should be exercised with human warmth.
Social organisations are necessary for this. Democracy, justice, and solidarity are not generated by rules or economic structures. Rules and structures finish the work that people have begun out of their own responsibility and give people’s achievements durability. Social organisations contain the civic commitment of people for democracy, justice and solidarity. These organisations have found the platform for encounter in the European Social Weeks. Here they are stimulated, collect knowledge, exchange experiences, and can form new alliances. A European Social Week -- a third, and the ones to follow -- is only a meaningful event when it focuses on social organisations and when it provides for these organisations tools and motives to develop a European consciousness and to give shape to a European democracy.
If one looks to the position of social organisations one is struck by a significant similarity between the social organisations in Western Europe and in the Middle and Eastern Europe -- in both, the dichotomy of either state or market reigns. Here, in the West, we experience the need for re-vitalising social organisations after the cutting back done by neo-liberal policies. In Middle and Eastern Europe the need for social organisations became poignantly clear after the collapse of the communist model. So, the common task for Europe is to vitalise social organisations because without these organisations individual citizens and the government will never develop a meaningful relation with each other, nor a commitment to public affairs. Without these organisations, the democratic gap in Europe remains -- because there is no mediation between individuals and the political process in which opinions are formed and decisions taken. Without these organisations, there is no solidarity between people -- there are no ligatures in which people can show solidarity. Civil society is a sphere with its own logic of action and if you subordinate it to other spheres (the market or the state), the quality of society deteriorates.

Christians in Europe who want to take up their responsibility should not only speak to the European political institutions, but also to the European social organisations. This is not a matter of ‘either-or’, but should be done at the same time. So we should debate the rules and laws that will outline a Europe of democracy, justice, solidarity, and the results of our debate should be brought to the Commission and to ‘Brussel’ and ‘Strassbourg’. We should, for example, point out that a Europe of peace and safety must be founded on human rights and this should be laid down by the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg and endorsed by the Reform Convention under Valery Giscard d’Estaing.
Notwithstanding all this, Christians have the duty to be themselves an example of what democracy, justice, solidarity mean. The realisation of these concepts in European society owes vital characteristic to the Christian faith. Without the Christian faith we would not have known of solidarity as unconditional care for the needs of others; we would not have known of justice as making it possible for all to contribute to and participate in society; we would not have known of an idea of democracy that safeguards human beings from the absolute power of other human beings.

Europe is the continent where differences between people are not blended together in a standard culture but are recognised to the full without these differences leading to violent conflict -- at least that should be the guiding idea for Europe. There is a ‘Babel’ of languages in the Commission, the Parliament and on a conference as here in Berlin, and still we meet and talk together. This ‘Babel of diversity’ is the positive challenge for our future: to establish some unity amidst of all these languages, cultures and people, without replacing this diversity. In this diversity lies also the attraction of Europe as a country for immigration. Europe does not exist as a purely economic enterprise, it does not exists without a soul. This soul or spirit can only be embodied in persons who take responsibility for the European society. And resulting from this, a European consciousness can only live through vital organisations.
Political efficacy is important; social-economic policies are important. Christians should look for ways in which their faith can carry fruits for the future of Europe. But committed Christians will never speak with one political voice, nor will they advance one particular social-economic policy. The presence and the debate of Christians on the public forum itself is important. Our greatest contribution is the actual commitment for the quality of the European society. If we think that Europe should realise certain qualities, then we should show in our actions what these qualities are. In our actions we show the truthfulness of the sources of our faith. And only through this active involvement with European society, can we make an appeal to the policy-makers of Europe.

Tomorrow’s society is not the nation-state anymore -- and neither for that matter today’s society -- but the European Union. Therefore, our commitment should be visible on a European level. The task and identity of the Third European Social Week is the Christian-social commitment for the European society. That will be a society in which people commit themselves to public affairs in vital networks and social organisations, and in which justice and solidarity create a hospitable home for all -- for all those that live in Europe itself, for the immigrant and the seeker of asylum, and for the other inhabitants of the earth. In addition to debating the political constitution of Europe at rather big conferences once every so many years, we should start realising now our commitment for Europe at the levels where we are competent. That is an invitation to all those present here today to start working together in shaping a European society and consciousness according to the ideas of democracy, justice and solidarity which are kept alive in the Christian faith. And you should do that at the levels where they are competent -- the spheres of labour, education, culture, and so on in which your organisation works, and the region and the country in which you are working.