I say Europe, you say?
Christmas Eve. For me, Europe is like home. Like family. Europe is about our traditions and also about our dreams. I can still remember, especially from when I was a child, that Christmas is a time when you dream most intensively.
In your opinion, what has been Europe’s greatest strength during this Corona-crisis?
I am afraid that especially at the beginning of the crisis, Europe showed its weaknesses rather than its strengths. We can still remember this time of chaos, of a conflict among member states, this spiral of mutual accusations. All this included typical blame games, partly provoked by the external powers. This is why, in fact, what I consider to be the biggest European strength during this time, is that we were able to at least agree on the Recovery Fund, and that we were able to stop this conflict and the very emotional tensions among member states.
Do you think the EU will come out of this crisis more united and integrated as it has after past crises?
No one knows when the crisis will end. But what we do know for sure is that it will have many consequences of a known and of a still unknown nature, in politics, economy, and in our social life. This very fact can provoke fears and a feeling of threat and uncertainty. Sometimes fear is a good reason to seek unity. But of course, I would prefer a Europe which is able to unite around other values than the common threats or fears.
The EPP has managed to keep its activity running smoothly since the very beginning of the pandemic, how did the party adapt so quickly and make it possible with all of the limitations in place?
First of all, because we have a brilliant President… I’m just kidding. Seriously speaking, I think our whole team was really disciplined and well-skilled when it comes to new forms of daily work. I was so impressed, because it was absolutely clear for me that our people were extremely well-organised and determined, and yet cautious at the same time. In fact, they worked very intensely despite the pandemic restrictions and rules, while respecting those same restrictions and rules. This was, and not only for me, a very unique experience and I have learned something very positive about my people here.
What about you? Were you already an advanced technology-user, or did you have to adapt to all of the virtual tools; Webinars, doing conferences on Teams, and so on?
I was able to use my mobile before the pandemic… Frankly speaking, I will never like those new methods and new forms of work. I will certainly never like politics online. Politics is about emotions. It is not about procedures or simple messages, or institutional preparation. Sometimes I feel that maybe this pandemic is some kind of an anticipation of our new post-pandemic reality, which means that you will have meetings online instead of in person. Maybe our whole life will be online, not in person. It seems to me like a very pessimistic dystopia.
This leads us really well into our next questions. What do you miss the most about pre-COVID times?
I am a football fan. Not just about football, I am crazy about all sports. What I miss the most is, first of all, sports events with an audience; crowds chanting and booing. This change is extremely visible and painful. Also, going to the cinema with my family, especially with my grandchildren, or even smiling at people on the streets, because now a smile is covered by a mask. What I also really miss is a Sunday breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, at Avenue Louise. It used to be a little ‘tradition’ for me here in Brussels.
And what do you miss the most in your political activity from the pre-COVID times?
As I have said, in politics, direct contact is really important. Especially for me, with my temperament. Sometimes, I prefer a really tough argument or fight. I really like this part of politics. Online, everything is a little bit artificial. You can prepare this online life and work perfectly, but politics without emotions and without fighting can be very boring. What I really hate in our work is routine, monotony, and the risk that our work may become monotonous.
This summer, the member states re-opened borders. Did you manage to travel somewhere for your holidays?
Yes, I did. I spent four weeks in Poland in a small village with my grandchildren in my most beloved Kashubia region, and it was one of the best times in my life. We also went to Normandy and Brittany in France. I have to say that visiting Mont-Saint-Michel, Saint-Malo or Deauville during the pandemic time was something really unique and exceptional.
COVID-19 has created deep concerns all over Europe. What are your feelings about Central Europe, and especially Poland? Do you think the crisis will bring forth populist narratives in certain EU governments?
I am very worried about COVID-19 developments, especially in my country. I should say that not only Poland, but Hungary and the entire region, have gone through the first phase of the pandemic quite safely. In my opinion, these are rather fortunate coincidences than good governance. In fact, in my opinion, it is very difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the Polish, Hungarian, or Slovak governments because of their lack of testing. Without testing, you have no real measures or instruments to assess the situation. For example, in Poland we have almost five times fewer tests per capita than in Germany. Without concrete numbers or statistics, you can make propaganda.
The recent presidential election in Poland was a big disappointment for many of us, but it gave hope to many Polish and European citizens. What should be the next steps for the Polish opposition after this very close election?
This optimism is quite justified. In fact, if the presidential elections had been fully fair, the opposition would have won. The difference was really small. You can say that the elections were free, but they were not fair. I am quite sure that if the democratic opposition in Poland were able to unite before the next parliamentary election which is in three years, they would have a chance to win.
Returning to EU politics, what are the biggest challenges facing the EU and the EPP during this autumn and winter?
That is a question for a book rather than for our short interview! In a few words, of course the pandemic comes first, for which an effective vaccine is our hope. Unfortunately, migration will remain a crucial issue in the next months. It has received less coverage because of the pandemic, but nothing has changed. The dramatic situation in Lesbos in the migrant camp of Moria is just a signal that migration will be topical in the agenda, no doubt about that. A growing pressure from the illiberal democracy front is not just a seasonal problem. It will be a very long-term process for those of us who believe in liberal democracy and who want to protect it. Rebuilding our transatlantic relations after the presidential elections in the US is another priority. And, of course, relations with China and Russia.
Another hot topic: Do you believe we will finally have a hard Brexit in January? Is there any way to make the British government come to its senses?
With Prime Minister Boris Johnson, given his extravagance, everything is possible. As a consequence, every scenario is possible, including a ‘no-deal scenario’. Knowing him – and I know him very well – a ‘no-deal scenario’ is what he prefers. This is why we need to be even more united, the EU27, especially when it comes to the Irish question.
In our latest ‘I say Europe, You Say…?’, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt suggested that we ask you what the plan is with Viktor Orbán?
As you know, due to pandemic restrictions, we are not able to organise our regular Political Assembly, including the voting on the formal motion from our 14 member parties, to expel Fidesz. I know that it may sound like an excuse to bypass the issue, but this is our reality today in this critical moment. Some of our colleagues still believe that it is possible to convince Viktor Orbán to change his approach as to the principles of democracy and rule of law. I am afraid they are too optimistic. I am much more realistic when it comes to Orbán. My personal ambition is to protect our political family from the new trend of illiberal democracy, nationalism, and semi-authoritarian aspirations. For this, I need a clear majority in the EPP. We will see.
Happier question now: when are we going to hear you sing again?
Those who wish me well suggested that I stop singing altogether. And I can understand why. So now I am concentrated on my preparation for my first marathon. Thanks to the pandemic, I have more time to train and prepare myself. Jogging is much easier for me.
Which EPP colleague or person would you nominate for our next interview, and what questions would you ask?
Antonio Tajani. And my question to Antonio will be: How can a moderate centre-right be rebuilt in Italy?
That’s a tough question.
Life is tough!Christian Democracy European People's Party European Union
I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Donald Tusk
I Say Europe
01 Oct 2020
The corona crisis apparently reinforces the role of the nation-state, of the government and the hard struggle between the United States and China, which put their own interests above the multilateral world order. Yet a different agenda is needed now, says former Prime Minister Prof. Dr. Jan Peter Balkenende: “Collaboration, connection, and sustainability are now more essential than hammering on the nation-state. Europe and Christian democracy can play an important role in this. Christian Democracy has always had the courage to row against the current.”
The interview conducted by Marc Janssens, editor-in-chief, has been published in Christen Democratische Verkenningen, Summer edition 2020 (Dutch). The World Leadership Alliance – Club de Madrid published the interview in English. Below you can find a summary of the key elements and an excerpt from the interview.
– Precisely at a time when nation-state and autocracy are leading the way, we must strengthen the social undercurrent of connectedness, values, and sustainability.
– The global agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate change and the circular economy give hope and perspective to everyone. This agenda is essential to overcome nationalism, populism, and attacks on multilateral organisations.
– High trust societies are performing better than low trust societies.
– Europe must develop a new narrative, in which commonness, diversity, solidarity, and competitiveness are leading, which discusses the importance of values and shows geopolitical leadership.
– A new orientation and organisation of our economies are required: a moral, responsible, and stakeholder capitalism.
Jan Peter Balkenende has been out of active politics for ten years, after his time as Prime Minister (2002-2010). But sitting still is by no means the same as uninvolved. He works as an external senior advisor to EY, a professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, a supervisory board member at ING, and is involved in various organisations. The common thread is sustainability, social connection, global cooperation, and tackling inequality. The guiding principle in all this is the Sustainable Development Goals: “We now see a world where it seems to be about the right of the fittest and about capitalism driven by a mere pursuit of profit. China and the US compete for world power, but are mainly focused on their own interests. Their leaders Trump and Xi Jinping have little interest in multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation or the World Health Organisation. On the other hand, I would like to draw attention to another, hopeful agenda: that of sustainability, the common interest – the so-called Common Good -, a circular economy and working together.
Europe but also Christian Democracy can play an important role in this, because they have a long tradition of connection and attention to the moral side of all kinds of issues. If Europe seeks strength in its uniqueness and in the interest of global institutions, it may prevent being played apart by China and America. Global thinking is not only about countries and their governments, but also about NGOs, companies, universities, civil society, religious groups. The SDGs – requiring actions and measurement – and Pope Francis’s encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ provide hope and perspective. Christian Democracy can be important in this because it is not only a political but also a social movement. We as Christian Democrats have always had the courage to focus on connection and row against the current.”
What does the new story of Europe look like?
“We have to redesign the EU to motivate people and organisations. Europe must start from its own strength, which connects countries that are also different. Of course, there are concerns in Europe and there is a lack of unity, but the current crisis requires the commitment and qualities that Europe has always drawn strength from: bridging differences and thinking together. In addition, Europe must also show results, for example in the areas of climate, environment, sustainability, and a circular economy. Showing results will strengthen trust in Europe among citizens, organisations, and businesses; but Europe must want to reform. Equally crucial is the awareness and debate about values in Europe: peace, democracy, liberty, solidarity, equality, justice, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. If you break EU rules and see Europe only as an institution from which subsidies can be obtained, sanctions must follow, after dialogue of course. Europe is too important at its core and relies too much on its own values to be undermined from within.”
How do you assess the situation in the US?
“The US fascinates by its dynamism. This has enormous appeal in the fields of science and innovation, but politically it is a completely split country. The connection is gone; there is a certain harshness surrounding discussions about fake news that is not good for the country. There is a need for truth-seeking institutions. We live in previously unthinkable times. In the late 1980s, Francis Fukuyama wrote his essay “The End of History” about the liberal democratic world order. Now we can see book titles such as “The End of Democracy” and “How Democracies Die”. The world order, as it was built up after the Second World War, has proved extremely fragile, so it is therefore important now to draw attention to values such as connection and communality.”
Doesn’t the corona crisis show that many companies in their prime have let their profits flow to shareholders, and now have to hold hands with the government because they have too few buffers? Shouldn’t we get rid of shareholder capitalism?
“It cannot be the case that shareholders only focus on the short-term financial gain and neglect the long-term consequences for the company and society. In this respect, I strongly support values-driven capitalism, in which not only financial growth, but also the social involvement of companies is the main aspect. This is really about creating shared value: economic and societal value. It must be about inclusive thinking and acting. That stakeholder thinking – the World Economic Forum recently argued for stakeholder capitalism – is essential in this day and age, when we meet the limits of money-driven capitalism. We are entering the era of responsible capitalism.”
What contribution can Christian democracy make in the debate about the organisation of society?
“That we recognise that all issues have a moral component. We are now faced with the choice: do we only determine what the role of the state, the market, and social institutions are through an economic prism, or do we examine, from a moral framework, what justice is and what the common good is, the so-called Bonum Commune. Then it’s not only about the question “who does what”? No, then we first determine what we want, what public justice means, and then the question arises why the market, government, or society can best do this. This is called differentiated responsibility in Christian Democratic thinking, but it is always a spread responsibility normalised by solidarity and stewardship. Something similar is needed now, because all kinds of things will shift due to the corona crisis. It is my firm belief that the strength of Christian democracy lies in our vision of tomorrow’s society: common good and Bonum Commune, community thinking, moral capitalism, long-term value creation, climate and stewardship, the SDGs, collaboration, and connection. We need to develop this further and, therefore, we must be inspired. That inspiration remains the most important thing a Christian Democratic politician needs. “Christian Democracy Economy European Union Values
Against the Current for the Common Good
14 Jul 2020
This online event aimed to look at how the pandemic is changing the relationship between governmental authorities and citizens in Europe and beyond. Governments all over the planet are adopting intrusive and restrictive measures, including the use of advanced technologies to track and control their population. They are encountering little resistance and even a fair degree of social consensus in the process. The example of ruthlessly effective authoritarian regimes such as China risks becoming more alluring and increasing divides within the EU.
As often in the past, a potential trade-off between national health and security on the one hand, and civic and individual freedoms on the other hand is becoming evident. Does this pandemic herald far-reaching changes in the nature of our political systems? Will it result in permanent restrictions of some individual and civic freedoms and encourage more invasive forms of governmental control? How should we assess developments so far and how will our social contract look like in the post-pandemic era?Angelos Chryssogelos Christian Democracy COVID-19 Democracy
Online Event ‘COVID-19 and the Future of Liberal Democracy’
Live-streams - Multimedia
16 Apr 2020
A podcast series that aims to challenge commonly held assumptions about the European project in a tour de force through European history, culture and civilisation. Podcast host Federico Ottavio Reho redefines political correctness with the help of razor-sharp arguments and beautifully drawn historical parallels.Federico Ottavio Reho Christian Democracy Democracy EU Member States EU-Russia EU-US European Union
[Europe Out Loud] “The light that failed?” a chat with Ivan Krastev
Europe out Loud - Multimedia
10 Apr 2020
In the last few years, a swirl of publications and initiatives have attempted to develop the doctrinal foundations of ‘trumpism’ and to offer intellectual defences of right-wing populism, that most anti-intellectual of doctrines. One way or another, they have all amounted to a variation on national conservatism, the belief that nations are our historically grown ‘homes’ and that it is therefore the primary duty of conservatives to defend their specificities from the levelling encroachment of globalisation and international institutions. According to these apologetic treatments, that’s precisely what Trump and his political mates across the globe are up to.
There has been no shortage of outraged commentaries on such takes, but they have mostly come from the liberal left. It is therefore welcome that a robust conservative and classical liberal like Dalibor Rohac – a Slovak by birth, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a research associate at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies – took up the pen to offer a powerful rebuttal from the centre-right of the political spectrum.
Rohac’s treatment is quite conventional in his belief that the current ‘globalist’ international order has coincided with an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity. This alone should enjoin those right-wingers who now want to overhaul it to show some real conservatism and pursue at most its cautious and gradual reform. However, his book departs in important ways from mainstream opinions on globalism. It understands international institutions not as top-down, enlightened bureaucracies but as bottom-up, evolutionary creations subject to constant adaptations and devised as responses to concrete challenges that transcend national borders. Such challenges include the like of trade barriers, security, pollution and the management of natural resources. For his analytical toolbox, Rohac owes an acknowledged debt to the pioneering work of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom on the governance of the commons, federalism and polycentricity. His attempt to apply the Ostroms’ principles to international cooperation and European integration is cutting-edge and fruitful.
The book also contains a very unconventional reconstruction of what the author refers to as ‘the West’s globalist history’ and I have referred to elsewhere as ‘Europe’s supranational past’. Rohac convincingly contends that ‘international’ integration, and not the national state, has been the norm for most of European history. He reflects on the historical meaning of such polycentric and multinational structures as the Holy Roman Empire, which comprised large swathes of the continent for a millennium, the Hanseatic League and, more recently, the Gold Standard, which acted in everything but name and trappings as a global currency into the 20th century. Although he stops short of openly drawing this conclusion, Rohac’s concise treatment clearly concurs with a reading of the European project as, historically, a restoration more than a radical revolutionary break with Europe’s past. This should encourage conservatives to cherish the principle of supranational integration rather more than they have done lately.
A robust conservative and classical liberal like Dalibor Rohac took up the pen to offer a powerful rebuttal from the centre-right of the political spectrum.
Rohac’s related effort to revive a tradition of internationalist conservatism inspired by the likes of Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Alexander Rüstow and Wilhelm Röpke also seems worthwhile and even urgent. One could add to this group of – mostly liberal – thinkers other figures such as Alexandre Marc, Denis de Rougemont, Richard Coudenhove, Otto von Habsburg and the Christian democratic founding fathers of Europe. The real question, however, is not whether conservatism and supranationalism are compatible. They are, at least since Edmund Burke wrote of the ‘commonwealth of Europe’ and Prince Metternich proclaimed ‘I have taken Europe as my fatherland’. As the author mentions, the problem is rather that there can be different forms of supranationalism, not all of them equally palatable to a christian democratic or conservative taste. Even Hayek and Röpke, who were conservative liberals, would likely have reservations about some regulatory and bureaucratic excesses of today’s EU, not to talk about the postmodernist cultural rhetoric often underpinning its policies.
To rein in the rise of national conservatism, therefore, the centre-right ought to do more than merely develop a more convincing defence of globalism and European integration. It must also articulate a meaningful reform agenda based on stronger subsidiarity, the protection of national and regional identities and a more open emphasis on the cultural foundations of European unity. The book makes some important advances in this direction, for example by insisting on the need to limit the reach of international institutions through narrower mandates, as well as to open them up to bottom-up experimentation and market incentives.
To me, the one limit of the book is the author’s embrace of a liberal internationalist – if not neoconservative – outlook, as opposed to a ‘classical’ conservative one. On the one hand, Rohac defends a polycentric interpretation of international cooperation gradually evolving by trial and error and based on institutional diversity. On the other hand, he adopts a somewhat dogmatic view of the international society that acknowledges only liberal democracies as fully legitimate actors. This contains an element of liberal messianism, is subversive of the existing international order and restricts the range of acceptable institutional diversity and experimentation.
Relatedly, the book presents a limited view of political realism and connects it with a nationalist and Hobbesian outlook: ‘realism’, writes Rohac, ‘posits the existence of self-interested sovereign nation-states as the basic units of analysis, disregarding both the rules that might constrain their behaviour as well as the various governance structures that facilitate their cooperation—providing a perfect starting point for a Trump-like doctrine of unfettered national egoism’. Although this might be a correct characterisation of the ‘structural realism’ of American scholars like Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer, it leaves out the classical realist European tradition of statecraft, which had its masters in figures like Metternich and Castlereagh and more recently found an outstanding epigone in Henry Kissinger. Metternich was perhaps the main exponent of international conservatism in the 19th century, and the chief theoretician and architect of an integrated supranational governance in Europe at the time.
Arguably, this tradition has some advantages over both the structural realism of Trumpians and the liberal internationalism preferred by Rohac. Unlike structural realists, classical realists attach importance to institutions and rules. Unlike liberal internationalists, however, they understand that functioning institutions and rules cannot be designed in the abstract by enlightened planners and based on universally valid principles. They are always culturally and historically embedded. As such, they can only flourish in a specific context and gradually evolve with it. This approach seems more attune to Rohac’s own understanding of globalism as an evolving ecosystem. Combined with his highly innovative arguments, it might not only help the centre-right counter conservative nationalism with a conservative and christian democratic internationalism. It might also contribute to formulating a new EU foreign policy doctrine more adapted to the emerging multipolar (dis)order than the currently prevalent saintly visions of the EU as a ‘civilian power’.Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right Christian Democracy Development Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Globalism and the centre-right
11 Feb 2020
The Eastern Orthodox Church is on the verge of a schism after the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (PoC) to grant the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) ‘autocephaly’ (independence) from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The Kyiv Patriarchate is one of the three Orthodox churches in Ukraine, the other two being the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
From the perspective of Western Europe, where societies have thoroughly secularized in recent decades, the ecclesiastical feuds of the Christian Orthodox world may seem remote and esoteric. Still, in the East and Southeast of Europe faith stimulates many people, and disputes over the jurisdiction and status of local churches is an important proxy of ethnic, nationalist and political cleavages. The consequences of a potential schism between Constantinople and Moscow will be significant and reverberate throughout Europe.
Contrary to the Catholic world, the Eastern Orthodox Church has no central authority. Τhe Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople ranks as primus inter pares among the heads of 14 Orthodox autocephalous churches, having the authority to call extraordinary synods when needed to deal with ad hoc issues, such as autocephaly rights.
The granting of a Tomos – i.e. independence – to UOC-KP by Constantinople threatens the status of the currently dominant Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) that is under the direct influence and control of the Moscow Patriarchate. As expected, this move was confronted fiercely by Russia, which sees Kyiv as the birthplace of its nation. On 15 October 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church announced angrily that it was breaking off all ties with PoC.
These developments have important religious, economic and geopolitical consequences.
After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453, and during the emergence of the Russian Empire as a great power in the 18th and 19th century, Moscow tried to supplant Constantinople as the “Third Rome”, the guardian of Orthodox Christianity. Additionally, the rise of nationalism and the creation of national Orthodox churches in the Balkans and elsewhere undermined further the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s position. Nevertheless, against all odds, the latter survived until today as the spiritual beacon of Orthodoxy.
The Russian Orthodox Church never stopped to act as the long-arm of the Russian political establishment, even during the Soviet era. In other words, the Russian state, be it Czarist or Soviet, always used its national church and its religious channels as a tool of geopolitical influence and often as a source of pressure within the Orthodox world.
At the same time, UOC-KP’s autocephaly is another episode in the Ukrainian crisis. An autocephalous Ukrainian Church means that the Russian Church is losing not only a big number of adherents – almost 30 million – but also one-third of its total parishes outside Russia. In other words, this development is a great blow to Putin’s idea of a “Russian World” (Russkiy Mir) built around ROC’s religious and cultural influence.
Since the beginning of the war in Eastern Ukraine, many of the UOC clergy openly supported the Russian invasion. This had a negative impact on the perception of the UOC by the Ukrainian people. This in turn made UOC-KP’s need for recognition as autocephalous all the more urgent. Given the previous experience of Russian interventionism in Ukraine, one should not exclude provocations and the outbreak of violence when the newly recognised Ukrainian Patriarchate will claim authority over parishes and religious monuments which now are under the control of UOC.
With its extreme decision of excommunicating the PoC, ROC hopes to create a split inside the Orthodox world and to bring other Orthodox churches under its authority. For now, apart from the Patriarchate in Antioch – which toes Damascus’ line of full alignment with Moscow – and the more conservative Patriarchs of Serbia, Georgia and possibly Bulgaria, the rest 9 autocephalous Orthodox churches do not show any intention of endorsing the decision of ROC.
Constantinople’s decision to recognize ROC-KP was a decidedly high-risk move that can spark an all-out confrontation with Moscow. The first target could be the Monastic Community of Mount Athos, an autonomous polity within the Hellenic Republic. The Russian authorities, through heavy financing of the Russian Monastery in Athos, have tried to increase their religious and political presence in the Balkan Peninsula. Another focal point could be Cyprus and Bulgaria, due to strong cultural and historical ties and a strong Russian presence there.
All of the above-mentioned countries and churches are obviously inside the EU. Therefore, it is apparent that Brussels, the Vatican and the US – which for many years has supported the PoC – should strongly endorse and support UOC-KP’s autocephaly. At the same time, their support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is in a permanent virtual state of hostage of the Turkish state, should be strengthened both rhetorically and practically. It is almost certain that Russia will use Turkey, with whom it currently enjoys good relations, as its proxy in order to exercise immense economic and political pressure on the PoC.
Ukraine autocephaly looks irreversible at the moment. But Orthodox Christianity will come out of this conflict wounded and weakened. At the same time, this is an opportunity for all other established churches of Christianity to support and rejuvenate the prestige of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that is under threat not only by its Turkish guardians, but now by Russia as well.
This is a mission that perfectly dovetails with the West’s interest in deterring Russia’s use of soft-power through religion that aims to destabilize its neighboring countries. The struggle over Ukraine’s religious communities is part of a much larger confrontation that has only begun.
Russia’s Religious Soft Power: Is Christianity Ready for a New Schism?
19 Oct 2018
Socialists of all colours would have us believe that government interventions and regulations are the only way to tame the animal spirits of capitalism and give it a human face. As so often with socialist mantras, the very opposite is true: only a ‘conservative economy’ can be truly humane. But what exactly is a conservative economy? First, I define as conservative an economy with minimal government intervention, organised according to the principles of competition and individual freedom and responsibility. Second, I define as conservative an economy that is embedded in a society with solid conservative morals and a wealth of spontaneously developed and organically grown institutions.
The first element was crucial in unleashing the forces of human ambition and creativity that produced what economic historian Deirdre McCloskey called the ‘Great Enrichment’ of the last two centuries. The second element is crucial in order to maintain a sense of moral restraint and community belonging, which channel these wild creative forces to the pursuit of high and worthy purposes, something the rigorous enforcement of free market principles alone cannot ensure. In the inspired words of Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism: ‘society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.’
Precisely: the progressive agenda has always been about weakening ‘the controlling power within’ (the strict moral discipline of the classical and Christian tradition) in order to strengthen ‘the controlling power without’ (government controls and regulations), with a clear loss of human freedom, diversity and spontaneity; the conservative agenda has been – and should still be – about reviving ‘the controlling power within’ in order to minimise ‘the controlling power without’, thus protecting a societal model that is both more free, more humane and better connected to the great history of Europe’s civilisation.
In my understanding, this is one of the central themes in the thinking of German economist Wilhelm Röpke, a man who certainly deserves an honourable place in the intellectual pantheon of the European centre-right. Now fallen into almost complete oblivion, except in some ordoliberal circles of his native country, Röpke was once a respected and influential personality. He is rightly regarded as one of the intellectual fathers of the ‘Social Market economy’ and considered as the intellectual mentor of Ludwig Erhard, the man who, as Minister of Economics and then federal Chancellor, engineered the extraordinary rebirth of West Germany’s economy in the 1950s and 60s, and to whom Röpke was a trusted advisor.
Precisely fifty-five years ago, Röpke published a book entitled A Humane Economy, in which he set out to reflect upon ‘the social framework of the free market’ (a free PDF version of the book is available here). The book never became a bestseller and was too focused on the ills of its author’s age to be considered a classic. However, to the extent that the ills of its author’s age are also the ills of our age, there is a great deal we can learn from it. Here are some of the lessons I retained, although I do not claim that Röpke would have necessarily illustrated them the way I do:
- In spite of its amazing power of innovation, the market is a conservative institution with precise limits. It is ‘conservative’ because it is, to borrow the expression of Adam Ferguson and Friedrich Hayek, ‘the product of human action but not of human design’. In other words, it is an organically grown institution resulting from the free and spontaneous interaction of human beings. Nobody has either planned it or can control it, and yet its results are infinitely better than anything the smartest planners could engineer because it gives free course to human cooperation and ingenuity. At the same time, Röpke explains, what makes life worthy is ‘the whole unpurchaseable world beyond the market and turnover figures, the world of dignity, beauty, poetry, grace, chivalry, love, and friendship, the world of community, variety of life, freedom, and fullness of personality’. There is no guarantee that free markets will promote the pursuit of these values, in fact they may even discourage it unless they are underpinned by healthy moral foundations.
- The European welfare state is one of the major instruments of the progressive plan to weaken ‘the controlling power within’ and strengthen ‘the controlling power without’. As Röpke explains in details, ‘a whole world divides a state which occasionally rescues some unfortunate individual from destitution from another state where a sizable part of private income is constantly sucked into the pumping engine of the welfare state and diverted by it, with considerable friction losses’. In the second scenario (our scenario), the welfare state becomes a bureaucratic machine that weakens individual and family responsibilities, distorts economic incentives, increases economic dependency and tends towards self-aggrandizement and the self-preservation of people who have a stake in it.
- An integrated European order that is both free and humane must be built on federalism and on what Röpke calls ‘decentrism’, not on centralisation and progressive planning. Calling himself a ‘European patriot’, this German intellectual who was in love with Switzerland – where he lived and taught for a long time – seems to have had in mind the Swiss model of the immediate post-WWII period when he spoke about Europe. According to him, the continent had to consolidate, recover its self-confidence, revive its political and military power and regain its due place in world politics, but it could only do so by strictly adhering to decentralisation, revitalising local communities and embracing competitive federalism: ‘decentrism is of the essence of the spirit of Europe. To try to organize Europe centrally, to subject the Continent to a bureaucracy of economic planning, and to weld it into a block would be nothing less than a betrayal of Europe and the European patrimony’. We are not very far from the European federalism I recently defended as the best vision for the pro-European right of the 21st century.
Wilhelm Röpke was all at once a Christian humanist imbued with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, a conservative in the best central and Northern European tradition and a free market economist. He harmoniously combined in his own thinking different intellectual traditions which are now politically represented within the European People’s Party. His work deserves to be rediscovered and pondered.Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right Christian Democracy Economy Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Economy with a human face: some thoughts on Wilhelm Röpke’s ‘A Humane Economy’
10 Nov 2015
This paper contends that, contrary to the prevailing opinion, the EU is highly relevant to the issues of ethics and religion. Although policy matters should be dealt with at the lowest possible level, some are best dealt with by a common approach at the EU level of decision-making.
In examining areas such as ethics and the economy, human rights, multiculturalism and the relationship with the Orthodox churches, the paper applies the tests of subsidiarity and centre and centre-right values.
It also looks at areas that represent ‘unfinished business’ for the European People’s Party (EPP), including socio-economic and socio-cultural questions and the notions of social market. The author argues that member states and member parties of the EPP should lead the debate on ethics, values and religion.
Within the atmosphere of pluralism, dialogue and tolerance, the EPP should continuously cherish its Christian roots and values while responding to the economic, social and cultural realities of the day. The party should also leave enough room for those that belong to non Christian religions and have other beliefs and convictions.Christian Democracy Immigration Religion
Ethics and Religion: What’s the EU Got to Do with It?
07 Oct 2015
‘50 Years of Christian Democratic Cooperation in the EUREGIO’, by Shira Godfried, describes the history of five decades of the EUREGIO, summarises the achievements in cross-border cooperation in the German-Dutch EUREGIO and formulates recommendations on how border regions can play a role in the current EU. This book, published by the Centre for European Studies and the CDA-CDU EUREGIO Association, is on one hand a chronicle, and on the other a guideline for newer methods of cooperation in Europe. It sheds light on the future, describes expectations and formulates recommendations on how bordering regions can play a meaningful role in the current EU. Cross-border cooperation has contributed significantly to the European integration process in various Euroregions in past decades. Political cooperation, in which bordering countries make joint decisions, has proven its value in the German-Dutch Euroregion, the oldest Euroregion of all. Moreover, this book examines the Christian Democratic cooperation between CDU and CDA, but also ascertains that cooperation in border regions is often only made possible by special personal efforts.Christian Democracy
50 Years of Christian Democratic Cooperation in the EUREGIO
01 Apr 2015
The European People’s Party (EPP) examined its values at the Bucharest Congress in October 2012. The result of this reassessment, the Bucharest Party Platform, affirmed the six core values of the EPP: the dignity of human life in every stage of its existence, freedom and responsibility, equality and justice, truth, solidarity and subsidiarity. These values are inspired by the Christian Democratic philosophy. Although today’s EPP includes also parties that do not consider themselves Christian Democratic, all member parties of the EPP draw inspiration from these values. After an exploration of the foundation of the EPP, this paper examines the party’s core values, tracing their origins to religious writings. The paper outlines how these values translate into the practical policies of the EPP: the party’s response to Europe’s economic crisis and addressing issues around free movement and access to social benefits in the EU. The paper demonstrates that values underpin the party’s policies but also that practical politics leaves room for interpretation.Christian Democracy Ethics European People's Party Religion Values
The Christian Democratic Origins of the European People’s Party
11 Dec 2014
The Centre for European Studies (CES), the official think tank and political foundation of the European People’s Party (EPP), has been renamed in honour of its late President, Wilfried Martens. The Centre will now be called the ‘Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies’.
In conjunction with the name change, the Centre also changed its logo and can now be found online at www.martenscentre.eu.
During his presidency, Wilfried Martens was deeply committed to, and engaged in, the Centre’s activities. His lifelong motto ‘Thinking Europe’ has guided the Centre since its inception in 2007. ‘Wilfried Martens was the key driver in the development of the CES – now Martens Centre,’ said Tomi Huhtanen, director of the Centre. ‘The objectives of the Centre and the values it represents are inspired directly by him.’
During the EPP Congress plenary session on Thursday, the Centre’s current President and former Prime Minister of Slovakia, Mikuláš Dzurinda, praised Wilfried Martens for his life’s work: ‘The European Union is today a stronger project thanks to his contribution and the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies will continue this work. […] the legacy lives on.’Centre-Right Christian Democracy Leadership Values
Centre for European Studies renamed in honour of its founder Wilfried Martens
10 Mar 2014
Looking back at an eventful 2013, the CES continues to expand its network of like-minded organisations that now includes 29 members, as well as its strategic partnerships with organisations (International Republican Institute, Hudson Institute). Our online reach has quadrupled from last year, while our experts face daily requests from policy-makers and international media to provide opinions and expertise on the latest European developments.Centre-Right Christian Democracy EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party
Activity Report 2013
30 Dec 2013
The peaceful dissolution of the Czechoslovak federation in January 1993 has been the precondition for the excellent cooperation between Czechia and Slovakia as two independent countries today. This was an agreement among the speakers at the conference ‘Separate, Yet Together’, which I attended on 17 April 2013 in Prague. The conference was the first event that the CES had with our Czech member foundation, the European Academy for Democracy and also the first with one of our Slovak member foundations, the Anton Tunega Foundation. These foundations are affiliated with their respective Czech and Slovak Christian Democratic parties, the Christian Democratic Union (KDU-ČSL; CZ) and Christian Democratic Movement (KDH; SL), and this was the first ever CES event with both the EAD and the NAT.
The conference was very good on content. It included first-hand accounts of some direct participants of the Czech-Slovak constitutional negotiations in the years 1990-1992. For example, the then Czech Prime Minister (1990-1992), Petr Pithart, recounted examples of volatile behaviour of then Slovak leader, Vladimír Mečiar (who later went to install a somewhat authoritarian regime in independent Slovakia). Many Slovaks and Czechs still mourn the common state and regret the split of Czechoslovakia.
Nevertheless, as some participants at the conference put it, had the Czechs and Slovaks stayed together in one state, the relations would not be as friendly as they are, as representations of the respective nations would be engaged in a prolonged struggle over policy competences and the shape of the federal constitution.
The speakers, among them historians, discussed also the causes of the Czech-Slovak split. Among them were uncompromising attitudes and disregard for the issue of Slovak autonomy by some Czech politicians; cultural and historical differences; an absence of constitutional mechanisms to resolve disputes, and arguments over economic policy that culminated after the fall of the communist regime in 1989. I was surprised to hear the results of opinion polls on Czech-Slovak relations, which were conducted as early as 1947.
The politicians present stated that the EU offers a good institutional framework for Czech-Slovak cooperation. Ján Figeľ, the chairman of KDH explained the importance of the EU for Slovakia: Without the EU, Slovakia would have economic and legal problems. Pavel Bělobrádek, the chairman of KDU-ČSL, stated that we need ‘second wave of European integration’ to overcome nationalist passions that are re-emerging in the EU as a result of the European economic crisis. Expressions of solidarity among the EU nations are required more than ever. Jan Surotchak of the International Republican Institute mentioned that the resistance of the Slovak non-profit sector against the authoritarian rule of Vladimír Mečiar up to 1998 serves as a source of inspiration for standing up to authoritarian rulers worldwide.
I was very interested to listen to Petr Pithart, who again proved that he is not only an able politician but also incisive thinker and historian. He spoke about problems with identity that the Czechs now experience. Historically, they were always part of a large state entity. However, after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, they have become, for the first time in history, ‘alone’ in their state, without a significant presence of other ethnic groups. They are weary of the world beyond the Czech borders and are ‘getting on each other’s nerves.’
The conference was also an opportunity for the Slovak and Czech Christian Democratic parties to meet. The currently more successful Slovak Christian Democrats were, in fact, repaying a visit of the Czech party to Bratislava a year ago. The chairmen of the two parties expressed their readiness to continue working together in promoting the common values.Vít Novotný Centre-Right Christian Democracy Democracy EU Member States
Separate, yet Together: Reflecting on Czech-Slovak Relations
13 May 2013
The aim of this study is to explore the changes in the religious and ideological landscape of the Netherlands and how they impact on existing social relations. What place do religion and philosophy have in society and how should government relate to them? This theme is at the heart of Christian Democracy. The rationale for this is that Christian Democracy sees man as a rational being who seeks to find meaning in life. How people behave socially and politically cannot be considered separately from each individual’s inner calling. What is at stake is the deepest motivation of human beings to determine their identity at the deepest level. It can therefore be seen that the body of ideas of Christian Democracy and the movement’s legitimacy are closely linked to the right of citizens to organise themselves in social groups on the basis of their religion or faith. This report does indicate that the manifestations of religion and faith may well be subject to change, but for many people these convictions continue to represent an important source of inspiration. Tried and tested principles will therefore be revisited in this report taking into account the changes apparent in religion, society and government. It cannot be stressed enough that such values as freedom, pluriformity and tolerance are of crucial importance for a harmonious society.Christian Democracy Ethics Religion Society Values
Faith and Society: Christian Democratic reflections on the place of religion and ideology in the public domain
10 Dec 2012
Centre-Right Christian Democracy EU Member States Political Parties Values
Canon of Dutch Christian Democracy
02 Apr 2012
The major crises of the 21st century, an age of geopolitical change and spreading turbo-Keynesianism, show us how quickly the democratic and free West can ostensibly lose ground. This is why society needs solid foundations more than ever before. In the recent past, “conservative” was often illustrated by the image of a person who is still skeptical about the Internet, who doesn’t know what “social networking” means and whose spouse fetches his slippers and prepares his meals: in short, someone who is fearful, suspicious and old-fashioned. A large part of the public associates conservatism with precisely these qualities. Hence the main purpose of this volume: to provide a fundamental overview of what conservatism means: conservatism as a compass in a increasingly complex world.Centre-Right Christian Democracy Party Structures Political Parties
The Many Faces of Conservatism: The Essence, History and Future of Conservative Thought
05 Dec 2011
Wilfried Martens has devoted his entire life to politics: as student leader, youth activist, President of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the European People’s Party and European statesman. In his autobiography Martens offers the inside story on running a complex country like Belgium, fighting for European integration and unification, and transforming the European People’s Party into a strong, united centre-right movement and leading European political family. Above all, this is book about the intricacies of European politics and its guiding ideas, values and principles.Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Leadership Values
Europa: Lluitar, Sobreviure
01 Dec 2011
The worldwide economic crisis and the citizen’s crisis of lack of confidence in institutions, politics and the economy means that it has become necessary to scrutinize fundamental political values and economic practices (e.g. quantitative easing), as well as their suitability for the future, much more critically if western democracies intend to maintain their legitimacy and not give way to post-democratic conditions in the medium-to-long term provoked by angry citizens and bureaucracies. The collection of essays in this book discusses weak points and fractures in the political system and shows how reverting to conservative virtues can make democracies and the economy prosper once again. These conservative corrections are a signal that a political life exists outside of utilitarian-materialistic intellectual uniformity.Christian Democracy Democracy Economy
02 Sep 2011
Wilfried Martens has devoted his entire life to politics: as student leader, youth activist, President of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the European People’s Party and European statesman. In his autobiography, President Martens offers the inside story on running a complex country like Belgium, fighting for European integration and unification, and transforming the European People’s Party into a strong, united centre-right movement and leading European political family. Above all, this is a book about the intricacies of European politics and its guiding ideas, values and principlesCentre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Leadership Values
Europa : lupt şi înving
01 Sep 2011
The European People’s Party, the largest political party in Europe, has roots that run deep in history. Founded in 1976 as a Christian Democratic federation, the European People’s Party is now a strong centre-right movement and a leading European political family. It has member parties in almost all European countries, and it is very well represented in the institutions of the European Union.
This book tells the story of the European People’s Party: why it was founded, how it is currently organised and what its guiding ideas, values and principles are. It gives an up-to-date account of the party’s contribution to European integration, its work with its member parties and its central role in organising the centre-right in Europe. Above all, this book is for everyone who wants to know what a European-level political party looks like, how it is structured and how it acts.Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Integration Values
At Europe’s Service: The Origins and Evolution of the European People’s Party
04 Apr 2011
This publication is a collection of ideas and thoughts, which according to the authors in no way pretend to be “the truth”. Rather than formulate an easy answer, in this document, the attempt was to search for the right questions. The direct impetus for this kind of book was the outcome of the evaluation of the CD&V’s electoral defeat in June 2010. It became clear that one of the weak points was the lack of a clear long-term vision. This text is aligned with the principles of Christian Democracy in the determination of socio-economic policy. These actualized principles should be the leitmotif in the decision-making processes, that is to say, the daily application of the principles. Christian Democracy is present all over the Europe, and many of the challenges that CD&V is facing are similar to those that other Christian Democratic parties are facing. Therefore, this book is a space for discussion, it is not the end of a series of debates but rather the beginning.Christian Democracy Economy Society
Applied Christian Democracy: the Rhineland Model
02 Dec 2010
In the 2009 elections, the European centre-right emerged victorious, thus affirming its political domination in contemporary European politics. The aim of this book is not to provide an analysis of the factors that contributed to the EPP’s political prevalence. Instead, it is to help this large political family maintain its vigour of political thought and policy prescriptions. The book provides a forum for prominent centre-right thinkers to debate the major European problems of our times, with particular emphasis on the management of the financial crisis and the next institutional steps regarding the European integration project. It assembles the views of politicians, academics and think-tank fellows from different national backgrounds and dissimilar ideological perspectives (Christian Democrats, conservatives and neo-liberals) who unfold their vision for Europe’s future. Moreover, it reflects the origins of contemporary European centre-right parties in order to reaffirm the core values and main priorities that have historically informed their policies. Overall, the book attempts to both highlight and stimulate the centre-right contribution to the discussion of Europe’s main contemporary challenges.Centre-Right Christian Democracy Crisis European People's Party European Union
Reforming Europe: The Role of the Centre-Right
18 Dec 2009
This study is an exploration of the principal characteristics of the Christian Democratic portrayal of mankind with a view to the discussion on the reformation of social institutions. There is a loss of self-evident social, moral and religious ‘horizons’ which determine the human scale. Modern societies have an fundamental attitude which is determined by a way of thinking which is unilaterally focused on effectiveness and control. The emphasis on use and efficiency results in a unilateral annexation of our creativity and responsibility and our ability to be involved and to cooperate. A politic which remains stuck in an oration of rationality, technology, control and individualism is not suitable to see into today’s problems, let alone solve them. we should look for ‘more subtle languages’ which could connect the ideological perspectives of meaningfulness with our social and economical reality.Christian Democracy Religion Society Values
Man, where are you? An exploration of the Christian Democratic portrayal of mankind
11 Dec 2008
Wilfried Martens has devoted his entire life to politics: as student leader, youth activist, President of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the European People’s Party and European statesman. In his autobiography, President Martens offers the inside story on running a complex country like Belgium, fighting for European integration and unification, and transforming the European People’s Party into a strong, united centre-right movement and leading European political family. Above all, this is a book about the intricacies of European politics and its guiding ideas, values and principles.Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Leadership Values
Europe: I Struggle, I Overcome
11 Nov 2008
What kind of Europe do we want to have? In order to answer this question we must consider the past, present and future. When we look at the past we see a rich European tradition and culture, and a Europe that stands for strong values that are still alive today. In the present we see decreasing involvement in Europe. When looking to the future we see questions for which common policies are necessary. What kind of future is desirable for the European Union from a Christian democratic perspective, and from the same perspective, what are the available means for improving citizen involvement in the European Union? We seek the answer along three lines. First of all we consider the values that Europe represents. We subsequently look at the present day reality of the EU and examine ambitions that the EU holds. We conclude with suggestions for how to strengthen the relationship between the EU and its citizens.Christian Democracy European Union Religion Society Values
The citizen and Europe – A Christian democratic vision for the EU community
01 Oct 2008