Wednesday, December 29, 2004

How open is Europe?

Die Welt asks that question in reviewing the "year in Europe": how inclusive is Europe, either as a civilization or as a political entity? The Union had its largest expansion; a semi-Asian nation just reformed itself (and revoted) in the name of becoming more European; and the centrality of Christianity has come under scrutiny. As the definition of Europeanness is becoming more diffuse, resting on a constellation of political institutions, social relations, culture and religion, it must also deal with its own exceptionalism--and whether or not its exceptionalism allows for the proliferation and replication of its own example.

The most obvious focal point is religion. The ascension of Turkey into the EU is finally being taken seriously (even if it is not universally popular). The Turkish prime minister asserts that the specifics of history, culture and faith are less important than the acceptance of political values that are currently valid in European countries:
The EU is neither a union of coal and steel, nor of geography, nor of only economies. It is a community of political values. It has to be an address where civilizations meet and harmonize.
Is part of the process learning to bridge differences rather than fortify them into divisions? Islam is not sufficiently un-Europe in order to exclude Turkey--or Muslims. However, this may be a Jabèsian impasse: the inclusion of Turks, and Muslims, may be nothing more than an accommodation with a people who have assimilated, and not inherited, European civilization.

But is the question about religion in particular or about faith and secularism? The place of the Church in the creation of European civilization has been controversial. The Papacy has argued (and I would agree) that Christianity, even Catholicism in specific, has been central to the emergence of European institutions as they are taking shape within the EU. The beatifications of Karl I and Robert Schuman are evidence of how willing the Papacy is to prove this point. And although secularism and suspicion of faith are not limited to Christianity (hence the war on the veil), the drive to dissociate modern society from religion impoverishes its inheritance of civilization:
Et là est bien le problème : à trop vouloir refuser de parler de Dieu - ou de le voir, même dans les représentations d'une imagerie populaire -, au nom d'une prétendue laïcité, on en oublie notre histoire culturelle et les fondements de notre mémoire collective ... Etre laïque, c'est être indépendant de toute confession religieuse : indépendant, et non intolérant.

On a related note, I want to draw attention to Daniel Riot's piece at Europeus. He argues that anti-globalization movements, environmentalists in particular, that would oppose the creation of a constitution should consider that they would benefit from a unified European position on Kyoto and other matters of industrial emissions.

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