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Religion and Society

Although Imperfect and Fragmented the Union Raises the Stakes

Between ‘inside’ Euroscepticisms and ‘outside’ Euroenthusiasm, Europe has experienced in many of its streets seasons of protest. But for Martin Schulz, the President of the Parliament in Strasbourg, even though it does not always know how to provide answers to the requests of its citizens, the European project still offers the only viable pathway that can be followed.

A German from Hehlrath, born in 1955, the last of five siblings, he left his studies after secondary school to become a librarian at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s. His encounter with active politics took place when he was only nineteen and entered the Germany Social Democratic Party, with which he will always been connected. A brilliant career in his homeland led on to a seat as a Member of the European Parliament in 1994, up to his election as its president in 2012, a mandate that has been renewed after the European elections of May 2014.

 

 

President, a scholar such as Benoît Chantre, a pupil of René Girard, has spoken about the crisis of institutions as a fact that is by now evident. Caused by the extreme acceleration of processes of communications and relations as well, this crisis is said to be being transformed into a decomposition of institutions (of the state, of associations and of families) which leaves the field free for mounting violence. How do you assess this interpretation from the heart of Europe?

 

 

As regards the European level, I do not feel that I can define the crisis of institutions as a fact that is by now evident. I believe, however, that the economic crisis of recent years has disclosed all the weaknesses of a system that is still unable to assure true solidarity between European States. The European institutions were not able to react in a courageous way to the crisis that arrived from across the Atlantic and they did not manage to perform the role of being that drivers of recovery which institutions in the United States of America showed themselves to be. I believe, in fact, that at the basis of the strong feeling of distrust, and of the popular reactions which have at times been fiery, there has been the disappointing management of the crisis at the level of the Union and the economic difficulties that families have had to address without the necessary support of institutions. A support that was instead incumbent and which Europeans expected from a Union which in reality has economic development as its first objective and care for the citizenry as its flag.

 

Then I see the sense of being abandoned felt by Europeans as having been increased by politics that is too vertical in character and a slave of the inter-governmental method. The preponderant role entrusted to the European Council, on which sit the heads of state and government of the member states, has marked a strong institutional distance from the citizens of the Union, raising the problem of the democratic solidity of the European project. A European Union that has demonstrated its inability for leadership and given too much space to short-sighted nationalistic dynamics and where overbearing interplays of power have had too much impact to the injury of the weakest countries, with severe consequences for the local populations. Things would have turned out very differently if the crisis had been managed according to the Community method, with a greater involvement of the parliaments and the citizens of the Union, and the consequent adoption of different, and probably better, policies in response to the crisis.

 

 

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