Veranstaltungen: Dokumentation

17.9.2003 | Von:
Dilip Simeon

Disputing a New World order: the position of Europe in the Transatlantic context

Abstract

1./ Concept Summary - The conference has been organised as part of a process of reflection necessitated by the debate about the future EU Constitution. The concept paper requires us to consider the following problems:

1.1/ European integration seems to be accompanied by "reduced awareness" of the ingredients of European identity; European culture may already have been subsumed by ‘western culture´ dominated by the US;

1.2/ Do "European sensibilities" such as an awareness of history, complexity, reflectiveness, scepticism, experience in dealing with difference, with conflict, catastrophe and defeat, social responsibility - play a role today? How do these issues influence debate on the role of Europe in the new global power relationships, and new concepts of values and of democracy?

1.3/ The EU's enlargement will require new political and legislative instruments. The Convention is preparing the framework for a European Constitution. What kind of Europe should follow the enlargement process, how do we face challenges in cultural work and civic education processes

1.4/ The power-play between "Old Europe" and the USA, the differences over the Iraq war, require debate on Europe's role in a new world order. The conference must debate common components of Europe's future direction and outline methods to help Europe discover its identity.

2./ Observations The central themes in the concept note are European identity, Europe´s political structure, and its role in the new world order; and the inter-connections between these.

2.1/ In the ongoing debates, European identity has been cast in religious traditions, and some want to mention Christianity in the constitution. It has also been posed in the sense of ‘civilisation´. I would like to question the manner in which identity is defined, and the purpose for which it is raised in the context of drafting a constitution. Culture and identity are like the air we breathe. Left to themselves, they are fluid, and resistant to compartmentalisation. When politicised, subjected to definition by political or religious authorities or worse still, a combination of the two, identity carries the potential of nurturing an exclusivist, intolerant public culture.

Christian civilisation is indeed a great exemplar of European culture (although the religion originated in Palestine. If you want to mention it in your constitution, why exclude Palestine from the EU?). However, Christianity has also contributed to some of the most oppressive and cruel political and cultural practices seen by humanity, foremost among them being anti-semitism, the inquisition, patriarchy, imperialism and racism. Even today one section of Christianity has not come to terms with the thundering silence of Eugenio Pacelli during the second World War. I would advise caution before including Christianity in any constitutional document. Let the bureaucrats and politicians leave religion and civilisation to an ongoing public debate and contention, rather than insert it artificially into a legal instrument.

In this concept note, "European sensibility" has also been defined as an awareness of history, complexity, reflectiveness, scepticism, experience in dealing with difference, with conflict, catastrophe and defeat, social responsibility. While this definition may also be questioned, it is more appropriate to approach identity thus, in terms of values. Because these things are found in other cultures as well, and because values have universal appeal, this kind of definition will enable non-European peoples to feel an affinity towards Europe, and will conduce towards a healthy dialogue. The crux of the matter is whether your self-definition is rigid and exclusive, or flexible and inclusive

2.2/ The discussions about the mix between integration and federalism, are marked by anxiety. It is best to address directly the fear of being dominated by bigger and older members, the fear of local cultures being swamped, etc. in the media and civil society, rather than bringing it into the drafting process in legal language. This requires that a clear vision or ideal be articulated, debated in rational terms. Thus, should the question of preservation of local traditions be mixed up with the need to have commonly enforceable rights, regulations over production processes, labour law, etc? It is quite feasible to combine respect for locality with a regime of universal citizenship, providing that you agree on your values and ideals, the zones where you want to preserve unique-ness, and those that require regulation.

2.3/ The "new world order". The concept note chose to name this session, "the position of Europe in the Transatlantic context". Posing it in thus amounts to putting the cart before the horse. Why does the new Europe need to define its position in a "transatlantic context" at all, rather than an Asian, West Asian, or global one? If at the very outset of a new beginning, your self-definition starts with Atlantic power (read the USA), the entire debate about the future becomes useless, a foregone conclusion. There are many peoples around the world - not all of them Arabs and Muslims - who have been at the receiving end of Western and American imperialist violence, aggression and hypocrisy. Do you want even now, to give them old wine in a not-so-new bottle?

The regime currently in power in the USA is tainted with some of the worst political extremisms that Europe knew in the 1930's: xenophobia, the militarisation of civic culture, imperial arrogance, the politicisation of Revenge, and a contempt for international law, institutions and treaties. This regime speaks in an infantilist language to its own and the worlds´ citizens, as if to laugh at our capacity to think for ourselves. It is imperative that the rest of the world NOT identify Europe as the faithful rubber-stamp of American interests. Remember the millions of Americans who think differently from the current commanders of American state power, and think of the future, when the West will need to present a different face to the world than George Bush and Tony Blair.

The debate about Europe´s identity, its constitution and its global role, is linked to the age-old discourse of universality and particularity. We have to live with both categories, substantiated in terms of law, citizenship and regulation on the one hand, combined with culture, language and tradition on the other. There is no need to juxtapose these categories. Universality and particularity begin to contend when the latter masquerades as the former, as in the current Anglo-American insistence that their latest expedition into Iraq was necessitated by the universal needs of humanity. Most people in my part of the world can see through hypocrisy, and it would be wise to refrain from entangling Europe´s future in a web of deception.

If the future of Europe is to include a contribution to a more humane, less violent global order, it needs to rediscover its great social-democratic traditions, make strenuous efforts at overcoming the brutal legacy of imperialism (not least of these is the ghettofication of Palestine), and present a new version of your identity to the world.


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