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Europe must rediscover its moral mission, report urges

29 January 2016


Shining light? An illuminated symbol of the EU, with Kievsky train station in the background, in the Square of Europe, Moscow, on Monday

Shining light? An illuminated symbol of the EU, with Kievsky train station in the background, in the Square of Europe, Moscow, on Monday

EUROPE has lost its soul, and must rediscover is "moral mission" if it is to survive, a report from the think tank Theos suggests.

In the report, A Soul for the Union, Ben Ryan argues that the EU has morphed from a body based on moral values, dedicated to improving the well-being of its citizens, to one in which economic performance is "an end in itself". It is sustained today, he warns, only "by the will of political elites without much regard to public enthusiasm, legitimisation or, indeed, interest".

"Europe has lost its soul — its real sense of both what it essentially is and why it exists," he writes. To develop a meaningful identity, it must remember its Christian roots.

Mr Ryan, who draws in the report on his research for an M.Sc. at the London School of Economics, accuses both sides of the debate on Britain’s EU membership of propagating "myths, scaremongering stories and half-truths", and concludes that they have reduced the debate to "a contest between economic calculations".

Staking the identity and value of the EU on economic success is dangerous, he argues, not only because it places it "at the mercy of global economic trends", but because it will "never be able to inspire genuine solidarity. . . Authentic political affection and identity is based on deeper bonds than the promise of a slightly improved national economy."

The report considers the recent history of the EU, including the eurozone crisis. The EU is "seen to be imposing austerity upon its citizens in the face of overwhelming democractic opposition in some satates", it warns. "Protecting the euro and reducing the deficit have become a far greater concern than protecting vulnerable people or supporting employment."

The report includes a survey of the foundations of the European project, "one that was fundamentally moral and based on the principle of solidarity", which was drawn from Christian theories.

While distancing himself from calls for the resurrection of Christendom, he argues that "a Europe that does not remember what it is and where it has come from is weaker for that failure. To develop a really meaningful identity for Europe . . . the Christian element must be remembered."

The rediscovery of the EU’s identity and "moral mission" may be "impossble", he acknowledges. But he refers to responses to the environmental crisis as an area of "legitimate and serious progress".

Among the "concrete steps" he sets out are: action to resolve the refugee crisis, a directly elected president of the European Commission, and placing a "social element" at the heart of economic policy.

The report was funded by the Christian Political Foundation for Europe, which supports the European Christian Political Movement, a political party.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States within the Holy See, told ITV this week that the Vatican wanted the UK to stay in the EU. It was a case of "better in than out", he said.

The report is downloadable at www.theosthinktank.co.uk.


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