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Diversity and poverty mishandled by EU, says former President of South Africa F. W. de Klerk

08 June 2018


F W de Klerk (right) interviewed by Lord Daniel Finkelstein

F W de Klerk (right) interviewed by Lord Daniel Finkelstein

THE resurgence of populist nationalism around the world stems from failures to manage diversity and poverty, the former President of South Africa and Nobel Laureate F. W. de Klerk said on Monday.

Mr de Klerk was speaking at a dinner at Lambeth Palace to mark the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ). It was founded in 1942 by Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz and Archbishop William Temple.

Taking questions from the Conservative peer and Associate Editor of The Times, Lord Finkelstein, Mr de Klerk said: “If I look at the European Union. . . I think the federalists went too far with federalisation of Europe, and that has, and is, upsetting the nation states forming part of the European Union, because they feel that their heritage, their identity, is being threatened, that there is too much control from Brussels by bureaucrats instead of their sovereignty being sufficiently recognised.

“So, I think what we are experiencing, to a certain extent, is a backlash against mishandling or mismanagement of diversity.”

This failure to manage diversity was evident, he said, in conflicts across the world, which were “not wars between countries: it’s wars between people living in the same country. It’s the failure to manage religious diversity or ethnic diversity or cultural diversity or linguistic diversity.”

Other populist movements, he said, had arisen as a result of the “big gap” between the “undernourished one third” of the world’s population and “the two-thirds who have a relatively good life”. It was important, he said, to find ways “to improve the quality of life of that two billion, two-and-a-half billion, who don’t know what they’re going to eat tonight, who don’t have a proper roof over their head”.

Asked how he would resolve the deadlock in Israel-Palestine, Mr de Klerk said that “two major initiatives” were required.

“The one is [that] the right of the State of Israel to exist as a state needs to be acknowledged unconditionally. The other is [that] the borders of the Palestinian states — I’m a believer in the two-state solution — should be defined in a way which is fair and equitable. . .

“Israel needs to do something about the borders; the Palestinians need to do something about the right of Israel to exist. Now, which one must come first? It’s not for me to say, but in our case, I had to go first, because I held the reins of power. . .

“But these two initiatives, I think, if taken in a proper way, in whatever order, in Israel and Palestine, will remove some of the major prohibitions against meaningful negotiation which exist at the moment.”

Mr de Klerk also spoke of his friendship with Nelson Mandela, with whom he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He praised Mandela’s “remarkable lack of bitterness after 27 years in jail”, and “his total commitment to reconciliation”. The “bond which tied us together”, Mr de Klerk said, was “our mutual belief in the need for reconciliation, moving only into the future and not being caught up in recriminations about the past”.

Listen to an extract of the conversation on the Church Times Podcast

Marc MorrisLord Farmer of Bishopsgate, Vice Chair of CCJ; Lord Daniel Finkelstein; Elita de Klerk; F W de Klerk; Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis; the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Chair of CCJ; Lord Howard of Lympney, Trustee of CCJ; Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko, Director of CCJ, at Lambeth Palace


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