Contra Mundum Essay Collection: Thomas Schirrmacher

Problems with the Unification of Europe

by Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher

Antithesis 1991

At present nobody knows how a united Europe ever could function, because the values, traditions and law systems of the European countries are so different. But parliaments and politicians are deciding nearly every week on new laws which try to unite the member countries of the 'European community' (EEC) in certain areas like the production of beer, the use of cars, taxes or the question of people asking for asylum. A lot of Europeans only see the economic advantages of this. They probably will start to change their mind, if they belong to one of the countries which will increase sales taxes to the new European standard (in Germany probably from 14 to 17%). But there is nearly no discussion on the ethical side of the question. The values and laws of the different countries are taken as the product of chance, which can be changed and adapted to a common standard without further discussion. But everybody believing that God's law is the standard for the ethics of every state and the relationship between states can easily see serious ethical problems in the unification of Europe, some of which I will mention briefly.

1. The economic spirit is still the old state oriented and high tax attitude: All European countries have protected their market for centuries. More and more they realized that the different laws and taxes ruling the trade between the countries ruined their economies. But they did not want the easy solution, a real free market economy. Instead they just created a bigger market - Europe - with the same old economic boundaries and restrictive laws at the borders of Europe.

2. The lowest level of ethical values in one country becomes the standard of all countries: Equal rights for all Europeans does not mean that all Europeans come under God's law, but that the lowest standard dictates the 'rights' in other countries. If an Italian is allowed to do something, which is forbidden for me in Germany, I can go to the European law court and fight for my rights. Until today I will not always succeed, but this will change in 1992, if everything becomes reality that is planned. In Great Britain it is forbidden to marry if you 'changed' your sex, getting a new name and passport, because it is felt to be (and it is!) homosexuality. Not so in the Netherlands. So someone in Britain went to the European law court to fight for her 'rights'. She did not succeed, but everybody knows she only needs to try it again in some years.

Take as another example the Lord's Day. We have countries with strict laws protecting the Sabbath even though for different reasons. In England it is the Reformed heritage. In Germany there are a lot of laws restricting shops from always being open and factories to be run at certain times and all of those restrictions include laws on Sunday. But we also have countries with much looser regulations for Sundays. Some of them, like Scotland, have no such laws, because the Sunday was always accepted and today the majorities are missing to make laws like England has, because there were problems with the Sunday always! In other countries the Sunday never was much enforced at all. With a possible unification, the Sunday might cease to be a special day in favour of a so called 'equal economic competition'.

3. The difference between Protestant and Catholic ethics and countries is neglected: This problem is especially true for the difference between the Catholic, orthodox and Protestant countries of Europe. Certain laws of God will be lost in the long run on both sides. Sometimes some of the Catholic countries have laws that enforce God's standards more than in the more Protestant countries, for example concerning abortion and family. Sometimes some of the Protestant countries are more on the side of God's laws, for example concerning economics, law courts or the rights of evangelical churches. Now the good will be given up to gain the 'rights' of every criminal act that is allowed in another country. Only sometimes the good will triumph. So in Greece the persecution of evangelical Christians through the state and the Greek Orthodox Church nearly stopped after Greece became member of the European market.

For me the European market is also a big deal to get rid of the differences between a Catholic and Protestant ethic of work. Nobody wants to know why the Catholic countries are much poorer. People in former communist East Germany felt poor although East Germany was richer than Spain or Italy!

Especially Germany does as if there would be no difference between the different Christians heritages, because it always was divided into a Catholic and a Protestant part, although the Catholic part most time was dominated by the 'Prussian spirit'. That the ethical values and fundaments of a state always are derived from religious values, is neglected, although most of the different European constitutions mention that they were written "in responsibility before God and men" (so the German constitution, the Irish constitution even mentions "the Holy Trinity"). How much the religious background for every state is denied by the architects of united Europe is proved by the discussion whether Turkey should become a member of the European market or not. (Turkey is associated with the EEC already!) In the moment it is not Islam that keeps Turkey out, but the persecution of the Kurds and the low level of income: it would cost the European countries too much.

4. Regions and states within the countries: Another big problem with the unification of Europe is, that most of the Protestant countries, especially Germany and Great Britain, are federations of states, while most Catholic countries, especially France, are much more centralised. In the federal republics the states hold certain rights. Scotland still has its own law system. In Germany the states govern for example education, certain taxes, the law courts, the bank system and the building of streets. Suddenly those states realize that they are loosing certain rights when the central government tries to adapt laws to the laws of the other member countries. Centralisation is on the march not only in the overall picture with a coming European government, but also on the local level.

If the European countries would concentrate on their God given task and right to fight criminal acts and the evil according to God's law, instead of managing economics and giving away billions of dollars to its people, it would be easier to combine local government with a free market. But soon the economic difference between the countries with a 'Protestant work ethics' (Max Weber) and other countries would show up and nobody wants to be reminded that religion makes a difference ... Instead of fighting criminals the united Europe will be the great day of the criminals. The criminals have a free market, but the police and the law courts still cannot cross the borders. (Imagine that German police could act and shoot on French soil!)

Copyright © 1991 Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher

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