23 June 2003

The dangers of a European Union

Last week I wrote of the loss of a sense of homeland in a united Europe. Mary Jo Anderson writes further about "Ungodly Ways: The Dark Side of the European Union," in the June issue of the conservative Catholic monthly, Crisis. This dark side could be manifested in the Convention on the Future of Europe's effort to draw up a new European constitution. With the secularization of most of Europe following the Second World War, there are fears among those countries, such as Poland, that have retained more of their christian identity, that European laws and courts will enforce legalized abortion and euthanasia on them despite the wishes of their citizens and parliamentarians.

Ambitious politicians, willing to sacrifice national sovereignty for a more powerful European state, are embracing anti-Christian policies in the name of inclusiveness and tolerance. At stake are democratic self-determination for nations and traditional cultural values and legal freedoms for Christians and others to practice their faith in peace and security....

If the constitution is accepted, the centralizing power of the EU will threaten the national laws of all member countries. Some European nations have constitutions that acknowledge God, protect life, and defend the family. Others do not. Without an explicit reference to God and the Christian heritage of Europe—as religious leaders have requested—the proposed constitution will lack a vital framework for interpreting human rights, family law, and traditional values.

In its 1992 Maastricht Treaty the European Union embraced the principle of subsidiarity, whereby most tasks are to be left to the governmental body at the lowest level, the higher levels assuming responsibility only for those tasks common to the whole union. But this may not necessarily work as intended, as pointed out by Brigham Young University law professor, Richard G. Wilkins:

Though the charter is supposed to observe the principle of subsidiarity, it “provides, at best, a weak protection for the unique constitutional traditions of EU member states.” Wilkins draws a parallel between the charter and the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was intended to “safeguard state governments from federal encroachment” but that “has not prevented the U.S. legislature and United States courts from expanding their power.” Wilkins is not optimistic: “Comparative constitutional history suggests that once broad central powers are created, it is quite difficult to retain the vibrancy of the unique legal voices and constitutional experiences of the constituent states within a federal system.”

This should give us all pause, especially those of us favourable to the half-century-old project for European integration. Yet I have my doubts that the move towards "deepening" the EU will move along quite so quickly and dramatically, particularly since the "broadening" of the Union with an additional ten members will take up so much of the energy of the so-called eurocrats in Brussels. The notion that Europe will now speak with a single voice in the international arena, much less enforce a single secularist worldview on its member states, seems a bit of a stretch. It could happen, but probably not yet.

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