Seeking what’s best in the offer” “

It’s interesting to note that the post-Communist countries (irrespective of the different mentalities of the individual nations) have in common not only the sad experience of the past, but also their similar way of reacting to current developments, especially their entry into the European Union. Similar in them all was the end of the Communist system, with the initial phase of enthusiasm and great hopes, which soon succumbed to crisis. Well trained politicians and civil servants were lacking. Former exponents of the Communist systems spontaneously returned to their former jobs, disguised in the meantime in the colours of various parties. The waves of new promises, new governments, new disappointments followed. The result was a certain disillusion, which helped the spread of corruption. Realizing the failure to reform the political and economic situation “at home”, people’s gaze, and people’s hopes, were spontaneously turned abroad. Those who dream are all too willing to believe in their dreams. EU membership was initially presented with perhaps too enthusiastic and unilateral a propaganda. The examples of Portugal, of Ireland, were paraded to suggest an immediate growth in economic performance. The names of the “Founding Fathers of United Europe” such as Adenauer and Schuman were declaimed, and the Pope’s declarations cited, to foster the illusion that entry into the EU would be like entering an earthly paradise with guaranteed prosperity, political stability and a Christian environment where the faithful could finally contribute to “giving more soul” to Europe. The unilateral glorification of the EU inevitably provoked its unilateral demonization on the other side. What is sure is that we will not enter the same EU that existed when we began our membership negotiations. Today the EU itself is going through an undeniable crisis of identity. The disillusion of the countries of Eastern Europe is being reinforced by worries about the future. Why? A massive propaganda prior to the referendums paid by the governments (in Slovakia the government allocated over a million euros to the campaign) unconsciously reminded us of the “years of official propaganda”, and triggered an attitude of rejection. And the corruption scandals linked to the pro-Europe propaganda are multiplying. Another reason is that various extremist political groups appeal to EU legislation as a way of defending their own rights at home. The economic concerns are another matter. Those who have been working for years in neighbouring countries (Austria, Germany, Great Britain) have a sad experience of the lack of social and cultural acceptance. How shall we co-exist after enlargement? Some surveys conducted in Western countries on how citizens think they will co-exist with the new citizens from Eastern Europe are worrying: a high percentage of ignorance and disinterest has emerged. In general it may be said that the time for decisions has come in a situation of perplexity that has a need for time to mature, to balance extremes, to unmask false idealism and scepticism. The only certain thing is that there is no alternative for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. We must accept the offer and then seek what’s best in it. This situation undoubtedly poses great challenges to the Churches. They will have to adopt new pastoral styles. In the formulation of the ideological make-up of Europe, discussion at the philosophic and religious level should offer wider scope to avoid the errors of the past. Also worrying is the emphasis placed on economics to the detriment of cultural development. Despite the fact that solidarity is being hailed as a fundamental principle of the EU, the process of uncurbed privatization in the post-Communist countries confirms the growing gulf between the richer who are getting richer and the poor who are getting poorer. There are hopes, but above all there is the consciousness that there is no alternative and that as Christians we are called to perform our mission in this historical context. Marian Gavenda

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