European institutions “are the result of an extraordinary pacification and integration process”, but contemporary Europe “needs to be reassessed”. Marco Ventura teaches Ecclesial and Canonical Law at Leuven and Siena Universities. He authored the recently published volume titled: “Creduli e credenti. Il declino di Stato e Chiesa come questione di fede” (Credulous and believers. The decline of the State and the Church as a question of faith – trans.’s Note). He shared his reflections on the transformations needed to revamp the Community project, the role of the Churches, the upcoming elections for the European Parliament, with Gianni Borsa for SIR Europe. Professor, in less than three months citizens will be called to elect the members of new European Parliament. However, this exercise of democracy raises concerns regarding growing nationalisms, euroscepticism, and populist phenomena. As a jurist, what do you think of the recent developments in Community Treaties and institutions? Does their evolution respond to citizens’ expectations? “Institutions reflect those who produce them and inhabit them. The photomurals of Europeans hanging outside Brussels’ Parliament are there to remind us. European institutions are an extraordinary process of pacification and integration. It has been a gradually developing process. Two paths progressively extended and were drawn closer. One major road of the European Union – namely, the road of the single market, of the opening of borders, the free movement of people, free exchange of services, goods and capitals – has developed along with the path of rights, with the establishment of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Development in Europe. The two paths, that were previously parallel but apart, now converge in two points. But although elections involve the European Union, and although the presence of member States in the various organizations differs (Turkey, for example, is in the Council of Europe but not in the European Union), Europe’s institutional architecture needs being reassessed”. What is your advice? “In my opinion there are four major areas that deserve attention. First of all, the financial situation needs being reassessed along with BCE responsibilities and economic policies. Indeed, the economy has been the first thrust of European integration, but today it risks becoming its deadly disease. Second, the path of democratization ought to be pursued. May elections should not be an event in itself, but rather a confirmation of European structures’ availability towards civil society on a daily basis. Third, Europe should adopt the tools to become the protagonist of globalization. The European External Action Service should be strengthened along with the programs – notably in the realm of education and culture – through which Europe is projected beyond near and distant borders. Fourth, European organization should be geared at combating excessive red tape and standardized approaches”. In Europe there are those who believe that political integration has made far too much progress, others argue that there is “little Europe”. What is your opinion? “Future cannot be built with the predominance of one power over the other, but with the integration of powers. If the fight is between European and national power whoever wins will be a lame winner. Those who set the issue in these terms, including the Churches, have already lost. In fact, in so doing Europe plunges into an idolatry of the state or into supranational idolatry, no matter whether it is the idolatry of the free market or of human rights, it will be unable to meet the new needs of mankind. It’s a win-win game, however, if those who care about the integration between different governmental levels and tools prevail”. Do you think there is a relationship between the perception of European integration and the transformation of the “phenomenon of religion?” “Europe and religion have changed together. It’s impossible to distinguish between causes and effects. But transformation is there. In both cases it’s hard to come to grips with change. There is the temptation to idealize and regret what is no longer: the homeland, the nation, the nation-state, as well as the religion of our forefathers, the old Churches. But there is also a revision of memory, oblivion of tragedies and of the responsibilities in our family albums. The greater the latter, the more difficult becomes the interpretation of ongoing transformations. It was the case of the Christian roots of Europe, the politicization of the crucifix and the project of a European Christian civil religion. A mishmash of plans and concepts, a thought that is distant from the reality of yesterday and today”. Three words to encourage young European citizens to go to the polls in May. “First of all: ‘the past’, since preparation to vote opens one’s eyes to what has happened yesterday. By coming to grips with memory one observes and understands, discarding what one doesn’t want and embracing what we intend to pass on to the next generations. Then ‘present’: by performing their right to vote citizens are placed within contemporary reality, thereby reaffirming a responsibility of our times. Finally ‘future’, because the vote contributes to the development of our tomorrow, it lays the grounds and it will leave a mark”.
Marco Ventura, professor in Leuven (Belgium) and jurist, reflects on the future of EU integration