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Goulard (France), “it’s never too late to build Europe.” The value of dialogue, the role of the Christian community

The meeting attended by over 300 participants, held the Vatican, reflects on the possibility and need to relaunch the Community project. “It is necessary to restore citizens to their central role”, meeting their expectations, said the French economist and essayist, who cautioned: "there are many good reasons and an equal number of challenges ahead that require us to act in unison.” “Speaking as a Christian believer – she added – I consider nationalism, being closed to receive our neighbour and other people, is incompatible with the Gospel.” Anticipation for Pope Francis’ speech

“The European Union is not a ‘typical’ international organization of sovereign Countries. The preamble of the Treaty of Rome of 1957 calls for ‘an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe’, whose common goal is ‘the constant improvement of the living and working conditions of their peoples.’ Citizens enjoy rights, they can refer to the Court of Justice for protection, they are represented at the European Parliament. In theory – and they same should occur in practice – they are at the centre of the Community edifice.” Sylvie Goulard, French economist and essayist, advisor of Romano Prodi at the EU Commission, long-term MEP, for a short period Defence Minister in France immediately after the Presidential election of Emmanuel Macron, is a highly-respected voice in Catholic environments (she was a panel-speaker also in the latest plenary assembly of COMECE, the body that brings together the Bishops’ Conferences of EU Countries.). At the Vatican meeting “(Re)thinking Europe”, she was asked to share her contribution on the theme “Integration – Building bridges between and inside Member Countries.”

Hon. Goulard, you spoke about relaunching the EU. Some consider it a “mission impossible”… It’s never too late to build, to revitalize. This can be a favourable moment. Indeed, we are faced with high a number of problems, notably the threat of terrorism or the ongoing conflicts inside our Continent, nationalisms, along with the authoritarian drifts of many world governments, migratory pressures… These issues cannot be overlooked and they require specific answers.  But there are also a set of positive aspects, such as economic recovery – involving a consistent number of European Countries today. Recovery entails employment, family income and thus improved living conditions. Moreover, there are many good reasons and many challenges that prompt to close ranks, team up and act in unison at European level.

But these convergences are not easily put into practice, while opposing interests between the east and the west and the north and the south of Europe often prevail. Is this true?
It is, that’s why it is necessary to take steps towards each other, seeking to understand everyone’s motivations and

Acknowledging our increased interdependence,

that extends beyond national borders, grown across the years. Initiatives such as (Re)thinking Europe confirm that dialogue furthers understanding even between those with diverging views. More than ever, today the dialogue must take place between States, between the EU and civil society, between believers and non-believers.

It was said that the economic downturn is slowly being replaced by recovery. Has the debate on the economy taken over at EU level? 
First of all it should be said that the economic dimension should not be looked down upon. Economy, as previously mentioned, includes employment, income, wellbeing, territorial development. Without a strong economy there is no future for our children. Moreover, development encompasses innovation, research, digitalization, it places Europe on the forefront of modernization enabling her to be a competitor on the global scenario, near world giants such as China and the U.S.A.

Let’s go back to “rethinking Europe.” What is the role of the political realm? Politics should give a primary role to citizens, to the dignity of the human person. Moreover, the political realm ought to have an international – and not self-referential – outlook. Yet how many national political leaders tend to demolish Europe! We have seen it over the past few days. We are surrounded by a plethora of particularisms and populisms… Moreover, it is necessary to adopt a far-sighted approach.  I am convinced that a large part of the peaceful, often silent European population believes in the European project and in its ability to respond to people’s needs.

In France, your home Country, Macron won the latest elections with strong pro-European positions. Along with other European Countries, such as Italy, France can act as an engine to restart the EU. Perhaps after being assigned various major tasks from the economy to defence, from environmental protection, to welfare. Europe cannot and must not do everything alone.

Can Christians play a role at this delicate stage? In the course of history we referred to the example of the “founding fathers”, Christians engaged in the political realm, patriots without being nationalists, who erected the Community. As a Christian I believe that nationalism, being closed to receive our neighbour and others is incompatible with the Gospel.

We need openness and dialogue, following the appeal of Pope Francis.

It isn’t a question of renouncing one’s identity. Rather, it should come into play within a broader context: that context is Europe.

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