What is Europe? – A little polemic!

Post photo: Girl with European flag | © Shutterstock

More precisely, Europe is the only continent that cannot be justified purely geographically. All other continents lie on one or more continental plates or occupy at least a significant part of them.

So how did our continent of Europe actually come about?

According to mythology, we owe the origin of our continent to two people, a girl from today's Turkey and an old man who thought of himself as a god. Truly a somewhat too bizarre love affair to develop world history from it.

The fact is, however, that the western part of Eurasia, like its much larger remainder, was originally uninhabited by humans. Another fact is that, beginning around 700 years ago and originally from Africa, people immigrated to Europe again and again over the following millennia and will continue to do so.

A fact that seems to shock some Europeans again and again, and all the more so the longer back their own African past is.

No sooner had people arrived in Europe than they were regularly confronted with further masses of people moving in, all the more so since Europe is surrounded by seas in the west and south, and it was therefore almost impossible to avoid them in the first millennia. However, this natural "population densification" led to new social and technological developments that would hardly have been possible in less populated areas of our planet, and accelerated existing development processes. 

So I am firmly convinced that the fence is a very specific European development and has not only been brought to technological maturity in Europe, but has also mentally established itself in all of our consciousness.

Recognizing this development early on, and with the certainty that the earth is a small planet with limited resources, there were always people who opposed these emerging tendencies to isolate themselves and developed alternatives. Diogenes will probably not have been the first to openly call himself a citizen of the world. The concept of demarcation and exclusion was opposed to a concept of commonalities. Education became the defining characteristic. And even before today's religions developed, there were the first Europeans as "world and educated citizens".

Our Europe was born and its “borders” at that time still amaze us today. The “Mare Nostrum” was one of the first European magistrals and only sub-Saharan Africa, with its kingdoms and very own cultures, presented its own world to the south of Europe. In the west it was still the hard-to-cross Atlantic and in the east the existence of large empires with their own ideas and imaginations.

The wheel of history kept turning. Tyrants came and went, and each had their own idea of ​​humanity and the good of the world. Everyone agreed on just one thing: "Europe" could never be big enough. Only sufficiently powerful population groups or states were able to escape from the grip of "Europe" and its citizens and to keep or develop their own ideas and values. Although “Europe” encompassed almost the entire world in the last century, the idea of ​​a “cosmopolitan and educated citizen” was forgotten. On the contrary, the difference, no matter how small, was used to set oneself apart from "the others". The others only served to ensure and increase one's own standard of living. Imperialism, nationalism and other atrocities of human ingenuity flourished and brought the entire world to the brink of extinction.

But even in these dark times of our history, there were always Europeans who committed themselves to Europe, its ideas and ideals. Values ​​such as human rights, subsidiarity, solidarity and federalism developed in the confrontation with the respective rulers and their ideologies and became an integral part of European thinking. Immanuel Laces work "To eternal peace’ also makes it clear that overcoming borders and committing to one world are indispensable prerequisites for the further development of mankind – a thought from antiquity was taken up again. 

Seeing the League of Nations and young democracies going under, the end of the Second World War in the neck - having just escaped National Socialism - and now the destructive power of nuclear weapons and Soviet communism in mind, it was finally time in Europe that the last people there recognized that change was necessary. The international community had already reacted and founded the United Nations, based in America.

And the Europeans were also able to offer a solution:

A European community established on a federative basis is a necessary and essential part of any true world union.
In accordance with the federalist principles, which require democratic construction from the bottom up, the European community of nations should itself settle any disputes that may arise between its members.
The European Union is part of the United Nations organization and constitutes a regional body within the meaning of Article 52 of the Charter.
The members of the European Union transfer part of their economic, political and military sovereignty rights to the federation they form.
The European Union is open to all peoples of European character who recognize its principles.
The European Union sets out the rights and obligations of its citizens in the Declaration of European Citizens' Rights.
This declaration is based on respect for man, his responsibility towards the different communities to which he belongs.
The European Union ensures planned reconstruction and economic, social and cultural cooperation and ensures that technical progress is only used in the service of mankind.
The European Union is not directed against anyone and renounces all power politics, but also refuses to be a tool of any foreign power.
Within the framework of the European Union, regional sub-associations based on free agreement are permissible and even desirable.
Only the European Union will be able to ensure the integrity of the territory and the preservation of the individuality of all its peoples, large or small.
By proving that it can solve its own fateful questions in the spirit of federalism, Europe should make a contribution to reconstruction and to a world federation of peoples.
More than 60 years later, the European Union is by and large a success story. Europe has also almost arrived in the world, the European model is partly a model for other parts of the world and European values ​​and ideals are a formative part of the world community. 

This also proves that European values ​​and ideals can change our world for the better - provided they are lived and respected.

The European Union is an essential part of the emerging world union, but with an expected 5% share of the world population, it will no longer be a decisive part in the future. But the European Union still has enough potential on its current periphery to be able to increase its own share to a good 10% - without having to give up its own European character. 

The European Union is therefore still open to all peoples with a European character, and this is also in the spirit Pierre Bertauxs, who took up an ancient Greek wisdom and defined the European as follows: "You are not European by birth, you become one through education."

The European Union is first and foremost a community of values ​​that already stretches across four continents. These values ​​have been developed over millennia, with the Christian churches certainly having a significant part to play. However, one should not underestimate or, worse still, deny the share of the two sister religions, Judaism and Islam - both of which have also been represented in Europe since time immemorial.

And if you really want to talk about the "borders" of the European Union, then they probably lie in the south on the Sahara, in the east at the interface to even larger communities or countries and - thanks to technology - in the west, possibly even in the Pacific.

We Europeans, together with the other communities of nations, will one day be able to realize the dream of one world. And only then will the Hertenstein program be allowed to say goodbye as a "historical document" with all honor - freely adapted from Stefan Zweig: "Hertenstein, another great hour of mankind."

Until then, it is up to us to continue living the ideas and goals of the twelve theses and try to implement them to the best of our knowledge and belief. All of our efforts should be geared towards this and we should also gear our strategy towards this.


editorial Note: In the original version I had mistakenly way Robert Schuman a quote attributed, but which by Pierre Bertaux (Human mutation 1963:166, "One is not European by birth, one becomes one through education.")


"Lest we forget, when Europe goes far right, they go far right through Belgium."

John Oliver, in Last Week tonight: European Far Right (June 2, 2015)
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