New reasons for hope in challenging times
AEUB 2016 in Caux
Philippe Herzog, a former Member of the European Parliament, and a former leader of the French Communist Party, called for reform of the EU. But he said ‘It is not just the European Union, but European civilisation that is in crisis’, he said. ‘There is a flaw, a failure on otherness. We do not know each other! The peoples of Europe must be brought nearer to each other. But what’s most important is what gives breath, it is a soul for Europe.”
He was speaking at the third annual ‘Addressing Europe’s Unfinished Business’ (AEUB) where this year’s theme was ‘New Reasons for Hope in Challenging Times’. The aim of the conference was to ‘give an opportunity for people from across the continent to gather and listen to each other, to reflect on the changes we each need to make and common actions we can undertake, to help create a more secure, just and sustainable Europe.’
Europeans came from countries as far apart as Spain and Russia, Cyprus and the Nordic North and from many walks of life, ethnicities and belief traditions. They included young people from 42 European countries who had been selected for the ‘AEUB Young Ambassadors’ programme.
Speaking before Mr Herzog in a session on one of the conference’s three themes, ‘Bridging the gap between our principles and our practice’, Victoria Martin de la Torre, Press officer at the European Parliament and author of “ Europe, a leap into the unknown” , identified the sources of inspiration of the founding fathers of the European Union, and those who had followed them. She made a balance sheet of what of the original impulse had been retained, and what had been lost. She concluded that to remain faithful to the original inspiration it would be important to retain both the word and concept of ‘Community’, to keep federation as the long-term goal of political union, to keep the balance the economic and social dimensions, and between the ‘person’ and the ‘individual’. Culture and education were vital in creating active citizens.
Active citizenship was also present in the topic of Migration, and the way ordinary people in many places had acted more rapidly than governments in responding to the emergency.
A young French woman Célia Demoor, President of DEEP France, who lives near the “jungle of Calais”, spoke about her work organising dialogues between some of the 7000 refugees in the camps on the outskirts of the town, and the town’s residents. Terttu Laaksonen from Finland told how she and others created an association to help refugees who had come to her city after crossing from Sweden via the northern border. She said, ‘It has given me a lot of hope to see how people are reaching out. Some ‘new Finns’ who had arrived earlier, were our interpreters, working alongside us at the railway station, in the camps.’
Imam Ajmal Masroor from the UK, who is frequently asked by prominent media channels to comment on current affairs, made a passionate plea to remember our common humanity. ‘We are all immigrants! Let’s welcome them, let’s share our wealth with them. We need gratitude and hope, respect and acceptance!’
‘A new narrative for Europe’ was a theme that ran through the whole conference. American/British academic Dr Margaret Smith gave a definition of ‘narrative’ as ‘a special kind of story that gives meaning to a larger group experience’. She suggested that the ‘narrative offered by Caux is the story of what it means to bring life to our best aspirations by figuring out how to live the values we talk about.’
An outcome of the ‘Enquiry Stream’ that worked on a ‘new narrative’ throughout the conference was: ‘The great European house - a home for all its citizens, a cultural, economic and political community taking its responsibility towards the rest of the world.
Young ambassadors and participants of the conference left Caux as close-knit group of friends ready to support each other in their diverse projects to address Europe’s challenges.
Stay tuned for next year’s conference!