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Jarosław Pietras: Dialogue and Compromise as the Basis of the Activity of the European Union

18 września 2005 | 11:29 | Ⓒ Ⓟ

Cardinal Primate, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests. I am deeply honoured to have the opportunity to speak at this Convention about the fundamentals of EU, that is, dialogue and compromise between EU member states and between the nations the states merely represent. There is a need of a moment of reflection, I believe, on what we can see in the European Union when we have a close look at its daily routine. We perceive EU in its businesslike entirety, such as the EU legislation, finance or programs. These very concrete matters and operations express the will of all member states to act arm in arm. We are in need of reflection on how all the 25 member statesľtheir dissimilar traditions, points of reference and policies notwithstandingľcan reach compromise. The resulting agreements, concrete, banal and trivial as they frequently are, concern quite mundane matters, be it veterinary issues, EU funds, food safety or, conversely, gravely important topics. Oftentimes, we may ask whether trivialism of some regulations is in contrast with those noble ideals of Europe we mean in the first place. Isn’t it a paradox that the ideas of European unity, cooperation or fellowship are achieved through issues so earthbound? That is what I would like to elaborate on.
Hardly anybody notices nowadays that the first step on the way to bring together the European nations, immersed in utmost discord in the wake of World War Two, was to establish the European Coal and Steel Community. There was no question of peace, no organization that could bring about reconciliation among the nations, but a concrete issue was at the origin. Said Robert Schuman, one of the founding fathers of European integration, “Europe cannot be united in one go, nor within one framework. United Europe will form through concrete moves, each contributing to overall solidarity.” I think that the emergence of this overall solidarity has been the true aim of all the concrete moves and this is what makes them contribute to noble ideals. For this is feasible owing to the fact that we can reach an agreement on concrete matters, make our standpoint clear and settle on common modus operandi. Thus we realize our noble ideals. We could imagine the reconciliation of Europe as originating from a discussion about the fundamentals. However, we have to bear in mind that there have been striking disparitiesľsome of them still vitalľwhich stir up emotions, lead to arguments and bring about no reconciliation whatsoever. The wisdom of united Europe’s founding fathers manifested itself in the ability to perceive the importance of the concrete and dialogue and agreement it involves. We should realize how diverse Europe is and how much all those differences are worth. Obviously, we may work to lessen the differences if they are a hindrance to the cooperation in Europe. But the question about modus operandi remains open. Napoleon once said that the nations of the beautiful Europe were split up by too many differences, even though they should make up one big family. What conclusions Napoleon drew for how to create one big family is another issue.
EU was established precisely with the aim of creating one big family in Europe. But its originsľan inconspicuous, almost technical projectľwere odd. All the same, in 1950, when the European Coal and Steel Community was coming into being, it was a political milestone. Subsequently, United Europe developed by means of successive stages of integration. That referred first of all to economy (the common market), but also to a number of increasingly more vital issues, such as security. A slow and gradual process, it called for constant dialog, understanding of the arguments of others and endless quest for compromise. It has been thanks to the multitude of concrete solutions and common work that a new common framework has emerged which unites the nations of Europe. This, in turn, leads to a situation not only envisioned, but also pursued by Schuman: “No thinking European could rejoice with Machiavellian malice at their neighbour’s misfortune. All of us are united for the better or the worse in a community of destiny. Europe will retain the identity of all its constituent nations.” According to John Paul II, Europe is a river fed by innumerable tributaries and streams which contribute to its cultural diversity, and this is Europe’s great wealth. At the same time, the diversity requires that we are all sympathetic toward one another and toward our differing opinions on both fundamental and concrete issues.
EU is therefore founded on dialog, but dialogue is only clearance for decision-making. Dialogue needs a next step to be taken. Dialogue calls for compromise. If it is to be pursued, not only differences have to be revealed but also an agreement has to be reached so as to work in common. Dialogue is then the beginning of efforts to achieve compromise. Without compromise, we only establish what we differ in. That is why the fundament of EU, being a form of common work, is compromise which involves constant discussion, constant dialogue, and constant understanding. We are oftentimes surprised at how much time we spend partaking in various EU forums, boards, workgroups and committees in the European Parliament. It is the revelation of what constitutes the difference and the drawing of conclusions for decision-making that requires extended debates.
The last question I ask is: Does EUľlike during its emergenceľstill have sufficient will and potential to conduct dialogue and reach compromise? The answer is by no means simple. After the 2004 extension there are more states in play, more differing opinions, views and interests. Are the old member states sympathetic enough to the voice of new members that we can say that all states are involved in true dialogue? In my opinion, there is still some way to go. During the recent EU summit the heads of states and governments lacked the will to reach compromise. Seeing what was happening, the Primer Minister of Poland declared that our country was willing to work for compromise. And telltale words of France’s President Jacques Chirac followed that it was pathetic that the new member states were more willing to strike compromise than the old ones and tragic that the old ones were not willing to accept it at all. I still hope, though, that the occasions whereby national egoisms prevail will not last in EU for long as the European Union needs dialogue and compromise, the two conditions for its efficiency.

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