EU Anniversary—Crisis Before Solution?

From the June 2007 Trumpet Print Edition

“Let them eat cake,” Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis xvi of France, is reputed to have declared as the peasants clamored for a say in their future. In what appeared to be a rerun of the Marie-Antoinette approach to the masses, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw a hugely expensive birthday bash for the public in Berlin, turning on the beer and bratwurst and flinging open the doors of Berlin’s infamous discos to an all-night rage on the eve of March 25, the 50th anniversary of the European Union.

If the idea was to keep the masses occupied so they wouldn’t notice what was occurring down the road at the German Historical Museum with the signing of the vacuous Berlin Declaration, then she needn’t have bothered. The public’s attitude toward the much-touted occasion was decidedly ho-hum.

Public and Political Dissent

It seems the German people at large are fairly cynical about the bloated EU bureaucracy that rules their lives from Brussels. They balk at its constantly passing regulations that place ever-greater constraints on their lives, ruled by representatives in whose election to power they have no real say, who hold regular meetings at great cost to the taxpayer, during which much is discussed but little ever concluded.

A dwindling number of Europeans support their home countries’ EU membership, Reuters reported, “because of fears the EU is failing to protect workers from globalization, eroding national identities and meddling excessively in national affairs” (March 24). A poll reported on by think tank Open Europe found that within eurozone nations, nearly half the people wish they could go back to the national currencies they gave up for the common European currency.

Under a rising cloud of such public dissent and of increasing rifts on EU policy between various members, Chancellor Merkel brought the 27 leaders of the EU nations together over the last weekend in March to witness the signing of what has become known as the Berlin Declaration.

From the rumbles that emerged from concerned EU member nations, it became clear that a battle royal was waged behind the scenes that weekend in Berlin. Once again, Germany was seeking to bully its fellow EU members into signing a document that Germany may well interpret as fulfilling its own EU agenda but that falls short of meeting others’ requirements.

As one source commented, “[B]eneath the veneer, and despite serving as a model of integration to the world, EU leaders [battled] to conclude a declaration that can mark past achievements and reassure citizens about the future” (EUbusiness, March 20).

All of this makes last year’s declaration by EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso seem rather hollow. He said that “EU leaders must agree [on] a ringing political statement of Europe’s values and priorities for a Berlin declaration next year.” But far from producing such a ringing and unanimous statement, it seems the EU has yet to even agree on just what those “values and priorities” are!

A year ago, Barroso declared his desire for all 27 EU member nations to sign the Berlin Declaration “together as a collective act of will. The European Parliament will sign alongside the member states and Commission as proof the EU and institutions are working together” (TheParliament.com, June 20, 2006).

On March 25, the Union’s 50th anniversary, Barroso simply had to eat humble pie.

Merkel’s Machinations

In a complete about-face that caused an outcry across Europe, instead of the heads of all EU member states signing in agreement to the declaration, Chancellor Merkel ruled that only she, European Commission President Barroso and the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, would sign the text on behalf of all the leaders!

What has since emerged is of even greater concern. It appears that the very wording of the Berlin Declaration was manipulated so as to offer specific appeal to those EU member nations that are leery of certain aspects of EU governance.

EUobserver.com posted this analysis of the text: “The declaration … says in German that ‘We, the citizens in the European Union, are united zu unserem Glück’—which means ‘united in our fortune/happiness.’ However, in the other versions of the text, the word Glück has been given a less solemn treatment. ‘We, the citizens of the European Union, have united for the better,’ the more down-to-earth English version says.

“The word has also disappeared from the Danish version, where Glück has been replaced with ‘vor fælles bedste,’ meaning ‘for the best,’ and further down the declaration the word has been lost in translation.

“There are so many deviations in the Danish version that it cannot possibly be a coincidence, Henning Kock—a professor in constitutional law at Copenhagen University—told Danish daily Politiken on [March 26]. ‘[I]t’s a political translation,’ he said about the Danish version” (March 27).

The Berlin Declaration consists of two pages of prose that have been painfully constructed to ensure that the most burning issues that currently lie in the EU president’s too-hard basket are not mentioned. The document’s drafters avoided two in particular like the plague. No specific reference is made to the European Constitution, already signed by all member nations but not yet ratified by some, and no reference is made to the religion that has provided the EU with its system of values from its inception by its Roman Catholic founding fathers.

This latter omission brought the Bavarian Pope Benedict xvi out of his Vatican cloisters like a raging bull!

Papal Ire Aroused

When informed of the omission of any reference to the Catholic and Christian roots of Europe in the very document that was to espouse the European Union’s fundamental values, Benedict rounded on EU leaders with a stream of criticism unprecedented in 50 years of Vatican/EU relations.

“In a speech to European bishops on Saturday, Pope Benedict accused the EU of apostasy for refusing to mention Christianity in the Berlin Declaration. Asking how leaders could hope to get closer to their citizens if they denied such an essential part of European identity, the head of the Roman Catholic Church said: ‘Does not this unique form of apostasy of itself, even before God, lead it (Europe) to doubt its very identity?’” (Reuters, op. cit.).

No pope has ever issued such a stinging criticism of those charged with the project of uniting Europe since it began 50 years ago at the signing of the Treaty of Rome. Then, Rome was chosen for the signing ceremony for its close identity with the foundational Roman Catholic values that had united Europe so often in the past under the institution of the Holy Roman Empire. Fifty years later, the Berlin Declaration gives the appearance of a European Union that has deliberately distanced itself from its very own religious roots.

This has the pope hopping mad!

To accuse European leaders of apostasy is the ultimate insult from the most powerful religious leader in the world. This is bound to get the attention of European national presidents, prime ministers, politicians and the boffins of the Brussels bureaucracy. And that is just what this pope wants.

EU officials know that the Vatican, under Benedict’s leadership, has real clout—real political clout. They cannot afford to get this powerfully influential religious leader offside.

But that is where Benedict stands right now: offsidethe whole EU governing apparatus, with spiritual sword drawn.

The pope’s blood is up for a mighty crusading effort to sweep Europe back into Rome’s fold—and he’s not going to back down. Benedict deliberately rained on the EU’s 50th anniversary parade. His remarks were a real downer on the occasion. They could hardly have been timed better for maximum effect.

But look a little closer. Something is definitely afoot!

Creating the Crisis— Posing the Solution

We have often quoted British political economist Rodney Atkinson’s claim that German politicians are expert at creating a crisis and then posing the most ideal solution in their nation’s own best interests.

There may indeed be a method to what appeared to be Merkel’s madness in drafting this Berlin Declaration behind closed doors, a tactic that gained her a degree of criticism from some EU member states.

Remember Merkel telling Pope Benedict, during his visit to Bavaria last year, that she believed the European Constitution should make reference to God and the EU’s Christian values? We believe she still holds to that position.

It so happened that Pöttering, president of the European Parliament and, at the time, leader of its influential Catholic center-right movement, also told the pope last year that his group was determined to see the spiritual dimension of the European project written into the European Constitution. At the time, Pöttering described the European Constitution to the pope as “holy text.”

Merkel and Pöttering were two of the three EU gurus chosen to sign the Berlin Declaration.

Intriguingly, on the very eve that EU leaders gathered in Berlin to witness the signing of the seemingly irreligious Berlin Declaration, who did we find having an audience with the pope? None other than one of the prospective signatories to the Berlin Declaration, Hans-Gert Pöttering. And what was Pöttering doing in Rome while the other EU leaders gathered in Berlin? Issuing the pope an official invitation to personally address the European Parliament.

Early on in discussions surrounding the planning of the EU anniversary, it was proposed that Pope Benedict might be present in Berlin for the anniversary celebrations. But he could hardly take part in celebrations over the signing of an EU declaration specifically intended to endorse the values of that institution, if his religion was completely ignored in that document. Hence the invitation to come to the European Parliament after the main event—to put things right!

In the pope’s present crusading mood, could you see him declining such an opportunity? We think not!

It may yet turn out that, far from being remembered for a Berlin Declaration with all of its religious teeth pulled, the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome will be remembered as the occasion when the pope accepted an invitation to ride his crusading horse into the heart of the main legislating body of the European Union and sell that body, once and for all, on the need to write Rome’s religion—the “religious roots” of Europe—into the very heart and core of a revived constitution.

This is the card we think Merkel and Pöttering have now played.

What gives this theory extra credence is hearing that grand old statesman of the European Union, Otto von Habsburg, declare during that late March weekend’s EU celebrations that he is convinced Europe faces a great revival of Christianity!

Would this 94-year-old Europhile, so deeply embedded in EU political society, having contact with the most influential movers and shakers on the Continent, make such a public statement unless he really knew what was going on behind the scenes? No one has followed the tortuous path of Europe through its postwar revival to become the mightiest trading entity in the world more closely than this wise old man of Europe. We believe his recent public statement has significant credibility in terms of a pending and powerful move by Pope Benedict xvi and his coterie of conservative cardinals to mount the most dramatic crusade for the revival of Catholic Europe since the Middle Ages.

Filling the Religious Void

The fact is, there does exist an aching, gnawing spiritual gap within the European Union. The EU, with its 50th anniversary having come and gone, appeared to miss a golden opportunity to publicly declare its underlying ideology—clearly espoused 50 years ago by its founding Catholic fathers—in unambiguous terms within the Berlin Declaration.

Historically, every movement that has successfully welded the nations of Europe together in unity has declared attachment to an ideology, a religious dogma. Religion has repeatedly brought a semblance of unity among the great diversity of the peoples and cultures of the Continent. This has occurred six times in the past, under the various forms of the Holy Roman Empire, since the time of Charlemagne.

The Berlin Declaration is an open challenge to the supremacy of the religion of Rome in Europe. The pope has met that challenge head on, and the EU has responded with an open invitation for him to come to its parliament and fix the problem. This provides the pope with an open door to peddle his spiritual wares directly to the main legislating body of the European Union.

If the Parliament seizes the moment and railroads the endorsing of the religion of Rome into its constitution, then the EU’s spiritual gap may well be filled by official recognition of the pope’s religion as the state religion of the European Union. And remember, should this occur, the laws the European Parliament makes trump all domestic law within EU member nations.

Might the European Parliament endorse a singular state religion at the behest of this pope?

In crafting the Berlin Declaration, Merkel was careful in her verbiage: Those EU leaders who want religion bound up in the European Constitution can easily find justification for doing so in the declaration’s prod to renew the issue of declaring European values. The deadline she has set to achieve unanimity on the European Constitution is the year 2009. The current German presidency of the EU will leave the next holder of the rotational presidency, Portugal, with a clear mandate to pursue agreement by all EU members to commit to that 2009 goal by the end of this year.

Could our German friends be at it again?

In fact, could the legacy of this German presidency of the EU be the creation of the very crisis—the raging argument as to whether the EU should remain secular, or finally acknowledge its true religious roots—for which a Bavarian pope has already been invited to pose a solution?

The EU’s major crisis, at this point, is a crisis of values. This crisis was highlighted in Berlin that early spring weekend in late March by the disappearance of any reference to the EU’s religious roots in the Berlin Declaration. Its nature was powerfully dramatized on the same weekend by Pope Benedict himself condemning the EU for this omission. And on that same weekend, an invitation was issued in Rome for the pope to enter the inner sanctum of the European Union to declare the solution to this conundrum.

There’s a grand political game being played out here, and it’s simply destined to shape the global order of the future, at least for a short moment in time (Revelation 17:12).

It may be evident to few, but mark our words. History was written that March weekend in Berlin and Rome. Watch now for the values crisis to become a core issue within the EU.

Especially watch for the pope’s upcoming address to the European Parliament. It is an event you definitely should not miss! Believe it or not, your very future will be powerfully affected by the outcome.