Towards a People's Europe - Reflections on Europe's 'Soul' Based on a Bilateral Study in Two European Cities

European Business Review

ISSN: 0955-534X

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Archer, K. (2000), "Towards a People's Europe - Reflections on Europe's 'Soul' Based on a Bilateral Study in Two European Cities", European Business Review, Vol. 12 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Towards a People's Europe - Reflections on Europe's 'Soul' Based on a Bilateral Study in Two European Cities


Towards a People's Europe - Reflections on Europe's "Soul" Based on a Bilateral Study in Two European Cities

Keywords: Europe, European Union, Religion

This pamphlet is a report on an exchange visit of leading church people from Manchester and from Dortmund to look at the extent to which the European Union is developing into a supranational institution for the general benefit of the people of this continent; but it is much more than that; it endeavours to look at the part played by what we call "soul" or spirituality in the development of Europe. It is realistic both about the state of Europe and the state of the Church. In Roman times bishops such as Ambrose or Augustine gave up all their worldly ambitions and wealth in order to follow Christ and lead the Church. The result was that the people trusted them and thus they were in a position to rebuke and curb the corruption of secular leaders - and this in spite of the fact that the Church was established - or disestablished - made them effective. It was the fact that they practiced what they preached which gave them their enormous credibility.

This pamphlet begin by asking "Where is Europe?" and says, "We went to Brussels because we thought we would find it there. We did. And we were captivated by what we described in the report as 'the magic of Brussels' and its 'wall-to-wall vision'. Nowhere else, it seemed to us, did the European ideal shine so brightly. We have no doubt that is still does, despite being tarnished by recent high-level scandals. But as someone there said to us, Brussels doesn't really exist. It is just talk and paper, a construct in the shared mind of those who work there (or would like to). The real Europe is the farms and cities that power its economy, that people think of as being not in 'Europe' but first and foremost in Britain, Germany or wherever. That Europe matters most, so this present project is located there. Manchester and Dortmund are but two manifestations of it." The author clearly believes a Europe that understands the needs of ordinary people and marginalised minorities of all kinds are the only sort that will get the trust of people and which they will own as theirs. A strong "small is beautiful" theme runs through the pamphlet. There is a significant criticism of the Commissioner's "Giving Europe a Soul" programme and it asks "Might it not be better to speak of finding Europe's soul amidst its peoples' fears, hopes, histories and spiritualities?"

Archer points out that the way in which the two cities are developing is fundamentally almost identical. So too is the emergency in their inner cities. A German Protestant pointed out, "These traditional working-class areas suffer high unemployment and also tend to be where immigrants settle. When the wealthier families find that they can no longer speak to their neighbours in German and perceive that the presence of non-German speaking children in the schools drives standards down, they move out." In earlier centuries when the wealthy wanted the poor as servants and workers, they and their children had to rub shoulders with them. There is considerable discussion about how technology has affected the lives of people in both cities and added to the problems of unemployment.

The pamphlet ends on the question of inclusion and exclusion with a quotation from St Paul's letter to the Ephesians in which all are welcomed as Christians. This is indeed the kind of thinking that adds real value to the debate on Europe's future.

This pamphlet is published by Greater Manchester Churches Together, St Peter's House, Precinct Centre, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9GH and is free except for a 50p postage stamp. John Coleman

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