Europe On Its Way To Unity: From Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi’s Pan-European Vision to the Treaty of Athens”

December 1, 2003
18:30 - 21:30 CEST/CET

Dr. Erhard Busek’s keynote speech held at the event:


‘Richard Coudenhove­Kalergi was a European in the real sense. His name has roots in Belgium. The family was at home in the old Austro­Hungarian Empire but the connection with Japan also embodies the type of openness,whichthenewEuropedesperatelyneeds. Itis also worth noting that the family has been as active in media and journalism, exemplifying a true sense of the European consciousness. Coudenhove­Kalergi describes the bridge that his Europe had to cross since the 19​th Century. At this time, Europe was made up of large empires, which represented grandiose imperial ideas spawning from nationalism in the latter half of the 19​th century and resulting in the 20th ​century with two world wars and the East­West divide. The old Habsburg monarchy succeeded the Holy Roman Empire – an imperial idea that elevated the Emperor to representing God on Earth.

Napoleon attempted to achieve something similar in the spirit of the Enlightenment. Great Britain pursued empire building through colonialism, followed by the German Reich, which Hitler brought to the brink of insanity. The combination of political development and self­destructive nationalism resulted in millions of dead on the battlefields of both world wars. There were many who were aware of the catastrophe and literature is full of examples. Robert Musil wrote an essay “Helpless Europe” and Stefan Zweig described it as the “World of Yesterday”. Karl Kraus called it “The Last Days of Humanity”. Both, German speaking authors and European ones, gave the feeling that the old peace order was lost and a new one was needed. Winston Churchill called for a “United States of Europe” in his famous 1946 speech at the University of Zurich. This laid the groundwork for a generation of politicians who suffered the consequences of war. The key figures all came from border regions which lie today in the heart of Europe. Robert Schumann in Alsace­Lorraine, Konrad Adenauer in Rhineland and Alcide de Gaspari in Trentino. This resulted in the Treaties of Rome in 1957, which laid the ground for Richard Coudenhove­Kalergi’s dream of a “Pan­Europa” becoming true. It began with six countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Italy and Germany – this community then expanded gradually to include England, Ireland, Denmark – then on to Spain, Portugal and Greece and later on to its current composition including Sweden, Finland and Austria.

It also must be made clear that it was the United States that pushed for the gradual integration of Europe through instruments such as the Marshall Plan. Economic integration was initially championed through the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), which was a precursor to the OECD – an organization in which Japan participates. This was also a response to the challenges presented by the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact and COMECON, the Cold War, the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, which painfully divided the continent, meaning the loss of old Europe.

The changes that took place in 1989 gave Europe a change once again. The example of a successful peace that reconciled France on one side and Germany, Austria and Italy on the other, and which brought the western part of the continent together, provided a vision for a united Europe. This vision will be brought to yet a higher level when the Athens Treaty goes into effect on May 1​, 2004 – when 10 more countries, predominantly from East and Central Europe ­ will join the European Union. This is not the end, however.

In the past great powers involuntarily emerged through wars, economic developments and sometimes through the politics of marriage. Our united Europe has come together through democratically legitimate governments, parliaments and referendums. This is an impressive process, which also takes its time.

It is not my task to describe to you in detail how the European Union functions but rather to present some of the key ideas behind it, as well as some of the issues that need to be addressed. It is a huge change in thinking that the citizens of Europe are only partially aware of. This makes it even more important to stress that this process and its implementation requires vision.

The new millennium offers us the opportunity to build a continent free of the mistakes and problems inherited from the 19​th century, which resulted in the disasters of the 20​ century. We were given the opportunity to start a new 14 years ago. Today many claim that this was all predictable – that the Soviet Union and communism would collapse – but they did not say it back then. Nevertheless, I am optimistic ­ so much has happened in these years but there is still so much to do.

The year 1989 opened a wealth of new opportunities for neighbors that were separated by artificial boundaries and borders. Political geography is converging with natural geography, the “East” is no longer an assessable expression and our geographical conceptions are once again coinciding with political ones. There are 21 new countries that have emerged around the EU and therefore one tends to focus more on the problems rather than on the opportunities. Developments such as the collapse of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union could point to disintegration but in reality their successor states are moving closer towards wider European integration.

We must come to terms with the fact that the bipolar world as we once knew it – the one dominated by two superpowers – now belongs in the volumes of history books. In order to move forward we have to move beyond the simple explanation of the “good guys” on one side and the “bad guys” on the other or that one side is an “evil empire” as Ronald Reagan maintained. There is a real danger of populist politicians trying to sell over­simplified pictures of new “enemies”.

First no vision and then too much vision.
It is safe to say that the West had no blue print or strategy to react to the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the communist parties. No one was able to respond to the events predicted by Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

Then came the triumphant declarations: the victory of democracy and the free market is evident. Francis Fukuyama was seriously misunderstood with his “End of History”. Everyone spoke of new Marshall Plans, which promised massive economic recovery, but there was no real substance. There were also many predictions of disaster. Samuel Huntington spoke of “the Clash of Civilizations”. There were conflicts but not confrontations of different cultures. These confrontations were political ones, which cut across civilizations such as seen with the Gulf War and the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

We now find ourselves on the ground. We are not witnessing spectacular results but rather must take things one­ step at a time in order to move towards a united continent.

We have accomplished plenty.
It seems rather ridiculous to address but allow me to summarize: 1989 and the years following gave many more people access to human rights and democracy – more than we can imagine. Democracies are still few in the world but the fall of the Iron Curtain has increased their number. We must also work to overcome the legacies of the Second World War. We have so far managed to avoid the outbreak of a third World War as a result from the collapse of great empires (as has been in the past). We can be proud that “basket three” of the Helsinki Final Act placed so much emphasis on the respect for human rights. I would also like to stress that ideologies that promise paradise on earth have also been swept aside. There is no such thing as a perfect world and ideologies that profess this end up oppressing mankind.

We also have the possibility of a united continent instead of two halves being appendices of superpowers outside thecontinentitself. Wehavetheopportunitytorediscover Europe and that fact that political geography is converging with natural geography makes this easier.


Questions for ourselves

There are a plethora of questions that we must ask. There is still much that needs to be done from the list of tasks that emerged in 1989. This is not a reason for pessimism but rather satisfaction that we do have clear and tangible objectives. We are the only ones who can fulfill these objectives. Some of the most obvious questions include:

What is what the French call l​a f​inalité d’Europe?​ Are propositions such as a Europe of concentric circles or a core Europe solutions or will they lead to a division of the continent? Are we genuinely ready to create a European Union for all and what should this Union be called? Or are we excluding some because it is too complicated for us to restructure the Union as a result? How far does our own continent reach and what is the scope of responsibility of our continent for the rest of the world. A “Fortress Europe” is not the answer.

The bipolar world has been replaced by a polycentric one. The further development of the European Union will no longer come from pressure from the East but rather is a matter of free choice. Small states now have the same opportunities as the large ones have had. For the first time in history, parliaments, governments and most importantly, the citizens of Europe have a say in the shaping of a European constitution. The emphasis placed on the regions point to the diversity of Europe but there has to be the willingness to accept this. There is also the responsibility of the countries of the European Union for their neighborhood.

There is a plethora of questions with respect to the issue of security. There is a new sense of confusion as so many organizations are dealing with this issue such as the United Nations, OSCE, NATO, WEU, the Council of Europe and more. Do these organizations have the capacity to solve the problems at hand? Crime is organized on a global scale and takes advantage of the latest technologies while we still use outdated means to fight this threat and national pride seems more important that protecting human beings. Who talks about education when short term goals dominate political decision making?

Who is fully aware of the value of media which provides, even global information?

We also have to deal with potential and probable conflicts in Europe. There are certain conflicts, which are recognizable. Our Judeo­Christian world, influenced by the enlightenment, has not yet really begun a dialogue with the orthodox world. The interdependence between spiritual­religious beliefs and state plays an important role. We also speak of the end of the enlightenment and at the same time underestimate the role, which myths and romanticism are playing anew. The fact that practical problems such as exploitation of the environment, migration and transport are not being solved just exacerbates things.

There are other sets of issues: Do we really understand Russia? What do Tolstoy, Berdjajev, Dostoevsky and Solschenizyn, in their understanding of mankind and the nation, mean for the future of Russia? The relationship between the United States and Europe also opens another set of issues. If we speak of isolationism then we must present ourselves as partners for dialogue in order to stress that this concerns the future of the world. How are we to deal with the challenges of Islam besides aggression and suspicion? What roles do subcontinents, such as China and India, play in relationship to Europe, especially when they are becoming increasingly stronger economically?

A major challenge for the future remains to position Europe globally. We are a long way from knowing the right path. It is partners like Japan that have great importance here because here in Asia things are changing and there are new roles. This cannot be separated but only dealt with jointly through cooperation. The exchange of ideas, visions, perceptions of the reality is becoming increasingly significant. More problems are taking on a global nature and therefore global solutions must be found. This does not only concern issues related to ecology and climate change, which have an impact on the global economy, but also issues of peace and security. Richard Coudenhove­Kalergi wanted a “peace order” for Europe and the seeds of this vision continue to spread. We need such an order not only for Europe but also for the entire world. Europe will play a decisive role in the dialogue with others and this can only take place on the basis of political culture. Japan has a thousand years old political culture that is highly respected. Richard Coudenhove­Kalergi was a representative of a spiritual political culture, which should serve as an example for us. From this we can extract a vision – a European vision that can determine and define partnership with other parts of the world such as Japan.


European visions

Europe is not about borders and boundaries but rather about consciousness of diversity now and throughout time. Europe is bigger – its Eastern and Southeastern parts still must find their place in a united Europe. Europe is an open continent and not a fortress. It is a result of dialogue and therefore it has a role to play in global development.

Europe is not only about economy, but also about social responsibility, common values and cultural diversity from which all can benefit.

Europe needs dialogue and languages, sustainability, lively regions, respect for “the other”, solidarity, openness and democracy and human rights.

Europe needs to believe in itself, in common values and the development of world ethics.

Europe needs other parts of the world, such as Japan, because together we have a global responsibility in the spirit of Richard Coudenhove­Kalergi.


Europe equals culture

Culture is a defining element of Europe. It is the element that has held the entire continent together. No one wants a unified culture but rather the sense and recognition of what we mean by European culture. This begins with history. We need to have a European history book that is not written from a historical perspective but rather from many other perspectives, which make up the history of Europe. We also need the stories, which created the mythical imagery of Europe. What would Europe be without Socrates, Platon, Euripides and Aischylos – what would it be without Goethe’s “Faust”, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, Cervantes’s “Don Quixote”, the characters of Joan of Arc or Peer Gynt or Dante’s Divine Comedy. The challenge is now for science and research, intellectuals and artists ­ a political burden that no one can take from them.

We must recall the hospitality, which our ancestors had cultivated and held in highest esteem. The term for “foreigner” and “guest” were once the same. Accepting diversity inside ourselves, will make this once again possible. If we were to find an analogy for Europe, than it would be one of a village where everyone lives in an own house varying in size and quality. We know that we cannot live in peace when there is discord in the neighboring house. We know that we are in danger when a fire breaks out in the neighboring house or when our neighbor does not tend to his garden or plow his field. We are taught in our lives that there are streets and lanes, markets and squares, that we can find work and go shopping, that water and sewage is a communal concern just as are police, firefighters, schools and retirement homes. We also need a church in the center of the town, a symbol for the essential values shared by the village community. There also have to be festivals as well as brawls in order to release unavoidable aggression so that we can once again live in peace with one another. Our European village offers us the opportunity to work together in strengthening the foundation of good neighbourly relations. All it takes is providing experience, lending a helping hand and simply getting involved because the quality of the village is a reflection of the quality of its citizenry.

The ancient Greeks were well aware that the myth of Europe stems from a love story. We, as present day Europeans, should not emulate the fickle desires of Zeus (Jupiter) but rather truly love our Europe – only then will the continent have a future.’