A line in a report in Breitbart UK on the EU migrant row set me thinking:
Hollande told Mr Orban that if he did not like it, his country should leave the EU: “States that don’t respect European values should ask if they belong within the EU,” he said.
What are ‘European values’?
And if ‘European values’ must be respected, on pain of expulsion from the EU, does that not suggest that ‘European values’ have been formally enumerated in detail somewhere in the EU’s constitution? For how else can it be determined whether somebody is failing to respect them, if they have not been set out in detail?
But as far as I can see, there is no document setting out ‘European values’ anywhere at all. And thus Hollande’s ‘European values’ are really most likely simply his own values, as also are Orban’s, and anyone else you might care to mention.
In a 2007 article with the title What are European values? Guardian columnist Charles Grant waved a pen at the question. He cites the 2007 Berlin Declaration, which does actually attempt to set out some shared values,
In the European Union we are turning our common ideals into reality: for us, the individual is paramount. His dignity is inviolable. His rights are inalienable. Women and men enjoy equal rights.
We are striving for peace and freedom, for democracy and the rule of law, for mutual respect and shared responsibility, for prosperity and security, for tolerance and participation, for justice and solidarity.
We have a unique way of living and working together in the European Union. is is expressed through the democratic interaction of the Member States and the European institutions. e European Union is founded on equal rights and mutually supportive cooperation. is enables us to strike a fair balance between Member States’ interests.
We preserve in the European Union the identities and diverse traditions of its Member States. We are enriched by open borders and a lively variety of languages, cultures and regions. ere are many goals which we cannot achieve on our own, but only in concert. Tasks are shared between the European Union, the Member States and their regions and local authorities…
Peace. Freedom. Rule of law. Rights. Prosperity. Justice. Solidarity. All large, vague, nebulous words whose meaning defies precise definition.
The Declaration then goes on to add:
We intend jointly to lead the way in energy policy and climate protection and make our contribution to averting the global threat of climate change.
Really? Averting climate change is a shared European value or ideal? If that’s in the Berlin Declaration, then one might expect them to have also added something like:
We intend to make Europe completely smoke-free, and to ban smoking in all public places, and also to ban tobacco advertising, displays, and proprietary packaging.
They didn’t, but they may as well have done, as it had already been set out in detail in Council Recommendation 200354/EC.
And so here are two ‘European values’ which I don’t share. Firstly I think global warming is largely an illusion, and we ought to be much more worried about how much longer our current inter-glacial warm period will last. And secondly I think smoking bans are highly socially divisive and economically hobbling, and that they undermine freedom, solidarity (the “glue” that holds society together), justice, the rights of smokers, and thus most of the values or ideals seemingly set out in the Berlin Declaration.
In fact, I am forced to conclude that whatever the authors meant by ‘freedom’, ‘justice’, ‘rights’, ‘solidarity’, etc, it’s something quite different from what these words usually mean to me. And that there are most likely no common, shared ‘European values’ at all. Or none that will survive close interrogation.