Archive for November 24th, 2009

Papists, the Presidency, and the European Project.

November 24, 2009

Apologies for the lack of posts in recent days. I suffered a slight breakdown after all the excitement of Herman Van Rompuy being designated the first permanent President of the European Council and have only just started to recover.

Much comment has already been made elsewhere about the choice of Van Rompuy as Euro Prez. Some see this cautious decision as evidence that the EU remains an intergovernmental organisation where individual states don’t want to be overshadowed by a powerful supranational polity. I would tend to agree.

Others simply make jokes about ‘Rompuy Pumpy’ being a boring character, dismiss the entire process of European integration as anti-democratic because it’s a bit complicated, and then concentrate on informing the British people about far more important news events such as the insects being poured between Katie Price’s mammaries on ‘Celebrity Jungle Factor’ or whatever its called. I tend to get annoyed by this.

Something that struck me is how one aspect of Van Rompuy’s character makes him a perfect candidate for being the first permanent President: he is a committed Catholic.

Many studies of the EU suggest that Catholicism plays a vital role in encouraging pro-integration sentiments.

Three of the original instigators of European integration – the Christian Democrat politicians Konrade Adenauer of Germany, Robert Schuman of France, and Alcide de Gasperi of Italy - were all very hardcore Catholics whose faith greatly informed their support for greater unity in Europe.

Euroboffins Nelsen, Guth and Fraser conducted some research using public opinion polls and found that throughout the period 1973 to 1998 European Catholics were far more likely to support the EU than non-Catholics, even when other factors were controlled. Countries with sizeable Catholic populations tend to be the most pro-EU whilst Protestant states such as the UK and Sweden are the most Eurosceptic. (Poland’s a funny case before anyone points this out!)

Picking Herman Van Rompuy for the Presidency is therefore consistent with the Catholic tradition that lies at the heart of the process of European integration. This is a man who apparently goes once a month to meditate in a monastery amongst silent monks. He is also opposed to letting Turkey into the EU because he feels letting in a Muslim-majority nation would clash with Europe’s fundamentally Christian values, or something like that.

Of course, there was another devout Catholic wanting the top job, but things did not work out so well for him. I am simply pointing out that Catholics of strong religious conviction have played important roles in the history of European integration; not that the EU is a Papist-run conspiracy (as loons like Ian Paisley think). Obviously being a Catholic was not enough to help Blair in the diplomatic wranglings over who was to get the Presidency.


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