Schmal, J.J.R.: We are Europeans because we are Dutch

Handelingen der Staten-Generaal, Zitting , Zitting 1948-49, Tweede Kamer, 63ste Vergadering, 5 July 1949.
From W.Lipgens and W. Loth, Documents on the History of European Integration, De Gruyter, 1988

schmalAs at present envisaged, the Council of Europe has room for all men of goodwill. In this line of thought I too venture to say that we are beginning something new. Such a new beginning always presents a target for destructive critics and, what is worse, sceptics who shrug their shoulders and ask ‘What good is it to me? What do I get out of it?’ To them I would reply, in the words of Scripture: ‘Quench not the Spirit.’ Nothing in this world was ever achieved by shrugging one’s shoulders. To succeed in anything, one must be ready for solid effort and sacrifice.

The good cause is also threatened from another quarter, and I believe this is more dangerous still: namely an excess of zeal on the part of some of its leaders. Recently on the other side of the Binnenhof, Prof. Anema spoke of a malady to which he gave the attractive name ‘federalitis’. I believe that the cause of federalism is not more harmed by sceptics than by those who are more particularly affected by this disease. (…)

Those responsible for the draft before us deserve credit, at all events, for having made a plan: they did not shrug their shoulders in apathy, as intellectuals are reputed to do, but set their hands to the plough and have done what seemed necessary in order to set nations on the right path.

Difficulties can be foreseen, and no doubt they will cause us trouble enough. Largely they are connected with the need for a limitation of sovereignty. Here there is a reassuring point in the Minister’s Memorandum of Reply, where he points out that some limitation of sovereignty is implied in the present draft and that it points in a federal direction. I will not pursue the point further at present except to say that I do not quite understand why all kinds of people, looking at the modern state, are so alarmed by the possibility of losing a measure of sovereignty. (…)

I would refer to one other point: Mme Klompé spoke of the need to ‘think as Europeans’. (…) The term ‘Europeans’ is a mere abstraction. The men of the French Revolution did not speak of Frenchmen, Germans and Englishmen, but only of mankind in general. But the true fact is that we are not human beings or Europeans first and Dutch men and women afterwards: we are, it seems to me, Europeans because we are Dutch. I say this to make clear, if possible, that those who want us to ‘think as Europeans’ are, to my mind, posing a problem rather than offering a solution. In this respect too it seems to me that we need much deeper reflection and hard work. (…)

What are we to understand by the reference in the documents to ‘spiritual and moral values which are [our] common heritage?’ The Minister promised to explain, but I do not think he has done so. He spoke of certain values that are the source of personal freedom, freedom of thought and the rule of law. We can readily assent to this, but I would add that the description is by no means complete. It seems to me that the higher values referred to are the fruits of Christianity and can in the long run only thrive in a Christian soil. Anyone who looks around our continent and tries to form an idea of its attachment to Christianity may well feel anxious. There have been times when Europe deed be called a corpus christianum. In more recent times, Novalis spoke of Europe and Christendom as synonymous; but those times are surely past. Is it true, then, that our continent is wholly secularized and de-Christianized? I would hardly say so. I think our European society still contains much that I cannot find a better name for than ‘unconscious Christianity’, to quote the theologian Richard Rothe. It is, I believe, a sign of grace in the Christian-Historical Party that, with all its faults, it has continued to show a large measure of respect for ‘unconscious Christianity’. I am thinking of the remark by Hoedemaker, chairman of the Frisian branch of the party, that it cannot be overlooked that ‘many who cannot be reckoned as church-folk or even Christians nevertheless live according to Christian principles, consciously or otherwise, whether they will or no. This is a reflection of Christianity in our history, our institutions, our society and public opinion, which also dominates our political life.’

Pages: 1 2

You may also like...