2016: Terry Eagleton, Distinguished Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University, delivers the ninth annual Theos lecture
A Soul for the Union
21st January 2016
The European Union is in crisis. The crisis in question is a hydra, a beast with many heads, each of which have the potential in their own right to prove fatal. The ongoing economic crisis, particularly as expressed in a few debtor countries (and, most prominently, Greece), the refugee crisis, the democratic deficit, and the spectre of a UK referendum, each seem to have the potential to break the whole Union.
The specific debate in the UK over the European question has been illustrative of a general trend across Europe, with arguments focusing almost entirely on technical issues, and with an underlying assumption that the single real measure on which to measure Europe is economic. This approach, though particularly prevalent in the UK is one that has been growing across Europe for some years, and is quite unlike the priorities and assumptions that shaped the earlier European project.
This report charts the development of the European project, from its origins in 1950s Christian Democracy, with a strong focus on solidarity and peace, through to its current period of crisis. It argues that today’s EU has lost sight of its founding principles and instead placed excessive focus on a particular conception of national economic performance.
Ultimately, this report argues that this is a weak basis for political union. A union worth saving would be on stronger ground if it could develop a clearer, explicit moral purpose that resonated with its citizens. Perhaps more simply, if the EU is going to be worth saving it needs to discover a soul.
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This research is in cooperation with the Christian Political Foundation for Europe.
From 2011 on, the activities of the CPFE are financially supported by the European Parliament. The liability for any communication or publication by the CPFE, in any form and any medium, rests with the CPFE. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.