How do we make the House of Europe fit for the future?

by Professor Dipl.-Ing. Dr Heinrich Wohlmeyer, Austria*

I would like to start with a sentence by Jacques Delors, who said that we must follow paths along the spiritual basis in Europe in order for it to survive: “We must give Europe a soul again.” Therefore, I begin simply in God’s name, because we are currently in a confusing pluralism of opinions, coupled with the dictatorship of opinions of the rulers.

The German philosopher Norbert Bolz put it this way: “Our great problems do not result from a lack of knowledge, but from a lack of orientation. We are confused, but not ignorant.”
  When we approach the problem, we have to take a three-step, from orientating knowledge to target knowledge to practical knowledge. As far as orientating knowledge for redesigning the house of Europe is concerned, I think human biology gives us essential clues. In their book “Gehirn und Geist – Biologische Erkenntnisse über Vorgeschichte, Wesen und Zukunft der Menschen” (Brain and Mind – Biological Insights into the Prehistory, Nature and Future of Humans), Nobel Prize winner Sir John C. Eccles and Swiss biologist Hans Zeier have conclusively shown that we are designed for small, manageable units. The philosopher and economist Leopold Kohr translated this into the demand to create social structures according to the measure of the human being.
  History also shows that all great empires, despite perfect military design, broke down due to their remoteness from the citizens.
  What therefore emerges as the target knowledge? It is intelligent decentralisation and networking instead of saving away the small units, as is currently happening. I am thinking here of saving away railways, schools, police stations, bank branches, etc. Eccles and Zeier put it briefly as follows: Renunciation of further unbundling of functions in agriculture and industry, which is only efficient in the short term, and restoration of decentralised, functionally interconnected, socially satisfying small societies with manageable power structures and communication networks. Preservation instead of destruction of local cultures.
  In my book “Empörung in Europa” (Outrage in Europe), I proposed the future role of Europe in analogy to the role of the ancient Greeks, namely a standing up for Europe as the light of the world, federal, diverse, constitutional, tolerant, solidary, educated and above all respecting the dignity of the person and realising human rights.
  Above all, Europe must find its way back to its inner compass, to its Christian-Greek-Jewish-Latin roots. The elites in power have even prevented a reference to Europe’s Christian roots from being included in the preamble to the Treaties on the European Union and its functioning.
  But where will the elites tie their value systems? To the changing manipulated opinions? I have always said that if morality depends on the opinion of large numbers, then the most efficient robber is the ideal in a gang of robbers.
  We have to consider something else: Europe is an international role model with its legal and social systems, which are unique in the world. This also causes an influx of migrants, but they no longer share the social contract.
  The European social and legal order is in fact secularised Christianity, we have forgotten that. We therefore end up in the present disorientation in which we alternately propagate any European values.
  What are the guiding principles that result from this orientating knowledge and practical knowledge? Instead of investing in weapons and interventions in a big-man way, we should maintain and further expand decentralised infrastructures. Money creation should be transferred back into national hands, because the currency is, so to speak, the tailor-made suit for the respective national economy. Instead of imposing the four freedoms (capital, goods, services, people) on the different national economies, we should devote ourselves to harmonising legal systems and social systems. The legal systems should be simplified close to the citizens and fulfil the three maxims recognisable, fulfillable, enforce-able. Above all, the incorporation of Anglo-American special legal systems, which on the one hand are hardly readable and contain many uncertainties, should be prevented.
  I now hold out to you the consolidated European treaties. These are 403 pages, which have alrady become more. They are hardly readable for normal citizens, innumerable references back and forth make it difficult to read. In other words, we have an incomprehensible legal order. If we now take things like the CETA agreement, which has over 600 pages, then we are once again taking in a superimposed special legal system that promotes legal uncertainty. In other words, we need a simplified, clear legal situation again.
  As far as international trade is concerned, we must demand the destination principle. This means that you only have free access to the market if you can prove that your product or service was produced in compliance with comparable ecological and social standards as in the country of destination. This is feasible and controllable. When Austria was not yet in the EU, the EU controlled everything down to the small butchers and dairies and closed them down, and we accepted that quietly. But if we demand this internationally, we are immediately told that this is against sovereignty.
  As far as agriculture is concerned, we should finally come back to the proposals of the IAASTD of 2008, the proposals “Agriculture at a Crossroads”. These say that future food security must be based on small-scale, site-oriented, rather horticultural farming – and on adapted structures in processing and marketing.
  But I think that we have to start above all with our youth. Our children must once again become proud of their European homeland, of its philosophers, state teachers, polyphonic music, poets, natural scientists and technicians and, last but not least, as I have already mentioned, the constitutionally democratic organisation of society. If we do not do this, but merely teach “competences” in schools, this means training them to be well-behaved industrial soldiers and placing them in the prescribed competitive struggle. A student told me about this: “Professor, it is clear to us, we are being educated to be gladiators. The best gladiator survives, but the others don’t.” In other words, we have to fundamentally rethink here.
  Now I would like to turn to geopolitics: I believe, and this was echoed throughout the conference: We must say goodbye to vassalage, to the still-hegemon and its adepts, and form our own foreign policy, towards a policy of respect for international law and balanced non-alliance, as has already been emphasised today. This will also enable us to play a neutral mediating role.
  This means that in the current proxy war of the USA against Russia in Ukraine, we can help to achieve a breakthrough for the proposals that Professor Hans Köchler and I have persistently made within the framework of the International Progress Organisation (IPO): namely, non-alignment vis-à-vis East and West, i.e., non-alignment, permanent neutrality, federal structure and recognition of the referendum in Crimea and, in case of mistrust, its repetition. The referendum in Crimea was at least as legitimate and good – if not better – than the one in Kosovo, but the latter was immediately recognised because it was in the “Western interest”.
  I would like to add something else. The still-hegemon USA which, as Scott Ritter showed us yesterday, is in its death throes, and the embrace of a sinking nation is the most dangerous. It is therefore the order of the day to break away from it.
  I would like to summarise: We need a Europe of the diversity of fatherlands, as Charles de Gaulle called for – a “Swissisation” of the EU. The former foreign correspondent of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, Karl Peter Schwarz, put it this way: “For Switzerland has shown how a diversity of languages and religions can sound together in one land.”
  Therefore, your persistent plucking at “Mut zur Ethik” shall not end. If William Scott Ritter’s doomsday scenario should indeed come to pass, then the decentralised Swiss way is the way of survival. I experienced this myself at the end of the Second World War as a child. In the East, everything was destroyed, and we rebuilt the state from the bottom up, from the small units, and received support from above. With this conclusion, I believe that we need a Europe of decentralisation and a Europe that returns to its Christian roots, to the value system that gives orientation.  •

(Translation Current Concerns)

* Lecture at the annual conference of the working group “Mut zur Ethik” (“Europe – what future do we want?”) from 2–4 September 2022.

cc. Heinrich Wohlmeyer was taken in by farmers after his father had died before being deported to a concentration camp, his parental home had been destroyed by bombs and his mother had become ill. He went to grammar school “on his own”, studied law, international business law in the USA and England, and agriculture and food technology at the University of Soil Science in Vienna. Back in Austria, he volunteered as regional developer and industry manager for the Waldviertel and became director of the Austrian Agricultural Industry. After “talking himself apart”, he went to university and taught resource economics and environmental management. In all these activities he realised that the hubs of unsustainable development are trade and financial policies that undermine regional economic cycles. “We need regional solutions for the best possible regional prosperity,” he says.

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