How to understand and learn to love Europe

book by Michael Breisky “How to Understand and learn how to love Europe” (Original: German,  Title: Europa verstehen und lieben lernen)


Crisis-ridden Europe must decide whether it will remain a political player or become the sad appendix of other parts of the world. There is a reasonable chance of overcoming these crises only if the path to the “soul” of Europe is found in a strong sense of community and solidarity.

Written by a “collective of authors” consisting of 5 retired top Austrian ambassadors and an emeritus professor of European legal development, the 90-page paper first analyzes 7 factors of European identity (Islam No. 8???); then turns to the mistakes of the outdated EU strategy of constraints – hardly any open and democratic procedures – and deals with elements of a cultural strategy; this has priority milestones: Awakening active responsibility for Europe by reviving the Universal Declaration of Human Duties; the institutionalization of competitions for European narratives aimed at young people; and the constructive reinterpretation of European intellectual history.

It is not enough for the EU to operate through practical constraints: The first steps of integration were enforced by invoking constraints “from above”, as the wounds of two world wars did not yet allow for a democratic “from below”. In the decades that followed, integration remained an elitist goal under a technocratic and increasingly bureaucratic regime, which ignored the pro-European change of heart among the population, so that the development of democratic control and co-determination as well as the cultivation of identity remained underdeveloped.

Hostility towards religion prevents a European narrative: Contrary to the preamble of the EU Treaty, leading EU politicians – including in the European Court of Justice – still block any reference to the high value of the Christian heritage or trivialize it: for them, spiritual Europe apparently only began in the wake of the French Revolution, if not in 1945. This burdens everything cultural and blocks the development of a popular “narrative” about Europe and its values. Such narrative, however, must be true as well as rational enough to make even future generations proud to be European citizens.

European identity politics therefore requires, on the one hand, a new view of the Christian heritage: In the 13th century with the rediscovery of Aristotle’s philosophy, it laid the decisive foundation for the extraordinary and worldwide success of Western civilization when it developed a highly pragmatic combination of idealistic “Sunday world” and realistic “working day world”. Admittedly, this often led to double standards, seriously weakening the moral integrity of Christianity. On the other hand, rational humanism developed as the necessary corrective: Still under the impression of over a thousand years of Sunday sermons, it fought back against the influence of a corrupted Christian “weekday world” during the Enlightenment and adopted many ideas of the “Sunday world” on the basis of reason rather than transcendence – such as individuality and human dignity, minority rights, democracy, tolerance and social responsibility. The Enlightenment also insisted on the separation of church and state, the implementation of which is even seen as an advantage by the Christian churches today – especially in Western Europe.

The political implementation of these values was then a task for Christians, agnostic or deistic humanists and later also democratic Marxists. This happened in a process of changing dominance within the respective “zeitgeist”; and although the dispute over the importance of belief in God continues to this day, in retrospect these values, as they are enshrined today in Art. 2 of the EU Treaty, are the result of a tacit de facto discourse between Christian and humanist heritage; in order to stand up together for the dignity of man and to protect each other from fundamentalism – the inherent ability to self-relativize is the core of the European idea!

This Christian-humanist heritage corresponds to the political idea of active humanity, as expressed by the project of the Universal Declaration of Human Duties. It was conceived in the 1990s as the completion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948 – but ultimately it was rejected as “too Europe-centric”. With the desire to revive this project, EU citizens can declare their willingness to take active responsibility for the “greater homeland” of Europe, putting European solidarity on a new footing.

Support from Jürgen Habermas: after years of criticizing religion, the founder of discourse theory now explains that reason can explain why “one” should practice solidarity with fellow human beings, but whether this appeal is followed is a completely different question; only religion, on the other hand, can demand this solidarity directly and individually from its believers. Erich Kästner already rhymed about this:

“There is nothing good unless one does it!”

But God says “better still, you do it!”

’cause this “you” will not get anywhere,

where “ you go first!” is added everywhere

Catalog of measures: some structural measures (such as the European implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Duties; the legal protection of cultural values against abusive judicature; the start of the EU’s dialogue with religions) as well as numerous public relations measures, mainly widely broadcasted competitions for young people.

Appendix 1: Retired Ambassador Dr. Walter Hagg, Essay 2023:

European art as a community-building factor

Appendix 2: Prof. emer. Dr. Johannes W. Pichler, Lecture 2008:

The move towards individual rights

Appendix 3: Retired Ambassador Dr. Heinrich Birnleitner:

Correspondence with Bot. I.R. Dr. Michael Breisky:

First Answers to Last Questions – On the Overreasoning of Ethos and Common Sense

Appendix 4: Text of the Universal Declaration of Human Duties

Translated with (free version)

The book  “How to Understand and learn how to love Europe” has been published in April, 20024, by Michael Breisky in a private edition,  ISBN 978-3-200-9798-8

It can be ordered from – under: Book-order Europe – at a price of Euro 18,- plus shipping costs