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“European Values in Times of Crisis”

9 September 2016

The first meeting of the Polish chapter of Friends of ERA was held on 9 September 2016 at the Supreme Court of Poland. The topic of the meeting was “European Values in Times of Crisis.”

The European values enshrined in the Treaty on European Union are the respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of minorities.
European Values in Times of CrisisThe guests were welcomed by Jettie Van Caenegem, chair of the Friends of ERA Association. Then the moderator of the panel, adwokat Tomasz Wardyński, presented the panellists, Prof. Marcin Król and Prof. Roman Wieruszewski. A short presentation was shown depicting the support for nationalist parties in the European Union, with comments from leading politicians of these parties alongside the views of Hannah Arendt on the roots of totalitarianism.

Prof. Król pointed to the shortage of truth in public debate. Not only do politicians lie, he said, but voters know they are being lied to and don’t object, and even accept having their votes bought off by lies. Across society at large, politics has become a circus for the masses, and has ceased to be the art of choosing the best solutions for society. He also explained that celebrities, not experts, are regarded as authorities. He took the view that the crisis must deepen before Europeans bounce back and find a new equilibrium.

Prof. Wieruszewski pointed out that the system of European values is guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which not only the member states of the European Union are a party to. He said that this offers a system of procedural guarantees for compliance with human rights. He also pointed out that lying has always been a part of politics, but the mass society and mass media are indeed a new phenomenon.

The audience took a lively part in the discussion. They raised the issue of whether we are dealing now with a crisis of European values, or European values during a time of crisis. They mentioned the similarity in political processes across various European countries. The question was also raised of why the voice of intellectuals is not being heard, or whether intellectual elites who could educate the society exist at all in Europe.

Following the official programme, the discussion was carried over to a restaurant and continued in a less formal atmosphere.