There are many people who think like Viktor Orbán scattered across Europe. It would be well for a statesman like the Hungarian Prime Minister, with his inner potential, political talent and the relations he has built in politics, to undertake the work of building the Schuman faction – says prof. Zbigniew Krysiak, Programme Council Chairman at the Schuman Institute of Thought.
On the 171st anniversary of the Hungarian uprising, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gave a speech in front of the National Museum building in Budapest, wherein which he stated, among other things, "We want a new beginning to stop the collapse of Europe, to end the United States of Europe nightmare, so that Europe can once again belong to the Europeans". Do you see an ally of Robert Schuman's ideas here?
Prof. Zbigniew Krysiak: Over the past few years Prime Minister Orbán made many statements with included themes strongly connected with the idea of Schuman's Europe. The Servant of God Robert Schuman built Europe as a Commonwealth of Nations, not a super-state. Many politicians express important ideas and appeals in the spirit of Robert Schuman, but do not refer to him directly. Therefore, I would like to encourage the Hungarian Prime Minister and other leaders of Central and Eastern European countries to refer to Robert Schuman and quote him frequently. This is all the more important because invoking such an authority as Schuman, who is still treated with respect and esteem in the West, creates the potential for integration around Schuman and makes it impossible for those concepts of the Commonwealth of Europe, supported by Viktor Orbán and Mateusz Morawiecki to be so strongly criticised or disregarded by the EU elite, because behind them stands the father of a united Europe and the creator of the concept of the Commonwealth of Europe and a valued figure in the West.
So, when talking Schumanesque, is it worth citing Schuman?
Talking about Shuman's ideas, without mentioning him does nothing to propagate the message beyond our borders. Schuman was a Frenchman, but also experienced in the culture of Germany and Luxembourg, someone who had potential and for a long time yet, no one, even from those left-wing or neo-liberal circles, will dare to declare war on him. Someone who speaks in the spirit of Schuman referring to him will not be removed with their message from public space as aggressively as someone who speaks Schumanesque without mentioning him. When talking in Schuman's spirit, quoting him refers to Schuman's authority and not to one's own, which is also very effective in building up the speaker's own authority. To give you an example, two years ago I was at Monte Casino and had a speech for 300 people from France, Germany and Italy, I told them about a Europe of the Spirit, a Europe of Christianity, but according to Robert Schuman's vision. After the speech, people, especially from Germany and France, approached me and told me, Professor, how is it that we knew so little about Robert Schuman, such a wonderful man and our compatriot! Besides, Europe has a deficit of authorities, especially saints in suits as I refer to them, such as our leader and spiritual father Robert Schuman, are missing, so it is worth mentioning him in public space.
The Hungarian Prime Minister also said that "Without Christian culture there is no Hungarian freedom and there is no free Hungary (...) We wish the peoples of Europe shake the cataracts from their eyes and that they would see and understand; that without Christian culture there will be no free life in Europe".
Schuman spoke about it in this way: "democracy in Europe will be Christian or not at all", and he expands that without the Christian spirit democracy will become a certain caricature, a certain monster or even an aggressive totalitarian system. These appeals by Viktor Orbán must be followed by actions to unite circles and parties in Europe that actually and not seemingly advocate the Commonwealth of Europe according to Schuman. Schuman integrated idea, spirit and action within himself. He was almost a "fanatic" of practical steps, he did not end the day without taking a practical step to build a European community. An idea expressed and remaining in the verbal space will not create a transformation of Europe. I imagine the slogan for Western Europe to shake the cataract fall from its eyes as an initiative of Orbán and a few more leaders from the Visegrad Group to take up the work of creating a Schuman Faction in the European Parliament.
Is there a chance that a Schuman faction will appear in the European Parliament?
I am convinced that this is the case, if only for the fact that many leaders in our part of Europe think the same way, and there is a lot of potential in Western Europe too, which means a lot. Schuman was alone at the beginning, many said he was an idealistic fantasist or even a madman. There are many people who think like Viktor Orbán, but are scattered and hidden in various factions. It would be well for a statesman like the Hungarian Prime Minister, to undertake the work of building the Schuman faction. This faction cannot rely on attracting MEPs from other factions to the one I am in. It should be an entity that is new to everyone. Our Institute is active in this field, we form Schuman's groups in national parliaments and we observe growing interest in many countries of the community. My estimates show that in the long term, the Schuman faction may be the largest in the European Parliament, which would mean gaining influence on shaping Europe according to Schuman. Orbán should decide to leave the EPP and announce this initiative, call for the formation of this faction. Someone might say that some leader from Poland could do it, after all we have more MEPs or someone from Italy or France. However, it seems to me that it should be Viktor Orbán, because of his inner potential, his political talent and the relations he has built in politics. In fact, Orbán would be an expression of the thinking and expectations of many leaders, peoples and nations of Europe who do not have the courage to express it themselves or there are silent for various other reasons. Those who are today silent will follow such an Orbán's slogan, because they are waiting for the one who first gives the signal.
"A politician's task is to reconcile the two orders, spiritual and secular, and to create a synthesis, sometimes difficult but necessary," said Schuman. Orbán is the last, or maybe the first in the new, enlarged Europe to undertake the mission of reconciling these two orders?
Schuman is the author of a conceptualisation with a practical dimension that speaks of cooperation between the clerical authority and civil authority in the service of man. The Servant of God claimed that man himself is a union of spirit and body, this cannot be divided and none of them can be marginalized. Schuman's concept of authority is composed of clerical and civil authority, which serve, cooperate and closely work together. Thus the logic of separating the Church from the State is contradictory to Schuman's thought, since it omits the relational function of these two competences in the service of man. Prime ministers Orbán and Morawiecki have the potential to bring these concepts back to Europe because they keep talking about them, identifying with them even though they often do not name them explicitly. However, these efforts will be ineffective without broaching Schuman's spirituality. I sometimes say that just as the Franciscans live the spirit of St. Francis and his rule for almost ten centuries, so politicians who want to realize the legacy of the Servant of God Robert Schuman should live his spirit and form themselves in a way that is his model, so that the Europe they want to build on his model is a lasting value. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement Schuman's ideas without formation in his spirituality and method of action. Following Schuman's example gives an opportunity to perpetuate a certain system of principles, coined by Schuman, because he created a certain set of original political principles and methods of their implementation consistent with Christian values.
What principles are these?
Robert Schuman's actual mission, as a lawyer, economist, statesman and diplomat, was to create such an environment to make it easier for man to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Schuman has always asked himself whether the creation of common funds, the implementation of the Coal and Steel Community and the establishment of social organizations will bring people closer to God. When we talk about Schuman, it's not an abstract question. He prayed the rosary every day, took part in the holy mass and meditated on the words of the Holy Bible. These are little known facts, rather unpopular, and yet without this it is difficult to speak and implement its concept. In order to succeed, our leaders must also enter the spiritual area in which Schuman functioned and into a personal relationship with Schuman, because he did not die, but lives. One important principle applied by Schuman was to examine the compliance of the laws and regulations created with God's law, the gospel and Christian and social teachings and thought. Such an approach should be applied nowadays, because it would prove that there is no schizophrenia among Christian politicians, from which a "run with the hare and hunt with the hounds" attitude is created. A good example to illustrate this is the approach to the regulatory process in Parliament. At the end of such a process, the compliance of the act with the so-called EU law is checked. Christian politicians cannot place EU law over God's law and the gospel in such a situation, because it would mean that Christian values are only apparent and ignored in application. Therefore, in such a situation, it would be necessary to check whether the law being made takes the gospel into account, which would then mean that we apply the principles resulting from Schuman's style and ideas.
Isn't this perhaps too bold a concept for the current political climate in Europe?
Of course, this may seem like an audacious concept today, but let's see under what conditions Schuman himself spoke about reconciliation, cooperation and solidarity. It was just after the terrible war, when a few years earlier the nations of Europe were ruthlessly murdering one another. It was then that Schuman said, "there will be no solidarity without unity and there will be no peace without solidarity". Our spiritual father fought for a long time to begin the process of reconciliation. Europe has long been maturing to this vision, but at some point it finally happened.
Robert Schuman put a strong emphasis on the value of Christian relations in politics. Please expand on this thought.
I will use here a comparison of two types of relationship: Christian and neoliberal. Neoliberal is based on interest, relationships are maintained in this category as long as it pays off, because it is based on interests, benefits and economic gain. In such relationships, there are sharp conflicts and even wars. There is no spirit. The Christian relationship, unparalleled in any other spirituality or philosophy, offers a selfless gift from the self. In other words, my relationship with you is based on love, which does not end. A selfless gift from the self creates a different quality for social functioning. This also strongly translates into better quality of politics and economy. I say this also on the basis of my research as a professor of economics.
The love of which you speak of is the highest level of unselfish and forgiving love, which a person is not able to generate by themselves. How is it to be implemented in European politics?
Exactly, there must be a source of this love, higher than man, that is, the Lord God, for these Christian relationships to work in the public sphere. That's exactly what Robert Schuman was talking about. The deficit of such a style of thinking and acting causes dissonance among Christians, one hour a week in the church of the Lord God and then about 170 hours a week of soaking up the spirit, often in opposition to God. You could illustrate that if a sponge gets soaked in clean water for an hour and 170 hours in mud, this mess will always stay there. Following Schuman's example, we can say that the mission of a Christian politician as a man of social trust begins with personal systematic contact, meeting and talking with God in order to further transfer the will of Providence to the ora et labora style. If this is not the case, it is the so-called Christian politician who acts without God's will, so in a way against God, which leads to his action being ineffective and perhaps even very often destructive. Schuman gave a constructive and value-building relationship with God in the following way: "We are all, certainly imperfect, instruments of Providence, which uses us to do great things for which our own strength would be insufficient. This awareness obliges us to great modesty, but on the other hand, it offers us an inner peace that would not be justified if we perceived our personal experiences only from a purely earthly point of view." Without Christian politicians adopting this style of Schuman it is hard to count on a return to Christian Europe. The pressure of anti-evangelical forces is too great in these times, and even such great politicians as Viktor Orbán, Mateusz Morawiecki or Andrzej Duda, who, after all, speak openly about Christian values in politics, will not push the idea we want to see again without immersing ourselves in Schuman's spirituality and without following him.
Is it possible for Schuman's idea to move from Western Europe to Eastern Europe after a few dozen years and for it to be implemented from there?
That's my hypothesis, which I first spelled out two years ago. I argued at the time that the Three Seas could become the prototype of Schuman's Commonwealth of Europe, if we do not use it, we will commit the sin of omission. I am convinced that this Three Seas Imitative will radiate to Western Europe. Over the corpse of Spinelli's ideology, the negative effects of which are experienced by Italians, French, Spaniards, but also Belgians and Swedes, among others, this new breath of Christian revival is something expected by local societies. It is extremely important to focus not only on material and economic projects, which are very important, but also on the spiritual sphere. Otherwise, Three Seas will not fulfil its mission of renewing Europe and returning to the Community of European Nations. From Schuman's position of authority one should recommend to the political leaders in the Three Seas the following reflection, which in the mouth of our spiritual father was as follows: "A United Europe will not rise from day to day and not without obstacles. Its construction will follow the path of the spirit. Nothing that is permanent is easy. Europe is on its way. But above the institutions, the roots of the idea of community and its spirit of solidarity as a community are crucial". Rejection of the Spirit and Love of God in building the Three Seas Initiative, as Schuman says, will result in the failure to fulfil the mission facing the leaders of the Three Seas, which will waste the chance for Europe to return to life and flourish in the spirit of Christian values and contaminate Europe with only vegetation, which in a way can be expressed in the following words of a poem by Polish Nobel Prize winner Wisława Szymborska: "One can not love you - and live, but not bear fruit."
Are politicians such as Viktor Orbán, Mateusz Morawiecki and other leaders of the Visegrad Group saving European integration from being taken over by dangerous utopists?
Definitely yes. Imagine that there are no leaders like Viktor Orbán, Mateusz Morawiecki, Andrzej Duda, but also Andrej Babiš and several others, then we would already have a very advanced super-state according to Spinelli's models with central power in Brussels. Please remember that it would not be the United States of Europe, but Spinelli talks directly about communism, which would be a hundred times worse than the Soviet one. Schuman prophetically warned that the apostles of such an ideology as Spinelli pursued would not stop and would lose their way of pursuing it under various guises. The warning is formulated by Schuman as follows: "Beware of those whose charm leads us to passivity. Beware of those who want to lull us into a false sense of security. Beware of providers of empty assurances promising illusory means for security. They try to introduce in stages and step by step what the healthy spirit of the nation rejects and opposes. Their ultimate goal is clear. They try to extinguish religious life in countries and people. For the love of our children, we want to prevent these consequences. This attitude that we adopt should not only result from opposition, but above all because we cannot betray the soul of our nation."
Does the Robert Schuman Institute that you run have friends along the banks of the Danube?
Yes, we have many contacts there, we have many meetings and conferences in Hungary, even among Prime Minister Orbán's colleagues there are many supporters of the Schuman idea.
Interviewed by: Jakub Pacan