The debate has been ongoing for as long as the expression ‘European integration’ has existed, and it is not likely to stop any time soon: is the self-proclaimed ‘European Community’ underpinned by a set of ‘shared values’?
‘Values’, like ‘culture’, is a sufficiently vague term to allow very divergent interpretations. It is one of these semantic fields that will always enable everybody to highlight divergence and seemingly incompatible diversity of fundamental preferences and social norms.
Sometimes it takes a tragedy like the one that occurred in Paris yesterday to remind oneself that there are some fundamental values that cannot possibly be negotiable in Europe if this community wants to make sense beyond the marketplace.
Europe must be a place where those who hold the power are forced by the law to use their authority in order to protect the freedom of those who ridicule them permanently in their writing.
Europe must be a place where society is enlightened enough to tolerate the equality of opinions and to prefer secular doubt over absolute truths.
Europe must be a place where a symbolic attack on these essential principles is spontaneously and sincerely felt across national borders in a fundamental solidarity that transcends cultural differences.
So are there ‘European’ values? I only speak for myself, but I haven’t found a better answer to this question than ‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité’.