The French bishops published a statement Monday on the upcoming European elections, insisting that certain issues such as immigration must be addressed at the multinational level.
“It is obvious to everyone that some solutions cannot be found at the level of individual nations; such is the issue of migrants,” the bishops declare in their statement. “Pope Francis reminded European leaders: ‘We cannot think of the migratory process as a process without discernment and without rules, but we cannot erect walls of indifference or fear.’”
The bishops said that the fundamental question for the European elections is not a binary thumbs-up or thumbs-down to the European Union (EU), but rather: “What kind of Europe do we want?”
“The elections to the European Parliament will soon take place in a difficult context, both at national and European levels,” they state. “To say that Europe does not have good press is a banality: for many of our fellow citizens it seems distant, technocratic, often ineffective.”
In their statement, the bishops seem to acknowledge recent polls suggesting that many Europeans are deeply critical of Brussels.
The Pew Research Center released a survey last week noting that the majority of Europeans say that EU leadership is “intrusive, inefficient, and out of touch” with the real needs of citizens.
While crediting the EU for promoting peace, democratic values, and prosperity, Europeans are unimpressed with the EU’s ability to efficiently deal with concrete problems such as immigration, Pew found, a factor that is sure to influence voters at the upcoming elections to be held on May 23rd.
There are “strong concerns about immigration in some countries,” the Pew report declares. “Majorities or pluralities in most nations want fewer immigrants allowed into their country. Many believe that immigrants tend to remain distinct from the broader culture and that immigration increases the risk of terrorism.”
There is a “strong desire” in many countries for less immigration, Pew reported, with more than 70 percent of the population in Greece, Hungary, and Italy saying they favour fewer immigrants.
The Pew study echoed results from a comprehensive 2018 poll covering all 28 EU states, which revealed that more than three-quarters (78 percent) of EU citizens believe that Europe’s external borders should be better protected.
That survey also found that a majority of Europeans believe that the influx of immigrants into their respective countries will increase both the crime rate and the threat of terrorism. A majority of citizens (57 percent) said that the arrival of immigrants will change the culture of their countries.
In Monday’s statement, the French bishops suggest that in preparing for the European elections citizens think beyond their national interests and consider what kind of Europe they want: which “economic, social, cultural, and spiritual model seems best adapted for our continent today.”
The bishops note that “the powers of the European Parliament have increased over the years” and many European decisions affect the daily lives of citizens.
They also stress how important the European Union has been for bringing peace to a continent with a history of bloody internecine wars.
“We have to help European citizens discern the nature of the choices to be made so that Europe can respond more to their expectations but also to its own mission in the evolution of the world,” the bishops conclude.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome