The voice of Margriet Krijtenburg
Unity in Diversity!
Practice Appreciative Inquiry Dialogue, so that each feels encouraged to get the best out of it for the other!
This interview was taken in English by Cécile Masson, leadership coach, host and writer of Rose, letters of love to life
Margriet is Senior Lecturer at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the European Studies Programme and researcher on European Integration.
Margriet was going to give a course on how Personal Leadership is connected to the Core Principles of European Integration in Brno, Nancy and Lima, but Corona decided otherwise.
The topicality of the thoughts of Robert Schuman, one of the main Founding Fathers of the European Union, about whom she wrote her PhD thesis keep her engaged. Robert Schuman’s thoughts are very important for the EU today but also for the world and individual citizens especially students and children. This is one of the reasons she transformed her thesis into a children’s book called ‘The Father of Europe,’ together with Arjen de Wit, a writer and colleague of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.
Who was Schuman?
Schuman was born in Luxembourg, father from Lorraine (French-German), mother from Lux. (Lux. who became German because of her marriage) and thus in a multicultural environment. He was born a German as his father had become German after the Prussian-French war of 1870-71. He was ALWAYS searching for a solution to the everlasting conflict between France and Germany because of Alsace Lorraine and acknowledged and promoted an attitude of reconciliation. He studied law in Germany, did his PhD in Strassbourg (SCL) and became a successful lawyer in Metz (Lorraine). But then when his mother died in an accident (his father passed away when he was still very small) in 1911, he experienced a personal crisis. He wondered if he was called to the priesthood or if he needed to continue as a lawyer. A friend of his recommended him to remain a lawyer with the words “the saints of the future will be saints in suit”. Schuman decided to give heed to this advice.
This episode says a lot about Schuman and is very interesting, because the universal call to sanctity, trying to become the person one is meant to be by God, as old as Christianity itself, will only be made explicit officially during the Vatican Council of the Catholic Church several years later (1964) This period had an enormous impact on his life and thoughts.
After the 1st World War, 1918: Schuman became a representative of the Département de la Moselle (Lorraine) – that goes back to France – in the French central government. As a lawyer and politician he had to adapt the laws of Alsace Lorraine to those of the central government of France. He knew how to content both the central and the regional governments by applying the subsidiarity principle, not adapting more laws than necessary for the national common good. This was called the Lex Schuman.
2nd World War, Schuman would be the 1st Parliamentarian to be caught by the Gestapo. Later put on house arrest he escaped. He nevertheless continued with his reconciliation policy. Despite the fact that Nazis promised an Enormous amount of money for the person who delivered Schuman to them…
A great description of Schuman’s character is found in his leitmotiv in life, that he wrote in a letter during that time (to a colleague of his)
Schuman’s LEITMOTIV! “We are all instruments, however imperfect, of a Providence who uses them to accomplish grand designs which surpass us. This certainty obliges us to a great deal of modesty but also confers on us a serenity that our own personal experiences would not justify if we consider them from a purely human point of view.”(Robert Schuman, 1942)
The Greek-Roman tradition with Socrates, Plato, Aristoteles etc. and the Jewish Christian roots still are in the DNA of our educational, health and law systems here in Europe, however anti-religious we might be.
Adenauer, Chancellor of West Germany, De Gasperi, Prime-Minister of Italy, Schuman, Minister of Foreign Affairsand Monnet, Director of the French Planning Committee, and economist, were the main Founding Fathers of the European Integration project. Monnet being the one who knew how to put Schuman’s ideas combined with his own economic insights on paper in the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950. The first three had a lot in common. They were all three of a conflict region and two of them changed nationality. Schuman, from German to French; De Gasperi, from Hongarian-Austrian to Italian. All three were practicing Catholics and saw the European spiritual and cultural heritage as the already existing intrinsic binding element for European countries and thus for European integration. (Schuman had the courage to launch the so called Schuman Declaration also know as the “Bombe Schuman” for the surprise and enormous impact it had on European countries).
Together they managed the reconciliation of archenemies that for more than a thousand years were in conflict: France and what’s now Germany. As equal partners they started a peace project changing instruments of war, coal and steel into instruments of peace. That on a supra national level (not French, not German, but above states) and opened this union for other countries to join. The first six countries of the European Union were France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
All agreed that Europe should take care of the African continent as soon as things had calmed down after the Second World War. We know better.
Schuman’s frame of reference was:
· Effective solidarity,
· Subsidiarity and supra-nationality only where needed.
Schuman followed the Social Doctrine of the Church and this also meant that persons women and men, with their social and spiritual dimensions have to be at the heart the economic, political and social structures. The economy and politics are meant to serve mankind and not the other way round.
Just now what binds all countries all over the world is the Corona crisis. So you could say that this crisis is positive even though nobody wants this and certainly not the economic crisis and social pandemic that will follow. That is why Schuman’s frame of reference in which the person is at the heart could be useful to remember for solving problems based on the common interest to get through these crises together as well as possible. Schuman’s personal life mirrors the greater patterns. He lived to serve others and that’s how each person and state is asked to live so as to achieve both the best possible personal development and community of peoples.
Next to Corona lets also remember that many countries experience famine, war and floods and their citizens then flee to Europe. Great migratory movements are the consequence with crime, terrorism and more cycles of war.
EU leaders and other world leaders have an opportunity to solve the greater problems together.
Take the health workers as an example. They are curing the people from Corona, politicians could do the same for the world. Where are the huge problems that we need to solve? Big problems need big solutions. The only way to get peace is to focus on reconciliation despite personal and global hatred. Schuman’s Life motive is an important one to remember: ‘Nous sommes tous des instruments bien imparfaits d’une providence qui s’en sert dans l’accomplissement des grands dessins qui nous dépassent.’
To practice reconciliation implies:
· Focus on the positive of every persona and state, focus on what binds and not on what separates and build on that. Think of Thomas Aquinas’s dialectic method on peace and reconciliation
· Practice Appreciative Inquiry Dialogue, so that each feels encouraged to get the best out of it for the other!
· Unity in Diversity! The leitmotiv of the EU!
Personal leadership implies that you ask yourself some basic questions:
· What’s my main aim in life?
· How do I know who I am meant to be?
· What kind of qualities would I like to see in another person?
· And practice being the best version of yourself!
Corona is in that a perfect training field to practice desired qualities and notice the positive effects.
Practicing the response-ability that we have to decide ourselves how we react to stimuli of impatience, laziness, comfort seeking etc. That is solidarity and makes the world a better place to live in for ourselves and for others. It’s about serving!
EU and other world leaders need to take care of the countries within and beyond the EU taking into account not only the European, but also the universal common good, by practicing Schuman’s frame of reference despite the financial investments needed.
A paradigm shift is needed!
Corona offers a chance for the EU to shine. Like it gives each single person and citizen the chance to be the best possible version of herself and be happy in practicing solidarity.