(Phoned in by Mr. Hogberg from Brussels)


I am writing this in the press room of the Common Market headquarters complex in Brussels, Belgium. Directly in front of me is a huge scoreboard whereon was just registered the final results in the world's first international election. On Thursday, June 7, and Sunday, June 10, about 60 percent of an eligible 180 million voters in the nine European Community nations cast ballots for directly elected representatives to the expanded European Parliament, one of three principal bodies which govern the affairs of the Community.

The new parliament, expanded from 198 to 410 delegates, will not hold its first session until next month, but at least its ideological makeup is evident from the voting outcome. It will reflect a center-right conservative tone. The socialist parties will constitute the single largest bloc, but the European Peoples' Party, an umbrella union of the continent's Christian Democrats, will wind up only a handful of seats behind. They are expected to be joined on most issues by Britain's Conservatives, voted in by a landslide.

Excitement surrounding the election here has been pretty high, but community officials are disappointed with the results for two basic reasons. First, the turn-out, despite a remarkable 85% watershed in Italy, was, in their view, "disappointingly low" (though a 60% turn-out in the United States would be terrific!). Apathy combined with significant voter antipathy was the rule in much of Britain and Denmark. Officials in West Germany — the Common Market's most enthusiastic supporter — had hoped for at least an 80% turn-out but had to settle for 15% less.

The second and most detracting factor in the Euro-election is that the old bug-a-boo of nationalism refused to recede into the background. In fact, national perspectives and national politics dominated the very conduct of the election itself, an election in which the people of Europe were theoretically supposed to act politically for the first time as Europeans rather than as Germans, Danes or Frenchmen.

In West Germany, for example, the vote was analyzed almost entirely in its national context. When Christian Democratic candidates pulled 49.2% of the popular vote, CDU leaders were overjoyed at the prospect that they could emerge victorious in the 1980 federal elections — perhaps even with a clear majority, not needing-help from the Free Democrats.

In France, the election appeared mostly to be a test of voter strength between President Giscard's Centrists, battling against the fractured left of the Socialists and Communists and against the far-rightists led by Jacques Chirac, who blanch at every expansion of the EEC bureaucracy in Brussels. President Giscard, of course, was not a candidate but he won a personal victory when his Centrist slate emerged as the largest bloc.

In Ireland, Prime Minister Jack Lynch and his ruling Fianna Fail Party were rebuffed at the polls — not for their own particular views with regard to a United Europe but because Irish voters were fed up with a protracted postal strike and mounting petrol shortages. They used this election to register their displeasure.

In Britain, only a third of eligible voters went to the polls — the lowest turnout of all nine countries. Anti-market politicians claimed that the mass abstention was proof of British dissatisfaction with controversial EEC policies such as the one with agriculture. Worse yet, many of the Labor party delegates dispatched to Strasbourg are anti-marketeers themselves and will constitute a neat little bloc of foot-draggers in the Parliament.

The most ridiculous situation occurred in Denmark. The Danes reacted to the first European election by giving the largest bloc of seats to a party dedicated to opposing the European ideal. The so-called "Peoples Anti-EEC Party" took four of Denmark's allotted 16 seats, the remainder being split between seven other parties. Greenland, whose 24,000 electorate formed a separate constituency to the rest of Denmark, also elected an anti-market candidate.

Even in Italy the high turnout was dismissed by most analysts as misleading. Party discipline in Italy is very strict, virtually guaranteeing heavy participation in any election.

Today's [June 11] edition of the Daily Telegraph contained an article stating That the European elections were bound to radically alter the future of the Common Market. That is hard to see. The same article admitted that the newly constituted parliament would have only fractionally more power than the old one. Political control will still largely rest with the EEC's Council of Ministers, who represent and directly report to their respective national governments.

Papal Confrontation With Communism

It is by no means coincidental that at the very time free Europe's secular leaders have made their latest (yet ultimately futile) attempt to achieve political unity, the head of the Roman Catholic Church should be led to reveal his vision of the Europe of the future. Pope John Paul 11, concluding his precedent-shattering nine-day journey behind the Iron Curtain, has served notice in no uncertain terms that he will be a source of enormous influence in European political affairs from now on.

Most of the news stories reporting on the Pope's trip to Poland have failed to give the enormous European and global impact in what he did and what he said. A very notable exception appeared in this morning's [June 11] edition of the International Herald Tribune. It was written by John Vinocur, a New York Times reporter who traveled to Poland with the papal entourage and almost singularly grasped the awesome portent of the trip.

Referring to himself again and again as 'this Slav, this Pole,'", wrote Vinocur, "the 59-year-old former archbishop of Cracow seemed intent on underscoring his own uniqueness and making understood that he now has defined his mission, eight months after his election as pope, as one in which rapprochement between the power blocs and the furthering of human rights in Eastern Europe carry weight.

"The message was presented before crowds totalling perhaps 6 million Poles with such emotion and such a complete lack of interest in diplomatic interest in diplomatic tip-toeing that the effect was overwhelming."

Vinocur reported that the situation as it unfolded was so new, so unexpected, that it was actually difficult to grasp in its entirety. "Here was," he said, "a Polish pope talking daily before assemblies of his countrymen about how the Soviet Union and the other Allies had not come to their aid during the siege of Warsaw in World War I; about the Christian history of Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Yugoslavia and Lithuania: about how Europe must turn to Christianity if it is to advance beyond its present divisions; about how Communism and Christianity are diametrically opposed, and how the state must always be subsidiary 'to the Cull sovereignty of the nation.'"

"An obvious question," continued Vinocur, "was what the cumulative effect of such comments could be, refined and repeated over the next years.... The pope showed how unsettling his approach could seem when he said, 'I am sure there are people out there who are already having a hard time taking this Slavic pope.' The themes seeded & the pope, depending on how they are nurtured, could be the source of a new kind of dialogue in Eastern Europe or they could provide a permanent element of confrontation."

It is remarkable how much the pope "got away with" in his verbal assault on Communism. But the Polish authorities, having agreed to the visit in the first place — a Polish party official told Vinocur privately that they wanted to get a papal visit out of the way early — had little choice but to grin and bear it. They heard the pope suggest that Communist societies were flawed and inadequate. "Christ will never approve," he said in the industrial city of Nowa Huta, "that man must be considered or consider himself merely as a means of production.... This must be remembered by both the workers and the employer, by the work system as well as by the system of remuneration."

The combination of the mass throngs and the almost daily criticisms of Communist society brought, said Vinocur, "painful illustrations to Polish and other European leaders of their lack of contact with the population."

Pope Tells of Europe's "Fundamental Unity"

On this historic trip, reported Vinocur, the pope offered "a vision of the future and perhaps a glimpse of the long-term lines of his pontificate."

John Paul II delivered these thunderbolt words on one occasion: "Europe, despite its present and long-lasting divisions of regimes, ideologies and economic and political systems, cannot cease to seek its fundamental unity [and] must turn to Christianity. Despite the different traditions that exist in the territory of Europe between its Eastern part and its Western part, there lives in each of them the same Christianity.... Christianity must commit itself anew to the formation of the spiritual unity of Europe. Economic and political reasons cannot do it. We must go deeper..."

Since Vinocur's analysis, yet other indepth reports have come in. One of the best by far is found in the June 18th issue of Time magazine. Be sure to get and read the entire article.

But two key excerpts are worth noting here:

"The pope seemed to envision an eventual pan-European Christian alliance against the secular materialism of both East and West."

"Charisma was not the word to describe what had happened... John Paul II stirred an outpouring of trust and affection that no political leader in today's world could hope to inspire, let alone command."

The conclusion of the Time article was this:

"'There is something like a vacuum in world leadership that John Paul might well be able to fill,' says St. John-Stevas, a Catholic layman. He believes the world is 'suffering from spiritual starvation and bereft of moral leadership. The gods of secularism and materialism have failed to satisfy, and mankind is looking for new perspectives.'

"Those failed gods, West and East, appear to be as powerful as ever in the onrush of events. But the Slav Pope has suddenly emerged from his triumphant visit to Poland as a dramatic and compelling personality on the international scene. John Paul will surely have something of his own to say about the principalities and powers of his era."

Gene H. Hogberg, News Bureau

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Pastor General's ReportJune 18, 1979Vol 3 No. 23