Alongside the debate about the European Union constitution, a debate about European values has also developed. This debate is important not only for implanting meaning in the constitution, but will also determine the vitality and energy of the EU itself.
The EU, being the product of several great religious and philosophical traditions, is a community of values. The ideas of the Greeks and Romans, Christianity, Judaism, humanism, and the Enlightenment have made us who we are. Dialogue with Islamic and Arabic cultures also helped form our identity. The pattern of our values has been woven over hundreds of years.
Europe is the continent of Michelangelo and Montesquieu, but also of the guillotine and the gas chamber. Indeed, the bitter experience WWII taught Europeans how fundamental is the importance of shared values. In an impoverished, war-ravaged Europe, people yearned for peace, freedom, stability, and a new chance to prosper.
The architects of European integration - Monnet, Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi, and others - understood that these ideals could be achieved only by combining and interweaving the practical interests of Europe's countries. They built their fragile house of peace on a foundation of coal and steel.