The East-West divide in the European Union and its overcoming
In this paper, some present problems of the European Union are considered especially in their cultural context. The paper discusses the three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union and points out that sharp differences between the ex-Soviet territories and Western Europe have not disappeared. It is especially true of the GDP-per capita indices which show a bigger difference today than some decades ago. There are deep cultural differences as well: in the new member states, the “first wave of secularization,” which overcame Western Europe after the second world war, had a unique form in Marxism-Leninism. Due to the special features of the latter, traditional cultural patterns are still strongly present in the new member countries. The second wave of secularization, especially connected to the internet revolution, affects these countries also in different ways. In the ex-Soviet states, the internet creates a far less manageable cultural situation than what we witness in the West. The sum effect of these developments is that the Eastern members constitute today a periphery similar to the situation of Latin America as compared to the US. In this peripheral situation political processes are born that are different from Western developments and appear, to many observers, as aftereffects of the Soviet type of communism. These are problems to be taken seriously both in the economic and cultural terms. The churches in the new EU members would have here an epochal task to help the weak in their peripheral cultural and economic situation and create bridges between the center and the periphery in the European Union. In this work, the paper argues for the task of developing a new philosophical approach to understand the present situation, which it terms the philosophy of encounter. Thereby it should be possible to develop strong structures of the “culture of encounter,” addressed by Pope Francis in many of his writings, and contribute to the overcoming of the East-West Divide in the European Union so intellectually as culturally.