Charles-Ferdinand Nothomb served as Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1980 until 1981. Since 2002 Mr Nothomb has been Vice President of the European Movement International. He has held important posts at the European level and was a Member of the Council of Europe from 1968 to 1973 and from 1995 to 1999; Member of the European Parliament from 1st July 1979 to 18 May 1980; Member of the Council of European Ministers. And also at national level, namely as Foreign Affair Minister and as Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister from December 1981 to November 1985.
He was also President of the Social-Christian Party (EPP Belgian party member which is now renamed to “Les Engagés”) from 1972 to 1979.
With the rise of populists on all sides, does Christian Democracy still have a future within the EU?
Yes, Christian democracy has a future within the European Union. The fact that there are populists as there once were communists is not a threat. We must stay the course of a balanced centrist position between liberalism and socialism, between conservatism and ecology, by talking again about the common good as when the class struggle dominated, the third way moreover allowed the creation of Europe.
What future do you see for the EPP, which embodies, among other things, this Christian democracy? What do you think of its development?
The EPP was created by Christian Democracy and the name ‘Popular Party’ was adopted because it referred to the pre-war Italian ‘Popolar Party’, the Popular Republican Movement in France and in the Volkspartij of post-war Belgium and Austria which were totally Christian-Democratic and at the service of all social categories. We are not a party of classes, we are a party of collaborations in the name of an ideal of balanced democracy.
What does youth represent for you when we talk about Europe? What memories does it bring back to you?
For me, the (good) surprise today is to see how Europe has effectively taken precedence over national states in the media, especially recently with the Covid crisis and the war in Ukraine. Young people today think first of Europe or even the world before talking about national or regional, as was the case with the previous generation. The European Union, having conquered its place in the media and in the consciousness of the populations, should not want to centralize all the skills. It must respect the national States which each have their own culture and which must express Europe and the principles of Europe each in their own way and respect for European decisions but with their own character.
What advice would you give today to young people who are committed to Europe?
I would say to them get involved first at the municipal or regional level to see how it works, but never give up the European dimension at whatever level you engage in politics, because it is necessary for Europe, but also because it is very useful for you to see the diversity of societal developments in Europe that you can draw inspiration from.
What should the EU do to evolve (all its institutions)?
It must avoid getting weighed down. It has succeeded well through the diversity of institutions. It came out, I believe, of what were the tensions of 50 years ago between institutions, between the Council (of States) on the one hand, the Commission (Europe) and the European Parliament on the other. It seems to me that Europe works well, that the Commission inspires the Council, that the Council has become very political thanks to the European Council and to the progress of media coverage which directly transmits the message and the face of the President of the Commission on the European decisions, particularly in international relations.
In 2024, there will be European elections, how do you see this deadline, especially given the geopolitical context?
I think the 2024 elections will be different from the others, because there will have been the war in Ukraine and the Covid pandemic, so it will be more natural for political parties to present themselves under this double media context.