Some 25 politicians, experts and NGO representatives from Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Austria gathered for a Round Table on “Family Values, Family Policies, European Culture: Challenges and Opportunities in Central Europe Today” on July 8, 2016, in Vienna. The event was convened by Hon. Nina Nováková, Member of Parliament from the Czech Republic and Mr. Jacques Marion, Secretary General of UPF Europe.
The first session on “Current Threats and Controversies regarding the Family” began with welcoming words from Hon. Nina Nováková, who emphasized that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the family in the context of its influence and impact on society, not as an independent entity. Dr. Walter Baar, President of the Institute for Trends Research in Austria, outlined current demographic trends in Europe, concluding that a decline of the family raised concerns for the future of Europe. Hon. Jozef Mikloško, former member of the Slovak Parliament, explained that according to the Slovak Constitution, the family is composed of a father, mother and a child, but went on to describe factors challenging family traditions in his country.
Dr. Gudrun Kugler, member of the Vienna Parliament, a powerful advocate of the family, pointed to five misconceptions that ought to be a focus of the debate on the family: that the State has monopoly on children’s education; that family is oppressive for women; that marriage is not only “two people supporting and loving each other”; that differences between man and woman do not mean devaluation but complementarity; that current sexual education should be reviewed with a focus on love. Some of these debates can be won in Central Europe, she said. We need for this to raise a new generation of young politicians who can become a creative minority. To do that, we need more data, and we need to convey both facts and meaning.
The second panel on “Family values, human rights and the Judeo-Christian legacy in modern-day Europe” was moderated by Mr. Peter Zoehrer, Secretary General of FOREF Europe.
Hon. Nina Nováková, explained her proposal to amend the Education law in the Czech Republic: The purpose of education should not only be to understand and implement the principles of democracy, the legal state and fundamental human rights and liberties, as currently stated, but should include fulfilling civil and social roles and responsibilities. Moreover, the purpose of education should not only be to gain knowledge of cultural differences in the world, but also to maintain and develop European culture.
Mr. Jacques Marion, Secretary General of UPF Europe, spoke about the core values of the family and their impact on society. A challenge for democratic nations, he said, is to move, on the foundation of shared values of brotherhood and equality toward a society where parental love is considered a central value and the basis for healthy leadership.
Dr. Roman Joch, President of the Civic Institute in the Czech Republic, focused on the relationship between religion and politics based on the family. The state is not the creator of natural rights, he said, but should recognize and respect older, established moral truth. Intermediary institutions between the individual and the state, particularly the natural, monogamous family should be strengthened. We need to influence culture, the arts and all spheres of society dealing with the human mind, because just as politics guides economics, on the long term, culture guides politics.
The last panel on “Family policies and strategies in the Visegrad Group and Central Europe” was moderated by Dr. Juraj Lajda, Secretary General of UPF Czech Republic.
According to Mr. Stanislav Trnovec, chairman of the Large Families Club in Slovakia, social policy focuses on solidarity, but family policy means investing into the future. Mr. Joseph Gundacker, Director of the Family Forum in Austria, spoke about the need for mainstreaming the family in politics, with a comprehensive view of the human being that includes its economical, mental, social and spiritual dimensions.
Other participants in the debate included Mr. Slawomir Redo, senior advisor to ACUNS Vienna; Dr. Ismail Yasin, Project member of the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities; Mr. Peter Haider, Director of UPF Austria ; Dr. Harald Scheu, from Charles University’s Faculty of Law in Prague; Mrs. Marianna Kovacs, Human Rights Mediator from Hungary; Mr. Peter Meszaros, President of UPF Hungary; Mr. Peter Hetenyi, Vice President of UPF Hungary; Mag. Maria Neuberger-Schmidt, Founder of the NGO «Elternwerkstatt“ in Austria; Mr. Milos Klas, Secretary General of UPF Slovakia; Mrs. Elisabeth Cook, Director of FFWPU, Austria; Mrs. Renate Amesbauer, director of WFWP, Austria, etc.
The Round table discussion concluded with the approval of the following Memorandum by participants: the Vienna memorandum.