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Cultura International Journal of Philosophy of Culture and Axiology

Volume 16, Issue 1, 2019

Sanja Ivic
Pages 103-117

The Concept of European Values

This inquiry investigates the concept of European values and cultural, philosophical, legal and political presuppositions on which the idea of European values is based. There are two approaches to the idea of European values. The first one is substantive approach (and includes philosophical, ethical, religious and ideological understanding of values). The substantive approach defines European values as based on the European heritage (ancient Greece and Rome, Christianity, Renaissance and humanism, Enlightenment and liberal traditions). This conception of European values is fixed. Another understanding of European values is represented by legal/political approach (that includes the definition of European values within European treatises, declarations, charters and other documents). Legal and political definition of European values includes: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Most authors consider that only from this second level, from legal and political definition, general features of European values can be achieved, that is, universal rules of the game. This paper shows how these two different approaches can be integrated, relying on John Rawls's idea of overlapping consensus. It should be emphasized that the question of European values and European identity is still a topic of debate. There are different definitions and interpretations of these concepts, regardless of the legal definitions within the framework of European declarations and treaties. European identity (based on European values) is a polyphonic category, which cannot be founded on monolithic definitions. Otherwise, the entire continent would fall under the rule of one homogeneous culture.