Europe needs a new covenant of hope to carry it through the current economic crisis and beyond, Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
Addressing the parliament for the first time, Sir Jonathan discussed the differences between a covenant and a contract. European politics, he said, needed the former.
Sir Jonathan compared a contract to a deal and a covenant to a marriage. "A contract deals with ‘arenas of competition' while a covenant deals with ‘arenas of co-operation'.
"This vital distinction is not always clear enough in European politics," he argued. "You can have a society without a state but can you have a state without a society?"
Society needed to focus not just on rights but also on responsibilities since "rights without responsibilities are the subprime mortgages of the modern world".
By contrast, "covenants lead us to think about reciprocity" and that "Europe needs a new covenant and the time to begin is now", in the midst of the economic crisis.
"God has given us many languages but only one world to live in. I hope we may, in our diversity, write a new European covenant of hope."
The Chief Rabbi also held bilateral meetings with the heads of all the major political groups in the European Parliament.