United in Diversity: this is the motto of the Albanian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers (CoM) of the Council of Europe (CoE), which started today. The chairmanship was handed over to Albania by the United Kingdom during the 122nd Session of the Committee which was held in Strasbourg under the presidency of William Hague, British Minister for Foreign Affairs. At the end of the meeting, after having presented a stocktaking of his chairmanship, centred chiefly on seeking means to guarantee the continued effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights system, Mr Hague handed the Chairmanship of the executive body of the CoE over to Edmond Haxhinasto, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Albania, who presented the priorities of his presidency for the next six months (23 May - 9 November 2012). Having recalled the recent Report of the Group of Eminent Persons which analyses the question of living together in diversity as a major challenge of the 21st century, Mr Haxhinasto highlighted as priorities the promotion of sustainable and democratic societies, strengthening local and regional democracy, and continuing the political reform of the Organisation. This is the first time that Albania holds the presidency of the Committee of Ministers.
Donors of gametes bear joint liability for morally unacceptable procedures and manipulation by providing their gametes. According to the statement, any ethical judgement on the problem must be based on the respect for human dignity and natural rights of the conceived child, as well as on a true evaluation of the essence and mission of marriage.
(Sir Europe - Bratislava) - The Sub-Commission for Bioethics of the Bishops Conference of Slovakia published a statement today regarding the donation of human sex cells and their commercial use, reacting to various activities of domestic and foreign companies that appeal to young people to become voluntary donors of gametes (sperms and eggs) and offer methods of assisted reproduction based on the use of these gametes. Our efforts are aimed to present the clear position of the Church in order to help the right orientation of the faithful, explains Mons. Stefan Secka, head of the Sub-Commission. Experts in the area of medicine, psychology and moral theology point to the fact that procedures of artificial fertilization try to substitute the relation between marital love and bearing of life, thus contradicting procreation as an expression of unity of spouses. (continued)
Only 15% of young Roma adults surveyed have completed upper-secondary general or vocational education - the European Agency explained -, compared with more than 70% of the majority population living nearby. Moreover, on average, less than 30% of Roma are in paid employment; about 45% of them live in households lacking at least one of the following: an indoor kitchen, toilet, shower or bath, or electricity. Furthermore about 40% of Roma surveyed live in households where somebody went to bed hungry at least once in the last month because they could not afford to buy food. Hungarian MEP of Roma origin Livia Jaroka commented on the data released by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, saying: Now it is time to take concrete action aimed at helping Roma in Europe. Such commitment is needed to promote the inclusion of Roma people who continue to live on the margins of society. Ms Jaroka also called for better use of EU funding (i.e. the European Social Fund). The Hungarian MEP also voiced concern over the serious situation in former Yugoslavia, where many Roma live. EU pre-accession funds should be invested in fostering integration, she concluded.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Discrimination and anti-gypsyism persist: Morten Kjaerum, director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, commented on the latest Report on the situation of Roma living in the eleven EU Member States where the majority of Roma EU citizens live. The Report is based on a survey that polled more than 20,000 Roma and non-Roma people living in these countries. The situation of Roma is on average worse than the situation of non-Roma living in close proximity. According to the new Report, compiled jointly with the United Nations Development Programme, many Roma continue to face discrimination and social exclusion across the EU. These survey results paint a grim picture, Kjaerum highlighted. The results show that swift, effective action is needed, particularly to improve Roma education. This is key to unlock their future potential, and it will equip young Roma with the skills they need to escape the vicious cycle of discrimination, exclusion and poverty. The focus of the Report is on various aspects, including issues relating to education, work, housing and the right to health. (continued)
All representatives were unanimous in regard to the question of prohibiting abortion by law. They stressed that one should remember the possible social consequences of this step and reaffirmed the necessity of this law. A joint resolution was signed at the end of the round table meeting with an appeal to young families to keep love for each other and care for their God-given spouses.
(Sir Europe - Bratislava) - As a part of the International Family Week and upon the initiative of the Association of Large Families of Sevastopol, Ukraine, a round table was held on 22 May, with participation of Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Muslims. According to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, among the questions discussed there was the role of the Church in the formation of a successful family as a basic cell of society and God-blessed union. Participants talked about religious education at schools, the problem of abortion, prevention of conflicts in the marriage of two people of different religions. In regard to the introduction of religious education in schools, the representatives of various Churches and religions expressed the opinion that it should be carried out only on an optional basis. Fr. Yurii Zymynskyi of the Roman Catholic Church pointed to the example of Poland where the study of the basics of Christian religion was introduced as a compulsory subject and provoked protests among young people. (continued)
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Everything is ready at the Justus Lipsius Palace, the HQ of the European council in the Belgian capital, for the informal summit of the heads of state and government of the European Union, who will be meeting this evening to address several aspects of the current crisis, with a special focus on Greece. Its a few hours till the summit, and theres been a proliferation of statements by the national leaders and the leaders of the EU institutions about Greece and the need for measures aiming to keep the Mediterranean country within the euro-zone. The International Monetary Fund shared that view. The items on the summits agenda have been summed up by the president of the EU Council, Herman Van Rompuy, into four areas: Healthy national economic policies; added-value EUs policies; measures to boost economic funding; measures to boost employment. The discussion will also be focussed on the additions to be made to the fiscal compact (public budget austerity) in terms of growth. Then, they will deal with the golden rule (the idea to leave the states productive investments out of the calculation of the deficit) and the issue of project bonds (state bonds in support of public works and employment). The governments of the member states still do not agree about the euro-bonds, though.
(Sir Europe - Strasbourg) - A round of votes at todays session of the European Parliament. The MEPs voted for the levying of a financial transaction tax by passing the proposal submitted last year by the EU Commission. It is also a message to the 27 heads of state and government of the EU who will meet in Brussels in the evening for a special summit about economy and the Greek situation. Such tax is an integral part of the strategy to get out of the crisis, rapporteur Anni Podimata stated. It will result in a fair sharing of the burden of the crisis and will not result in relocations outside the Union, as they would be more expensive than paying the tax. The MEPs - a Parliaments notice states - think the tax rates submitted by the EU Commission (0.1% on shares and bonds and 0.01% on derivatives) are fair and point out that pension funds only should be exempted. Then, the floor passed a resolution under which the EU Parliament urges the EU to join forces against Chinas unfair competition and rebalance trade. The first step should be to get a clear picture of Chinas penetration into the European economies. A controversial resolution about homophobia in Europe is due to be voted on tomorrow.
The expression of sentiments of deep condolence to the victims families and the assurance of fervent prayer for the dead and the wounded. They were made today to mgr. Hil Kabashi, apostolic administrator of Albania, by Benedict XVI in a telegram sent by the secretary of State, cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, following the serious accident that happened at Himara, in the south of the country, on May 21st. A bus fell into a ravine, killing 13 people (12 students) and injuring another 20, 14 of whom are in extremely poor conditions. In the message of condolence to the apostolic nuncio to Albania, mgr. Ramiro Molines Ingles, to be forwarded to mgr. Kabashi, the Pope begs God to comfort all those who are suffering the tragic loss of their beloved ones and to bless the whole nation, hit by such a tragic event.
The letter read out in the European Parliament to recall the victims of the massacre in Capaci (which bears the signature of the rapporteur of the Committee on Organised Crime, Salvatore Lacolino) also reads: Only through police and judicial cooperation between member states and with third countries will the EU be able to develop an effective common strategy for the prevention and control of organised crime. For this reason the European Parliament should continue to promote the culture of legality reminding European young people of the sacrifice of courageous men and women with a great love for their homeland.
(Sir Europe - Strasbourg) - On 23 May 1992, anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, her wife Francesca Morvillo, and their bodyguards Vito Schifani, Rocco Dicillo and Antonio Montinaro, lost their lives in a Mafia bomb attack in Capaci, near Palermo. Today, on the 20th anniversary of the death of the judge - who stood out for his commitment and dedication to combating organised crime - we deem it necessary to recall the high professionalism and moral stature of judge Falcone and to commemorate Mafia victims in the Capaci massacre. A letter to remember Italian judge Falcone, and the tragic attacks which took place 20 years ago, was sent to the President of the European Parliament by a group of MEPs of the European Peoples Party, and was read out today in Strasbourg. A minute of silence was observed to recall Falcone and the people who lost their lives in the attack as well as all victims of mafias and organized crime. According to the letter with the creation of the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering, the European Parliament becomes the first European institution to recognise the transnational nature of crime and its severe impact on citizens security and the internal market economy. (continued)
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Bathing water in Cyprus, Croatia, Malta and Greece has been rated as excellent in the survey conducted by the European Environment Agency, in the run-up to summer 2012. In these countries, over 90% of the beaches meet the minimum standards laid out by the EU Directive on Bathing Water, both on the coasts and inland. According to the Agency, 80% of seaside resorts in Spain, Italy and Portugal can boast excellent water quality. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Lavia, Luxembourg and Belgium, where a comparatively low number of seaside resorts meet the more restrictive guidelines, especially in the inland. Such figures are part of the European Green Week, which this year is focussed on water as a resource. Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik states: I am glad to find that bathing water in Europe is still generally very good and has improved from last year. The majority of the EU citizens are very concerned about the problem of water quality and want to learn more about it. Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the Environment Agency, points out, instead: In several countries, there is still a problem with pollution as a result of farming and wastewater, so more efforts need to be done to provide all citizens with safe, clean water.
Giovanni Falcone was one of the earliest advocates of international co-operation and law enforcement against organised crime, providing a vivid example that no ministry or country could fight mafia alone. This was said in Strasbourg today by the Council of Europe Deputy Secretary General, Maud de Boer Buquicchio, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the assassination near Palermo of the brave Italian magistrate, regarded all over the world as the symbol of the fight against mafia. The Council of Europe has pioneered the establishment of international action against criminal networks. I would like to pay tribute to the courage and commitment of Giovanni Falcone, who embodied our values, fighting for justice and defending the rule of law in his tireless combat against organised crime and who paid with the ultimate sacrifice, concluded Maud de Boer-Buquicchio.
Perhaps todays man does not perceive the profound beauty, grandeur and consolation conveyed by the word ‘father with which we can turn to God in prayer, because quite often the paternal figure is not sufficiently present and positive in our daily lives. The Pope said this today during his general audience catechesis, focusing his remarks on the theme of the paternity of God, something believers can experience in the light of Jesus teaching who teaches us to turn to God with the loving words of children calling Him Abba, Father. The Holy Spirit - Benedict XVI explained - is the precious and necessary gift which makes us children of God, realizing that filial adoption to which all human beings are called. (continued)
(Sir Europe - Bratislava) - The Hungarian Parliament passed a decree declaring 25 November a memorial day dedicated to Hungarian political prisoners and forced labourers deported to the Soviet Union during and after WWII. The assembly adopted the ruling party Fidesz-initiated decree with 330 votes in favour, 9 against and one abstention on 21 May. According to the motion proponent Erzsebet Menczer, the aim was to pay tribute to the victims of a dark period of history, that of red-shirt fascism. According to the website www.politics.hu, some 800,000 Hungarians were deported to the Soviet Union between the autumn of 1944 and 1948, with only a fifth of them returning home during 1953-55.
(Sir Europe - Bratislava) - Caritas Czech Republic celebrates the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations by launching a website www.seniori.charita.cz dedicated to active seniors and elderly people, their relatives, specialists, as well as volunteers willing to help. According to the initiators it provides practical information to anyone who is interested in active aging, offering several sections like the directory of nursing services and rest homes; on-line legal and financial advising; information on state and public support; and opportunities for charitable work and help. Among the activities planned for the forthcoming summer there is a photographic competition World seen through the eyes of seniors and presentation of artetherapeutic workshops. Since 2003, the diocesan office of Caritas in Hradec Králové, in cooperation with Caritas Ukraine, has been running a project of long-distance adoption of seniors from Ukraine, aimed to provide financial support to socially emarginated groups of elderly people from the Transcarpathian region who live in conditions of poverty.
Yesterday, in adopting the Report on Austerity measures - a danger for democracy and social rights, drawn up by Andrej Hunko (Germany, GUE), the Commission for Social Affairs, Health Care and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressed concern about the danger that the current restrictive approaches, which mainly hit the lower-income social classes as well as the more vulnerable groups, may fail to achieve the longed-for goal of strengthening the budgets, but may make the crisis even worse and may impair social rights. This has been written in a notice by PACE. The Commission, the notice goes on, therefore suggests that the current austerity plans be firmly redirected, so that priority is not given almost only to cutting expenses in such social areas as pensions, health care or child benefits. According to the Commission, the European social model and its different national forms should be protected, as a common European view, and the welfare state should be further strengthened. The Report will be discussed during the plenary assembly of PACE (Strasbourg, 25 - 29 June).