Two major commitments

Human rights in the world and European heritage

The voice of Europe is being raised to denounce the compromised situation of human rights in various countries of the world, such as Iran, Afghanistan, Guinea Conakry, Yemen, and China. The annual session of the Council of Human Rights of the UN is being held at Geneva, in Switzerland, from 1st to 26 March. The European Parliament is present with its own delegation, which will introduce into the debate the main points of a Resolution adopted by the Assembly.Rights of childhood, rejection of torture. The Resolution approved by the European Parliament denounces the violation of fundamental rights and freedoms in the world and places the emphasis in particular on the rights of childhood and on the persistence of the use of torture. The delegates of the EP at Geneva are Laima Liucija Andrikiene (Lithuania), Eduard Kukan (Slovakia), and Richard Howitt (UK). The Parliament underlines, in its Resolution, the need to tackle other issues with particular attention: “the clarification of the rules of detention in the framework of the fight against terrorism”, the solution of the conflict in Gaza between Palestinians and Israelis, and Teheran’s bid to become part of the UN Council for Human Rights, an application that the EP explicitly opposes. Laima Liucija Andrikiene further emphasized that “the issues raised by the EP also include the impact of the economic crisis” (poverty, social exclusion) “on the situation of human rights in the world”.More MEPs and bureaucrats. The European Parliament meanwhile is preparing for its next plenary assembly which is due to be held in Strasbourg from 8 to 11 March, during which discussion will focus among other things on foreign policy and competition. The EP is also preparing to welcome 18 new MEPs, as provided for under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty. Again in compliance with the Treaty, bearing in mind the growth of the Parliament’s powers and functions, the EP has decided to beef up its staff with the hiring of a further 150 administrators, who will mainly be allocated to reinforcing the ranks of the parliamentary committees and political groups. The additional cost, to be borne by the institutional budget, is of the order of 13 million euros per year.Strasbourg: presentation of EHL. Next week the initiative of the European Heritage logo will be presented at the seat of the EP in Strasbourg. It will be presented by the Cypriot Commissioner who now holds the portfolio for education and culture, Androulla Vassiliou. Its aim is to “increase citizens’ sense of belonging to a European identity and a common cultural space”. The project will thus receive its “official baptism” after a long phase of preparation. The EU intends in this way to “draw attention” to symbolic places and monuments that “celebrate European integration, as also the ideals and history of the Union”. To be awarded this distinction, “heritage sites must valorize their European dimension”. Those so far selected (64 places in 18 countries, 17 EU member states plus Switzerland) will be authorized to place at their entrance a sign with the EHL logo. Some of these sites refer to the origins of the political process of integration, such as the home of Robert Schuman at Scy-Chazelles (Lorraine, France), which preserves his memory. The sites that have so far been included in the EHL list also include the dockyards at Gdansk (Poland), where one of the largest popular protest movements that led to the collapse of the Soviet bloc was developed round the trade union Solidarnosc.From Cluny to the Cathedral of Krakow. Other places that have so far obtained the EHL accolade confirm the historical “roots” of Europe: they include the abbey of Cluny, the Papal Palace at Avignon (both in France), and the Cathedral of Krakow (Poland). Other “stages” in this possible journey through the history of European integration are distinguished for art and culture: they include archaeological sites, archbishops’ palaces, castles, monuments such as the Acropolis of Athens (Greece) or the city centre of Riga (Latvia). The initiative of the European heritage logo was preceded by an online consultation which received replies from 220 organizations in 26 nations. It emerged from this consultation, as explained by a document of the European Commission, “that 89% of those who replied consider that the EHL may have the effect of reinforcing European citizenship through greater awareness of the common heritage, promote visits to the sites in question and educate citizens in the cultural heritage” of the continent. The Commission itself recognizes that “the consultation did not succeed in involving a large number of youth”; on the other hand, it is maintained that “the logo can and must consider the commitment to young citizens as a central objective”, in historical, informative, educational and civil terms.

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