From the Cross to development

The main themes of the March issue of Europe Infos

The March issue of "Europe Infos", along with the themes hereby presented, features the reflections on the decision of the February European Council on the Multiannual Financial Framework (by Stefan Lunte), as well as contributions on the European Working Time Directive focusing on "inactive working-time" (by Anna Echterhoff), on the decisions of the European Court on wearing religious symbols in the workplace in the UK (Alessandro Calcagno), on the measures of the Irish presidency to reform the system of EU emissions (Stephen N. Rooney). The op-ed "Citizenship and responsibility", published also by SIR Europe, is by Frank Turner.Religious expression in the public sphere. "The recent cases on the wearing of crosses in the workplace by two UK citizens have sent some to the barricades in the name of protecting religious freedom", wrote Benedict Coleridge (Jesuit Refugee Service – Europe JRS). "Rather than seeing these cases principally as attacks upon religious expression in the workplace, it may be more useful to view them as inevitable elements of our public conversation", "as part of a process of legal, cultural and political dialogue". The underlying expectation is that when people emerge into public space, they leave behind their ‘thick’ identities and bring only their ‘pure’ ‘unencumbered’ self". It should be decided whether "liberalism involves a great plurality of identities" or whether these should be "neutral". In the second case there would be a line separating "various dimensions of society, but also different dimensions of the person". "People are carriers of culture, of ‘thick’ identities, and this is inevitably expressed and made visible in daily life. This social reality will continue to challenge the liberal ‘art of separation’; we can look forward then to an ongoing process of dialogue and negotiation in the future – which is, of course, is a good thing". EU-Latin America: new development policies. "The vitality of the emerging economies is starting to redefine the balance of decision-making powers at international level. The crises have brought into question the viability of the dominant economic model based on growth and pinned to agro-industrial and mining development" which raises "huge economic, social and environmental challenges". This is the context for the drawing up of the Alliance for Sustainable Development: Promoting Investments of Social and Environmental Quality, established between the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin America and Caribbean Countries (CELAC) January 26-27, writes Cayetana Carrion from CIDSE (the international alliance of Catholic development agencies). The Guidelines stipulate, inter alia, to encourage "sustained and inclusive economic growth", all the while "protecting the environment and promoting social equity and inclusion", based on green economy models with the support of the Latin American Investment Facility (LAIF). Concerns regard the "central role awarded to the private sector in development, through the progress of green economy, which is unable to modify structural problems embedded within the Western development models, nor consider social justice models. For Carrion, priority should be given "to locally sustainable approaches and technologies with the goal of obtaining substantial social benefits for all citizens". The Commission fails to mention cooperatives. "Reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe" is the title of the Entrepreneurship Action Plan 2020, "a very interesting document", wrote Enzo Pezzini, director of the Brussels Office of the Confederation of Italian Cooperatives, highlighting the need to raise the numbers of entrepreneurs in Europe to provide renewed thrust to the economy. The most innovative element is the emphasis on "education and training for entrepreneurs" to acquire skills such as "creativity, initiative, tenacity, teamwork, understanding of risk and a sense of responsibility". However, Pezzini underlines, "the document omits reference to cooperatives" – around 160,000 employing 5.4 million Europeans – thus it appears to bypass "entrepreneurial pluralism". 2012 was proclaimed International Year of Cooperation by the UN, which recognized the cooperative model as a factor of economic and social development, especially in poverty reduction, job-creation, and social interaction". The document only makes "passing reference to cooperatives, and even then only in connection with the sectors involved in personal services and with professional integration" for the disadvantaged. "These sectors are significant and innovative, but they only represent part of the cooperative experience". For Pazzini, "absence of references to the cooperative model is "surprising and incomprehensible".

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