EU and Year of development: ” “the human person at the centre

The promotion of human dignity is the raison d'etre of the European Union. A "moral thrust" is expected from the rest of the world

“To help developing countries worldwide build peaceful and flourishing societies isn’t just a matter of justness; it will also contribute to a safer world”. This, in short, is the purpose of 2015, European Year dedicated to the external action of the EU and to Europe’s role in the world. For Eurobarometer over 80% of all EU citizens considers aid to development important, 60% of respondents maintain that aids should be increased while for two thirds the fight on poverty should be a priority of the EU. There is an evident appeal to the responsibility of the European Union for the future of humanity. To this regard it means starting afresh – not in historical but in political terms -from the Schuman Declaration, which highlighted the importance of solidarity with explicit reference to Africa. But unfortunately a lot of time has been wasted, as pointed out by Anthony Giddens, in the book “Powerful and turbulent”, with a reflection on the colonial past of Europe, “that cannot be easily dismissed”. The English sociologist writes: “the EU’s efforts to act as a mediator in the Middle East explicitly contradict the fact that the seeds of conflicts rooted in that region have been scattered by Europeans themselves”. Can yesterday’s colonizers be today’s supporters of the populations they exploited? The past cannot be erased, but Europe cannot become a “giant put into chains” by selfishness, as Martin Schulz titled his book on the future of the Old Continent. The president of the European Parliament, wrote that Europeans, despite being the recipients of the 2012 Nobel Prize, “were unable to prevent the humanitarian and migration crisis that was to arrive from Africa and from the Middle East”. He added that “the lack of Europe was paid at a dire price” and that only with a “veritable European government chosen and controlled by Parliament” is it possible to free the giant and ensure that it acts in solidarity. There are no shortcuts to achieve the millennium development goals, that envisage the elimination of poverty and sustainable development, nor is it possible to achieve them without enlightened culture and policies aimed at ensuring that the European presence in the world doesn’t become the sad sign of the globalization of indifference. The European Development Year is also an occasion to strengthen concrete actions in harmony with Expo 2015 (nourishing the planet, right to food, countering food waste…). But realism is needed, not a sense of impotence before human tragedies that bear the name of hunger, war, exploitation, pollution, natural disasters. Europe cannot beat around the bush, nor can it become Samuel Beckett’s Godot. Sylvie Goulard and Mario Monti in “The democracy in Europe” wrote: “If Europe were capable of giving the world a different perspective compared to the resigned acceptance of collective impotence it would be larger and respected. Our world partners expect a moral thrust of this kind from Europe”. This moral thrust encompasses the environmental question also ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties (Cop 21) of the Framework Convention of the United Nations on Climate due to be held in Paris from November 20 to December 11 2015. The purpose of the Conference is to conclude, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding, universal agreement on climate, accepted by nations worldwide. In the past, Martin Schulz said, “Europe has been the first world region to pollute the planet: today we have the task of conceiving a post-materialistic world order. A world order that finds harmony of economy and ecology, capable of preserving the natural conditions that gave birth to life and thwart climate change”. If this project, combined with that of development, intends to have meaning and perspective it will be necessary to restore the primacy of human dignity. The Catholic Church tirelessly remembered it also in her “structured dialogue” with EU institutions, which amounts to a relentless appeal to the conscience of legislators, political leaders, and public opinion. Also Caritas Europe falls within this perspective, with a strong commitment for the globalization of solidarity. Even the same Pope Francis, who is preparing to offer us an encyclical on economic and environmental questions, upon taking the floor on November 25 2014 before the European Parliament, said: “We cannot tolerate that millions of people in the world die of hunger while tons of foodstuffs are discarded every day from our tables. Moreover, the respect of nature reminds us that man himself is a fundamental part of it”. The political motivation of being members of the European Union lies in the promotion and protection of the dignity of the human person. Here lies the moral thrust expected from the rest of the world.

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