Europe: enlargement, identity and the "case of Turkey"
How far can EU enlargement go? Six States founded the European Community. Today, after a number of enlargement rounds, the Union includes 27 Countries. Negotiations are under way for adhesion of Croatia and Turkey. Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia are EU-membership candidates, while Ukraine, Moldavia and Georgia cherish the ambition of becoming candidate - Member States in the not too distant future. One thing is for sure: until decisions on its borders are taken, the Union will never find its identity. It appears to be broadly acknowledged that sooner or later all Balkan States will have to be granted membership status, provided they comply with the required provisions to this regard. Indeed, EU adhesion provides concrete opportunity for the establishment of political stability and security across the region, but at the same time adhesion would ensure territorial continuity with the Member State Greece. Above all, these Countries are unquestionably marked by European history, tradition and culture and are therefore in the position of claiming full EU membership. However, Turkey's EU membership request is received with divided opinions. In this case the European Union is confronted with a dilemma. On the one side, it must be said that already in the 1960s Turkey was presented with the possibility - reiterated on various occasions - of entering the Community. While five years ago admission negotiations began. On that circumstance, political and security issues played a major role along with economic and development policy stances. According to the proponents of this stand, Turkey, a loyal and important NATO member country, needs to strengthen its bonds with European positions, while its modernisation process has to be supported also in view of the improvement in economic relations and in order to access its market. On the other, Turkey is culturally distant, too distant for Europeans to be willing to integrate the Turks within their social solidarity and political consensus realms. From some time already the Union is no longer an international organization that operates on the basis of diplomatic rules. Rather, it's a trans-national institution, which also functions on the basis of democratic rules. In this perspective, the question of cultural compatibility and of the social consensus of its members is crucial for the EU's future structure. This explains the growing resistance to Turkey's EU membership and the proposal of offering privileged partnership status to this large and highly populated Country, which compared to the Union's territorial extension is on the margins, and with extremely unpredictable neighbours. The partnership solution would ensure advantages to both Turkey and the European Union. All considered, Turkey is a test: its admission would overstate the Union, extending its borders way too far and stripping it of its boundaries. At that point, why not grant admission also to Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, the Maghrebine Countries and so on? But this would entail the end of the European Union understood as a democratic and federal community, as it had been conceived by its founding fathers. THOMAS JANSEN
A concerted European action to combat the trafficking of human beings, beginning from the end of March, was discussed and decided at Prague, during the annual meeting of general secretaries of the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions ("Justice and Peace Europe") held in Prague, in the Czech Republic on 6-8 March. "Justice and Peace Europe" brings together 31 national commissions from all over the continent. This year the meeting was held in Prague, due to the fact that the government of the Czech Republic is holding the rotating Presidency of the EU during the first half of 2009, and also to "learn from the participants about their experiences of the transformation of Czech society over the last twenty years", explain the meeting's promoters. "Justice and Peace Europe" is aimed at contributing, in a time of financial crisis, "to the reconstruction of a European economy based on justice and respect for all citizens and for the common good". The European organization has just
Justice and Peace, Ireland, Austria Justice and Peace: European anti-trafficking drive
concluded a concerted action, with the participation of all its members, on the reduction of poverty in Europe, with a request to States to keep their promises in meeting the UN Millennium Objectives. This time the focus of the meeting was concentrated on the trafficking of human beings: the common action will be followed by a programme of assisting the victims of trafficking and their families in the region of the Carpathians in Ukraine, promoted by the Ukrainian Commission of Justice and Peace and Caritas Ukraine. The participants in the meeting paid a visit to local Roma communities to see for themselves the problems they experience "in all European countries" and the efforts being made by the Czech Republic to integrate this marginalized group in society.
Ireland: in support of ethical finance
An Irish Catholic bank, the "Clann Credo" with its head offices in Dublin, has not suffered in this period of recession because it invests only in companies that are trustworthy from an ethical point of view. The success of the bank is reported by the Catholic weekly "The Tablet", explaining that this bank, founded by the order of Sisters of the Presentation in 1996 and receiving contributions from over twenty religious congregations and from the fund of the Irish government for social projects, is by now the most important provider of social finance for community projects in Ireland. "Clann Credo" lent seven million euros to various charities last year, sponsoring over two hundred community projects and voluntary services throughout Ireland. The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, a network of Irish and British churches and other groups that campaigns for an economy of greater justice and more respectful of the environment, has hailed the example of "Clann Credo" as a model of ethical investments. "This crisis has demonstrated the instability of traditional non-ethical investments", declared Myles Litvinof, coordinator of the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility. According to Litvinof, if more people who invest were conscious of the importance of sustainable development we would have less economic crises. "It's an opportunity to convince people to transfer their own savings elsewhere. For religious communities it's important to think in the long term", said Litvinof.
Austria: "the long night of the Churches"
The annual ecumenical initiative "The long night of the churches" is crossing the frontiers of Austria: this year, apart from the some 600 participating churches in Austria, churches elsewhere, in Slovenia, in Alto Adige and at Brno, in the diocese of the Czech Republic twinned with Vienna, will keep their doors open until late at night. Ecumenism is the protagonist of the event in Austria: according to the Austrian Catholic press agency Kathpress, an inaugural ecumenical celebration will be held in Vienna's Lutheran church on 5 June. Some thirty communities of other Christian Churches belonging to the Ecumenical Council will take part in the event. A meeting is also planned at the Kalvarienbergkirche between the leading political scientist Anton Pelinka and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, during which the Church's task of social policy will be discussed. The Austrian churches participating in the initiative will host various events tailored to people of all ages. "Parish priests have seized the occasion to ask themselves how they should present themselves. Each year in fact a creative programme ranging from the spiritual to the cultural and social aspect is proposed", explained Karl Rühringer, coordinator of the event for Vienna, who emphasized that the participation of non-Catholic Christian communities also offers "visitors the chance to get to know other Churches".
On the occasion of the announcement of the canonization of Blessed Nuno de Santa Maria, planned for next April 26, Lusitanian bishops drew up a Pastoral Note in which they claim that "For Portugal and for the Portuguese population, this fact is reason for hope and rejoice. It must also constitute an occasion for reflection upon the qualities and the heroic virtues of this outstanding historical figure, that should be known and taken as an example by contemporaries". He represents a role model of sanctity: "Nuno Álvares Pereira was a statesman, who placed the higher interest of the Nation above his personal interest and carrier ambitions, transforming his own life into a mission to the benefit of his homeland and his people. In a time of serious national crisis, he bravely chose to give his contribution to the solution of the major political and social challenges with limitless dedication. Crowned with glory for the victories he achieved, landowner of immense property, he stripped himself of all his possessions and chose to radically follow Christ". "We are living in times of global crisis, due to the lack of moral values". In this framework, concludes the Note, "the testimony of the life of Saint Nuno will constitute a powerful change to the benefit of justice and fraternity, of the promotion of more sober and sympathetic lifestyles and initiatives for the sharing of goods. It can also be a call to exemplary citizenship, and a strong invitation to the respectability of political life". Nuno Álvares Pereira, who lived in Portugal between 1360 and 1431, in 1423, a widower, decided to enter the Carmelitan convent in Lisbon that he founded after many years spent at the service of his sovereign, that had appointed him constable, commander-in-chief of the army.
Portugal, Scotland, Czech Republic Portugal: a "political" saint
Scotland "ips" cells prevent embryo destruction
The Catholic Church and Scotland's pro-life movement expressed their appreciation for a new scientific discovery that will enable stem cell production to treat diseases such as Parkinson's and diabetes without embryo destruction. A research team that includes scientists from Edinburgh and Canada based at the Edinburgh University's "Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine" stimulated the growth of human tissue cells into stem cells with the same power of embryo stem cells. The news was reported by Catholic Weekly "The Tablet" that explained that these "induced pluripotency stem", known as "ips", have the capacity of transforming into any body cell. Scientists hope that in this way embryo destruction for research and treatment will no longer be deemed necessary. "We found a safer and easier way to obtain IPS cells", stated Helen Watt, chairperson of the "Linacre" centre, that is close to the Catholic Church. "This is the last of a series of discoveries that make it technically and morally difficult to claim that embryo stem cell research is necessary or recommendable". According to professor John Aldane, director of the "Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs of St.Andrews University, "reprogramming adult stem cells, prevents the destruction of human lives and overcomes the risk of rejection on the part of the immune system".
Czech Republic: the Cathedral returns to State ownership
Past March 5 the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic stated that the famous Saint-Guy Cathedral, located in the heart of the city's castle, belongs to the State and not to the Catholic Church, as reported by news agency Cathobel on March 9. The decision follows a 17-year-long legal battle over what is considered to be one of the classical sites of the Czech capital city. It is a definitive decision, since, according to Supreme Court spokesman Petr Knötig, recourse to the Court of Cassation is no longer possible. The largest church in Prague, that belonged to the Catholic Church throughout the centuries, founded in 1344 by the King of Bohemia Karl IV, was transferred to state control in 1954, during the Communist regime that fell in 1989. In September 2006 the Church had recovered ownership after a court ruling but was compelled to return it following a Supreme Court ruling of February 2007. Ales Pistora, Curia spokesman, said he would have recourse to the Constitutional Court and to the European Court, since the ruling "is unfair". Czech population is divided over the issue, since the Cathedral is viewed as the symbol of both religious faith and politics, since it is part of the castle premise that represents the official seat of the Presidency of the Republic.
On March 7 over 8 thousand people attended the first yearly pilgrimage to Janvier, the birthplace of the Patron Saint of the Missions Francis Xavier, the Saint of Navarra. Pilgrims convened in Janvier to relive a tradition that dates back to 69 years ago. Most of them arrived from Navarra, but there were also groups from Madrid and other areas of Spain. International News Agency Fides, reported that the address of Msgr. Francisco Pérez González, archbishop of Pamplona and Bishop of Tudela, who presided over the religious celebration, focused "on life from its beginning to its natural termination". The archbishop recalled the figure of Francis Xavier who incarnates "the testimony of a young man who one day heard the calling of God and followed the footsteps of Jesus Christ, relinquishing his vanities and his pride. "He did not let himself be carried away by void debates marked by false ideology. Rather, he faced life giving it the only content that could fulfil it". This man from Navarra "transformed his life and let Christ lead him to transform the lives of all those who didn't know Him, to whom Francis devoted many hours of his sleepless nights". Following the example of Saint Francis Xavier, "Christians need to awake from a state of lethargy and complexes that make us feel strangers in our own societies", the prelate remarked. Following his wake or the wake of Saint Paul "we cannot surrender. On the contrary, we ought to spread the message that being Christians and Catholics doesn't contradict citizenship, rather, it ennobles it". This sequel of Christ, continued Msgr. Pérez, enables us to be "the defenders of life, of a cultural tradition that respects life from the beginning until its natural termination; that leads us to be the messengers of true peace, wiping out all remnants of violence; that makes us responsible before the lack of solidarity, as demonstrated by thousands of missionaries who are in the front line and fight for human dignity with the weapon of the Gospel". "Being intrepid" and "not being afraid", must lead us "to face our mission without traumas or fears, that is to be the testimonies of Jesus Christ". Next appointment March 14.
Spain, England, Switzerland Spain: "intrepid" like Francis Xavier
England: lectio divina and new technologies
Music, theatre, games of lights and sounds narrate the Gospel of Marc. The initiative, principally addressed to the
youth, arrives directly from the diocese of Middlesbrough, and will continue during the entire Lenten period. For the occasion, Msgr. Terence Drainey will also lead a number of Catecheses in the three main towns of the diocese: York, Hull and Middlesbrough. The scheduled events have one main theme, the Gospel of Marc, and are focused on Christ's question to Peter: "Who do you say I am?" Technological tools will enable reflection over the evangelical passages and shared prayer will follow the method of the Lectio Divina. The bishop himself will illustrate this ancient -yet modern - method of prayer that is very dear to Benedict XVI. The program draws inspiration from the experience made by Msgr. Drainey during the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, where he led a diocesan delegation. "Upon my return from that special experience - Msgr. Drainey declared - I cherished the idea that a simple way to support and encourage the youth would be giving them an opportunity to change their lives".
Switzerland: WYD 2009 in Porrentruy
On March 21-22 the youth of French-Speaking Switzerland will gather in the Canton of Jura to celebrate the World Youth Day 2009 on the renown theme: "we have placed our hopes in the living God". After the WYD of Sydney, Swiss youth resume their journey in view of the international meeting called by the Pope in Madrid in 2011. The program envisages moments of prayer, along with cultural, musical and entertainment initiatives. The Catechesis will be held by Msgr. Denis Theurillat, delegate bishop for the Youth of the Swiss Bishops' Conference, while the youth of the local community will animate a dinner, a vigil and the musical "The night of Peter". Diocesan delegates, youth movements and association coordinators have been actively committed in promoting attendance to the event over the past months. A low-registration fee will provide access to free bus transportation for young participants from the main towns of the Canton. The WYD will be celebrated throughout world dioceses on April 5, Palm Sunday.
The Catholic Church issued rigid procedures against sexual abuse In 2008 Ireland's twenty-six Catholic dioceses notified to the statutory authorities fifty-six allegations of abuse on minors, 21 of these regarding deceased clergy. In recent years Ireland's Catholic Church has been involved in several episodes of paedophilia and sexual abuses, and was charged with having covered up some of the alleged accusations. The controversies involving alleged sexual abuse on minors led the bishop of Cloyne, Msgr. John Magee to resign after having been charged with not having reported abuse on minors to the authorities since 2005. At the end of 2008 a report by the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church - NBSCCC - had found that in two instances Msgr. Magee did not report allegations immediately. No ecclesial sanction was adopted against the priests. Pope appointed Msgr. Dermont Clifford, archbishop of Cashel and Emly, the diocese near Clonyne, to occupy the post of Msgr. Magee. The "National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church", set up 2006, recently issued the report titled "Safeguarding children" that provides guidelines to prevent further controversies and establishes appropriate procedures on child protection, which ensure that child abuse reports are immediately filed to the authorities in charge. Obviating confusion. According to the Report, over the past years "a wide variety of child protection policy and procedures has been produced across dioceses, congregations and even parishes". The result is "a multiplicity of guidance which contains different interpretations of what represents best practice for the Church". The Report is aimed at wiping out confusion by supplying a clear guidance for the Church as a whole from which seven standards were developed along with a 'self-audit tool'. A definitive reference. The Committee hopes that "upon receiving this document each diocese, religious order and Church organisation will immediately review its policies and procedures using this tool. If deficits are identified, support in addressing these is available through the Office of the National Board for Safeguarding Children". The Board encourages all Catholic Church bodies to seek advice from the National Office in advance of publishing any child safeguarding policy or procedures or any update of existing policies. With the document, the Board intends to provide a definitive reference for all those involved in the safeguarding of children within the Church across the island of Ireland". Seven standards. Follow the seven standards to be adopted across parishes and dioceses. The first three standards
Protecting the minors
present detailed codes of behaviour aimed at child protection to be adopted by parishes and dioceses, procedures on how to respond to allegations and suspicions in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, on preventing harm to children in recruitment and vetting, running safe activities for children, along with codes of behaviour. Follow Training and education, communicating the Church's safeguarding message to children, to parents and adults, other organisations, access to advice and support, and implementing and monitoring the Standards. Rigid Controls. The document envisages controls on the minors approached and on those who approach them. The report establishes that in each parish, school and organization a person must be in charge of ensuring the policies' implementation. It's important that all abuse allegations are filed to the statutory authorities. Doubts and certainties. Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of All Ireland, welcomed the publication of the document, which "is an indication of the Church's resolve to safeguard children at all times", he declared. His Eminence said he is looking forward to receiving, from the Board, additional guidance in the coming months on other issues. However, the Archbishop of Dublin Msgr. Diarmuid Martin noted a different interpretation of the norms on the part of the different Church bodies. "In Dublin hundreds of priests from other dioceses and religious congregations play an active role in many aspects of Church life. It is imperative that "the planned review of practice in various dioceses by the NSBCCC should contain specific protocols for the Archdiocese of Dublin to verify that the superiors of priests other than those of the Archdiocese of Dublin working in Dublin subscribe to and sustain the same norms and guidelines as those of the Archdiocese".
Media and the market: the note of the Commission for Justice and Peace
In the past days, the Commission for Justice and Peace of Croatia's Bishops' Conference issued a statement by its President, Msgr. Vlado Košić, on the media and the market in Croatia. The theme of the media was addressed on several occasions in the past. In 1994 the Commission published a statement on defamation, in 1996 it expressed its stand vis à vis media censorship of public officers and in 2000 a document was released on the relationship between media and the truth. Ample excerpt of the statement follows. Market fundamentalism. "The present spirit of the times is marked, among other things, by a certain degree of reductionism that views the market as the sole ethical norm, the generator of all 'values', the reality which other things must be subjected to. Thus, the diagnoses of so-called 'market fundamentalism', understood as a secular form of exclusiveness and dominion, gain ground. The consequences of this fundamentalism have come to the fore within the ongoing economic and social crisis, that leaves desolation, fear and panic in its wake; primarily affecting the weaker and more vulnerable brackets". "Although one would expect the media to fulfil their crucial social role, we have witnessed that editors' and advertisers' interests, aimed at making rapid profits in an environment of fierce competitiveness, gained priority over the readership's rights to thorough, accurate and truthful news reports. The media are victims of corporative journalism and of all the other aspects linked to their alliance with politics and capitalism". Advertising evil. " The primary consequence of the media's submission to the market viewed as the unique criteria, is the sad phenomenon of 'advertising evil' (V. Tenžera)", "which, being a form of complacency towards men's baser instincts, has always been and remains the easiest and most irresponsible way of attracting the masses. […] At the same time, since the methodology of 'advertising evil' evidently doesn't derive from the yearning to uncover evil, a counterproductive effect is produced. Evil thus enjoys further thrust. […] 'Evil advertising' method is blatant when denial is ignored. Thus, the truthful declarations denying false claims reported by the media are placed at the margins and news on evil deeds gain extensive media coverage". Our media are also affected by "the problem of the so-called 'media-racket' whereby institutions or individuals ask for money to 'report the truth' or to 'remain silent'". [...] In the 'alliance between politics and the media', where money is the common denominator, conveying information is no longer the highest goal but rather a 'collateral effect' of the interaction of three powers: capital, the media and politics. These manipulations lead to the end of public opinion. Marginalized goodness. "If market fundamentalism and money as the primary criteria become the bases and thrust of 'editorial policies', we will be progressing towards an era marked by the most dangerous form of censorship: the censorship of goodness. This entails denying to the public the right to receive information on goodness, or marginalizing it, while society becomes 'a protection racket' where it's one against all. Thus, the media and their
owners, whose power and social responsibility are enormous, must oppose 'market fundamentalism' and its product, society's 'protection racket' by refraining from being an active part of it. 'Market fundamentalism' disregards fundamental human values, censors goodness, and subordinates everything to the logics of money and profit to the point of sacrificing human dignity and the common good. In many areas of the public and private arena these phenomena have gained worrying proportions". The right to learn about the good. "There is evidently a need for an appropriate legal framework and of greater 'publicity for the good'. At the same time it is necessary to promote and support at various levels all the initiatives apt increasing individual and public awareness in order to foster resiliency against the previously-mentioned negative phenomena and reject the censorship of the good while promoting the values that are crucial to public welfare, to institutions' functioning and for survival. In some cases, this may entail the boycott of certain media channels. This would be more effective if promoted by media operators. Trusting the power of goodness can and must ensure the appropriate publicity of the good, i.e., the rights of the public opinion that in practice are being denied by a large part of the media".
EU AND ECONOMIC CRISIS
A more or less constant refrain in view of the EU summit on 19-20 March
"We need to do more": as a slogan, repeated time and time again, this peremptory invitation formed the leitmotiv of the whole European week, once again concentrated on the recession and on the measures to take to alleviate its damaging effects. The economic crisis dominated the agenda at the meeting of the Eurogroup (Finance Ministers of the 16 countries of the euro) on 9 March, that of Ecofin (Economic Ministers of the 27) on 10 March, and during the plenary of the European Parliament on the following day; it in turn prepared the way for the summit of the heads of state and of government of the Union, due to be held on 19-20 March. Recovery is "deferred". European ministers warned of the danger the recession is posing to jobs; they warned that between now and 2010 some six million jobs could be lost, a figure almost double that previously estimated by the Commission. At the same time the Executive has had to revise its estimates about when the recovery would take place: according to Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, this would not take place in the second half of 2009, but would "slip to next year". Of much the same view is the President of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Jean-Claude Trichet. So the situation is fluid. Indeed, the president of the Eurogroup, Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker explained that for the time being "other plans of intervention will not be adopted", because first "the results of those already decided" need to be verified. On the scale of these plans wide differences of evaluation have been expressed: according to Commission President José Manuel Barroso, "they are quantifiable at around 3.3% of the GDP of the European Union", whereas other estimates are more conservative, quantifying them "realistically" at between 0.9 and 2% of GDP. Social effects of the crisis. "This crisis is hanging over all of us, and our families, and is leading to the loss of jobs - admitted Barroso, in the European Parliament -. After having tried to intervene on the financial side, we must now urgently consider the social impact of the crisis and its impact on jobs". The head of the Commission, in his address to the EP, said that the heads of state and of government will have to define during their summit next week "a common position in preparation for the G20 in London", but "above all will have to analyze the social and political pressures that this crisis is giving rise to". Barroso listed a series of provisions and regulations in the process of being defined (funds for energy infrastructures, hedge funds, executive salaries…); he then underlined that "the EU budget amounts to less than 1% of [EU] GDP, so it's obvious that the main financial commitments will have to be made by the individual countries". Wide-ranging debate. A wide-ranging debate on the economic crisis took place at the EP in Strasbourg. Alexandr Vondra, deputy premier of the Czech government, which now holds the rotating Presidency of the Union, spoke of "unprecedented pressures on our economies" and the "urgent need to revive the credit market" to support markets, businesses and consumers. For his part the head of the People's Party group in the EP, Joseph Daul, declared: "A stronger, more coordinated and more mutually dependent Europe is needed to tackle the economic crisis. This crisis is due to an absence of rules in the markets and can be overcome not with protectionism but with firm discipline and with innovation". The head of the Socialist group in the EP, Martin Schulz, called for a series of "key measures to reinforce the European recovery plan", measures that must aim at greater investments, revived solidarity and the crackdown on "tax havens". Graham Watson, leader of the Liberal-Democrats, argues that "proper measures to tackle the crisis have still to be adopted" and to this end awaits the decisions of the summit of
We need to do more
the EU27 on 19-20 March. "It goes without saying - he adds - that we'll have to proceed towards a more sustainable economy" at the environmental level. Strongly critical of the Commission, on the other hand, is the head of the Greens in the EP, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who accuses the Executive of being "too subservient to the positions of national governments". Report of the European Parliament. During the session, the Parliament also approved the Report of French MEP Anne Ferreira which urges "the coordination of economic rescue plans" and a "European initiative in support of employment and the revival of investments". In effect the report approved in the EP - though it does not have immediate implications for the decisions of the European Council - seems to indicate more "courageous" approaches that hitherto pursued by the 27 governments and by the Commission itself. The report is especially aimed at reviving investments in infrastructures (30 European networks still await realization), in clean energy and broad band. It also calls for the promotion of forms of EU loans (in essence "eurobonds" managed by the European Investment Bank); these would be temporary, guaranteed and aimed at development.
Eu news in brief
The number of refugees in the world has grown to over 12 million in the past year while internally displaced persons amount to over 26 million, according to a European Parliament report issued in the session of March 9-12. The report asks that a "single asylum application procedure" and "single standards for qualification as refugees of persons needing international protection be established" at Community level. In the report - adopted with large majority vote (Ayes 593, Noes 65, and 18 abstentions)- MEPs "endorse the implementation of the strategic Plan envisaged by the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum". MEPs opposed the proposal of postponing the deadline to 2012 "in order to end to the unpropitious disparity in Member States' asylum systems". They called for a revision of "Frontex's <http://www.frontex.europa.eu/> mandate in order to explicitly state that protection and human rights concerns are an integral part of the management of the EU external borders and that asylum-seekers "must not be placed in detention". It's equally necessary to set up mechanisms to "improve the situation of countries with the greatest flows of asylum seekers".
EU Parliament: integrated asylum system
Drug consumption and contrast policies
"There is no evidence that the global drug problem has been reduced". This is one of the conclusions of a report on the illicit drug Markets since 1998 launched March 10 by the EU Commission. "The situation" -states the Report "has improved a little in some of the richer countries" over the past decade, "while for others it worsened", among which are a few large developing or transitional countries. The Report states that "the world drugs problem" didn't register significant developments; "if anything, the situation has become more complex". Attention is drawn on the fact that drug "retail prices have generally declined" while "there are no indications that drugs have become more difficult to obtain". The survey highlights high rates in the use of heroine, cannabis, cocaine and other substances among the youth. To this regard the Commission declared that "harm reduction policies, still controversial in some countries, are gaining ground in a growing number of others countries which see them as an effective way of reducing drug-related disease, social disorder, and mortality" .
Decrease in nights spent in hotel: the effects of the crisis
The decrease in the number of nights spent in hotels across Europe is yet another sign of the ongoing economic crisis. A Eurostat publication issued findings on the nights spent in hotel for tourism, study or work. "In 2008, 1 578 million nights were spent in hotels and similar establishments", i.e. motels, apartment hotels, roadside inns and bed-and-breakfast, "a decrease of 0.5% compared with 2007". The Eurostat report points out that positive trends had been registered in 2006 and in 2007. The decrease is more evident as relates to hotel nights spent by non-residents, while the number of hotel nights spent by residents in their own country in 2008 was stable. A direct cause-effect of the crisis is perceivable in the worsening of the situation registered from April onwards. "In 23 Member States the lowest growth rates were recorded for the end of the year period (September-December)". In EU 27 the highest numbers of nights spent in hotels in 2008 were recorded in Spain (270 million nights), Italy (247 mn), Germany (219 mn), France (204 mn) and the United Kingdom (173 million).
EU: half a ton of refuse per person
Over half a ton of waste was generated per person in the EU27 in 2007. Figures were released in a Eurostat report on "municipal waste" (generated by households or by small business and offices and collected by the municipality).
According to the Statistical Office of the European Communities, in 2007, 42% of treated municipal waste was landfilled, 20% incinerated, 22% recycled and 17% composted. "The amount of municipal waste generated varies significantly across Member States", states the report. More than 750 kg per person was generated in 2007 in Denmark, Ireland and Cyprus. Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands had values between 600 and 750 kg per person and Austria, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Estonia, Sweden and Finland between 500 and 600 kg. Some States are slightly under EU mean figures (such as Belgium, Portugal, Greece and Hungary) . The lowest values of below 400 kg per person were found in Romania, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Some States have high shares of municipal waste landfilled (Bulgaria 100%, Romania 99, Lithuania 96 Malta 93). The Member States with the highest recycling rates for municipal waste were Germany (46%), Belgium (39%), Sweden Estonia and Ireland.