FRONT PAGE Europe: the declaration of Hans-Gert Pöttering to Gdasnk With the vision of the fathers Hans-Gert Pöttering, Member and former President of the European Parliament encouraged "to persevere along the path of peace, human dignity, freedom, democracy, the rule of the law and the unity of Europe". The occasion was the first Catholic Social Days for Europe held in Gdasnk October 8-11. Participants gathered in prayer lit a candle at the foot of the monument erected in memory of the outbreak of World War II. The fathers of Europe. Pöttering retraced the beginning of the conflict, seventy years ago. His own father, he said, was killed during the war and he, born in 1945, never knew him. "I firmly believe that we must do our utmost to prevent the resurgence of the horrors of war across Europe". Pöttering's decision to be engaged in the political realm stems from there. "Since I was young - he said - I had faith in the vision of the founding fathers of the European Union, according to whom conflicts and wars could be overcome only by establishing a political community founded on shared values of peace". An idea of man founded on Christianity. Pöttering, who was first designated MEP in 1979 with the first EP direct election, remarked: "I was convinced, and I still am, that in order to defend our common values, namely dignity and human rights, freedom and democracy, the rule of the law and peace, Europe needs to be united and strong. This is impossible without the EP, whose role is decisive. I felt that my vocation was to be engaged in this objective and contribute to the progress of the European Parliament." According to the former president of the European Parliament, "European unification progressed with ups and downs, as is the case of the Lisbon Treaty, that needs to be urgently implemented". The reunification of May 1st 2004 was "the greatest gift of my political career", he said, along with the unification of Germany in 1990. "I always firmly believed that one day Communism would fall since like Nazism, Communism is against human nature. The attempt to create a 'new man' was doomed to failure. Our idea of man founded on Christianity prevailed". The commitment for peace of John Paul II. "The yearning for freedom of European populations, that include former DDR Germans, and Solidarnosh, led by Lech Walesa in Poland, is the primary reason for the reunification of Europe", Pöttering remarked. "I looked up to the founding fathers of Europe, Robert Schuman, Alcide De Gasperi and Konrad Adenauer, - he added - but not only them. I especially admired Pope John Paul II. His personal commitment for freedom and Christian inspiration, that he constantly transmitted, played an important role in the events of 1989 that brought to the collapse of the Communist regime. His tireless commitment impressed me profoundly and reinforced my determination to be politically committed in the unification of Europe. His appeal to Polish compatriots "not to be afraid" will forever remain in our memory. Today a Pole - Jerzy Buzek, is the President of the European Parliament, a remarkable progress indeed". Promoting joint values. For Pöttering Europe "is developing its very own political identity and is gradually becoming a global actor. The EU is binding our Countries, that are often marked by mutually friendly ties. Solidarity is the foundation, while unity in diversity is what we long to achieve". In today's EU, "the notion of the State founded on the rule of the law is prevailing over the notion of the State founded on power". "The rule of the law thus protects the weaker brackets". This is "a historical achievement that is not sufficiently stressed". For this reason "we must defend the State subjected to the rule of the law in Europe and across the world". While "for centuries" our continent "was marked by wars, destruction and battles for national and ideological dominion, at the end of the 20th century human dignity, democracy, freedom and the rule of the law triumphed. This was the best response to the hopes of freedom and understanding cherished for centuries". Former EP President quoted from the Berlin declaration (March 25 2007), signed by German chancellor Angela Merkel in her capacities as EU president-in-office, by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and by Pöttering himself in his capacities as President of the European Parliament: "we came together with joy". Thus, he called upon "Catholic Church members who repeatedly criticize the EU - instead of considering its achievements - to support and encourage those politicians who promote our common values, and not to put on them the blame for developments we all seek to prevent". "We continue being committed to the establishment of peace among our peoples, human dignity, liberty, democracy, the rule of the law and the unity of Europe" is Pöttering's final appeal. "By renewing this promise, we will secure our European Continent a positive future". COMECE The Catholic Social Days for Europe: the final message The road of solidarity "Solidarity is a constitutive duty for all of us" and is "our shared future". This was repeated by the approximately 500 participants in the first "Catholic Social Days for Europe" - which ended in Gdansk, October 11th, on the initiative of Comece (Commission of EU Bishops Conferences) - in the final message, "Solidarity is our future", read under the rain at the entrance of the shipyard of the Polish town, significant place where there was the beginning of the Solidarnosc movement in 1979. The delegates sent also a letter to Benedict XVI where they state: "we have searched for concrete ways for an authentic solidarity of Europe in view of the construction of a culture of love, both in our continent and at the service of peace and justice in the world. We assure You, Your Holiness, our commitment to spread the social teaching of the Church and to live it in our Christian testimony". (See also SirEuropa n.68 and Sir daily news 8-9-12 October). A strategy for the common good. Seventy years after the gunshots on the Westerplatte that officially opened the Second World War which led to "the pursuit of reconciliation" that "boosted the project of freedom, peace and progress that has become the European Union", the delegates of 29 countries of the continent state: "Our generation" is "called to take on again the challenge of building a strategy for the common good". This "requires that the social institutions respect the spaces of independent action, so that everyone can fully accomplish their own potential" and requires such institutions to "be imbued with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity". This strategy needs "a fair democracy that can only work through everyone's responsible contribution. Selfish behaviours, utilitarianism and materialism must give way to sharing, as has been widely proven by the current economic crisis". Three lines of action. "Economic solidarity - goes on the final message - must become the guiding principle of any action. The inalienable dignity of human life, from conception to natural death, must be respected. So must that of the foreigner who knocks on our door and that of the future generations". In insisting that "solidarity is a constitutive duty for all of us and only on this condition will rights not turn into abuse", the delegates warn: "We must not be afraid: solidarity is out common future. The unity of Europe was some people's dream. It has become many people's hope. Now it is our duty to make it keep serving the goal of global solidarity". Three lines of action have been pointed out: solidarity between generations, between European citizens, between Europe and the rest of the world. As to the first point, the delegates highlight the pressing need to promote and protect the family based on marriage of man and woman, "laying the conditions to enable parents to raise their children and reconcile their family and professional lives" and to "implement a common European immigration and asylum policy, acknowledging every migrant's human dignity". "Economy must be made to serve everyone". "Our lifestyles and economic growth must be redirected so as to reduce our ecological footprint, the consumption of non-renewable natural resources, and thus leave a still-habitable planet to the future generations", states the final message of the Catholic Social Days for Europe. For "true solidarity to exist among the European citizens", "economy must be made to serve everyone", acknowledging the value of work "in all its forms"; "social market economy must be adapted to the new challenges; the vulnerable ones must be protected, social justice and equal opportunities must be improved". To do this, "more effective measures must be taken to reduce poverty and social exclusion"; "a policy for regulating the financial markets in the European Union must be promoted and international governance facilities must be supported". But Europe must also look at the rest of the world: hence the invitation to "keep the promises made to the developing countries and promote joint development with the poorer countries, especially Africa; to further develop fair trade practices"; to promote "peace and justice, based on the respect of human dignity, human rights and in particular religious freedom". At open arms to receive. "To achieve these goals, we must make the balances of the states and the EU adapt", say the participants in the Catholic Social Days, asking, in the message to the European citizens who share such prospects, to commit themselves to such accomplishment and to take on "the necessary political responsibilities at their respective levels". As Christians, "the call to the full development of people and populations" - the text goes on - is a calling that comes before us and constitutes us". "Europe needs properly-formed men and women, who have their arms open to receive their neighbours in the name of Jesus Christ and build together relations and institutions of solidarity, at the service of the men of our time, keeping the future generations in mind". "We - the document concludes - also want to keep talking and working with men and women of different beliefs in the pursuit of the common good". COMECE Catholic Social Days for Europe: the debate Our common future "Solidarity is a duty inherent to each one of us". "It is our common future". Thus declared the approximately 500 delegates from 29 European Countries during the "first Catholic Social Days for Europe", held in Gdansk October 9-11 on the initiative of COMECE (the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community). The Days addressed the theme ""Solidarity, a challenge for Europe". The final statement "Solidarity is the future of Europe" closed the meeting (Previous news reports in SIR Europe 68 and SIR daily news October 8-9-10 - Agensir.it). Charity. "Today there is a need for a new international order, a new Europe for a new future", said the archbishop of Dublin Msgr. Diarmuid Martin. After having recalled the warning conveyed by Benedict XVI in "Caritas in Veritate", to not confide exclusively in progress and technology, Msgr. Martin remarked, "in our world we don't devote the just attention to questions regarding 'why', and restrict ourselves to 'how'. As the Pope said, "we must ask ourselves what we intend by 'progress'". Reflecting on the relationship between justice and charity in the social doctrine of the Church, the archbishop of Dublin pointed out that charity leads to solidarity, which is not "an abstract feeling. It means sharing". "And sharing is one of the EU's pillars, engrained in its inspiration and activity". According to Msgr.Martin, there can "be true human development" only if "the factual interdependence of peoples and nations is combined with the interaction of minds and conscience", and "becomes solidarity". "The most important capital to be safeguarded nowadays is the integrity of the human person". For this reason, concludes the archbishop referring to the Pope, Christian charity "ought to be acknowledged" as a "crucial element in all human relations, including the public ones". The family. The EU, the family, human rights, social and economic models were among the themes addressed by the European delegates during the workshops in Gdansk. MEP Anna Záborská from Slovakia said the family is "the vital cell of society", within the framework of "solidarity". The MEP denounced European Parliament resolutions, which "clearly condemn the natural family to the benefit of other forms of coexistence". "In fact, these resolutions bear no juridical value", she added. "But their very existence contributes to an unhealthy atmosphere that doesn't promote the development of family solidarity in Europe". MEP Zàborska brought evidence to the fact that the Fundamental Rights Charter lacks a clear definition of the "family". For example, the authors of the Charter "were far from specifying the parents' gender in art. 9". As relates to the rights of the child, the Charter "deliberately omits mentioning mother and father, replacing it with 'two parents'". Záborská concluded her address with a provocation: "honestly, I'd like you to answer my question. As Catholics engaged in political life, can we promote the family according to the Gospel using a neutral political and institutional language, in compliance with EU administrative performance?" Human rights. The dignity of each human being "does not depend on the person's current state". This is the key-concept of the address of Maureen Junker-Kenny, Theology professor at the Trinity College of Dublin, Ireland, on "The human person and his rights", presenting the principles of Catholic social teaching. "Since every human person was made to God's image and likeness there is a fundamental equality among mankind, that ought to take shape within the legal environment". In concrete terms, this means that "pain, suffering and weakness don't strip human beings of their own dignity"; and that "dignity and the ensuing human rights are prior to the acknowledgement of other human beings"; that "even though individual dignity could be respected or violated, nobody is in the position to bestow it or take it away from us". The dream of De Gasperi. "Just like Adenauer and Schuman my father had a dream. Alas, he wasn't a dreamer. His idea of Europe was grounded in a concrete political vision". Maria Romana De Gasperi thus recalled her father, underlining the topical relevance of De Gasperi's political thought "at a moment when Europe is called to recover its identity and Catholics are invited to give their contribution with greater determination". Msgr. Adrian Van Luyn, President of COMECE, as a sign of gratitude donated to Maria Romana De Gasperi the book "European Union and the Social Doctrine of the Church. The journey towards Emmaus", published by the Vatican. One Catholic in the Greek Parliament, the second in one hundred years' history. One of the MEPs elected from the winning party, the Pasok, in Greece on October 4th, is Giorgio Papamanolis, 53, born on the isle of Syros. "His presence as a MEP is a message to the Greek Catholics - says to SIR the president of the Greek Bishops Conference (GBC), mgr. Franghiskos Papamanolis, who is the new MEP's paternal uncle -. It will certainly be everyone's voice. However, we should not forget the problems Greek Catholics have here, in this country. Problems that have been overcome, at least this once - the bishop adds -, as the voters actually elected the man, regardless of his religion". The president of the Greek Bishop Conference reveals that Giorgio Papamanolis "has also been congratulated by the other Catholic politician of the New Democracy party, which has been defeated by the polls. When having to compose the tickets, the latter had not accepted to stand as a nominee, indirectly favouring the Pasok nominee". Official results show that the socialist party led by Papandreou got 43.9% votes, followed by the New Democracy party (ND) of the outgoing prime minister Kostas Karamanlis, with 33.49% votes and 91 seats. Third of the list is the communist Kke group (7.53% votes and 21 seats). Fourth of the list is the far right party, the Laos, which got a hefty 5.6%. Greece, Ireland, Spain, Romania Greece: one Catholic in the Parliament Northern Ireland: Good Friday agreements are going on "We are about to complete the Good Friday agreements. The transfer of legale and police powers from Westminster to the Northern Irish assembly is the last step in the building of a fair society". This is how the Redemptorist father Gerry Reynolds of Clonard Monastery, Belfast, which over the last few months has been home to some key peace negotiations which have brought the different Catholic parties closer together, commented for SIR the visit of 12th October of the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, to Belfast. Ms Clinton encouraged the Protestant Party, the "Dup", and the Catholic Party, the "Sinn Fein", to come to an agreement on the transfer of legal and police powers, a key point of the peace process, stating however that the two parties will have the last word. While the "Sinn Fein" said he would welcome an immediate transfer of power, the Dup submitted, a few days ago, a number of requests that had to be fulfilled before it would give the go-ahead to the agreement. "The peace-building work is not over yet - Father Reynolds adds -, but it is important that the structures agreed on by the two parties are in place". According to the Redemptorist father, "the situation in Belfast is increasingly relaxed. The few episodes of violence that still occur are committed by mavericks and are not to be blamed on any organisation". Spain: Madrid rally for the right to life A series of playful, academic and general information initiatives to raise the families' awareness about the attendance of the great rally due to take place in Madrid, Spain, on Saturday 17th October for the right to life, for women and for motherhood. They are being proposed over these days by "Right to Live" (Dav), which is leading Saturday's initiative and has been joined by over 40 Spanish civilian organisations and will be focussed on the motto, "Every life matters". The organisers' goal is to encourage the greatest possible mobilisation for what is considered to be one of the most widely shared events in democratic life. The initiatives planned for these days include the presentation by Gádor Joya, Dav spokesperson, of an information notice on the development of birth rates, international adoptions and the number of abortions in Spain since 1985. The Catholic schools of Madrid too, in a release, announced they will join Saturday's rally and denounced the government's demand to extend the current abortion law. "When laws fail to protect life - the release states -, the time has come to increase education even more. Because we believe in it and for us, as Catholic schools, that is our special place to work in". Romania: national priest meeting "Priesthood, charismatic service and institutional ministry": this is the theme of the national meeting of Romanian Catholic priests to be held at the Carmelite monastery in Snagov, near Bucharest, from 13 to 16 October. The meeting, which is being attended by 80 priests from 10 out of the 11 dioceses and eparchies of Romania, is going to begin today with the celebration of the Holy Mass. The programme includes moments of prayer, conferences on the theme and group discussions. The national meeting was promoted by Romanian bishops from both rites (Roman and Greek-Catholic) during the spring session of the Romanian Bishops' Conference (last May). It is held in the framework of the Year for Priests with 5 more meetings to be hosted by other Romanian dioceses or eparchies. "The Catholic Church in Romania is a complex reality - reads a statement released by the Roman-Catholic Archdiocese of Bucharest - with various rites and different ethnic groups. According to the intentions of the Romanian bishops, these national meetings will provide an occasion for priests to pray together, but also the possibility to get to know each other and to discuss". Conferences are held by both Greek-Catholic and Roman-Catholic bishops and so are the Masses that are going to be celebrated in the upcoming days. ECUMENISM <!--Titolo-->Hope in Cyprus Catholics and Orthodox on the role of the bishop of Rome The International Mixed Commission for Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue is due to convene in Cyprus October 16 to 23. The plenary meeting will resume the theme addressed in Ravenna in 2007, delving into "The role of the Bishop of Rome in Church Communion in the first millennium". The mixed Commission has 30 Orthodox and 30 Catholic members and is moderated by two co-presidents, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Christian unity and H.E. Johannis Metropolitan of Pergamon (Ecumenical Patriarchate). The theme of "the Bishop of Rome in Church Communion in the first millennium" was explored by two sub-commissions in the years 2007-2008 and by the Mixed Coordinating Committee (Crete 2008) that drew up the project to be debated in Cyprus on the basis of the guidelines established in the Ravenna document. However, in Ravenna the Russian Orthodox delegation left the meeting because of the presence of Estonian Church representatives, invited by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Church of Estonia was declared independent by Constantinople but is not recognized as such by the Patriarchate of Moscow. We have asked Msgr. Eleuterio Fortino from the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, who is co-secretary of the mixed Commission with H.E. Gennadios, Metropolitan of Sassima, to present us the challenges and objectives of the forthcoming plenary meeting. From which stage is dialogue being resumed? "With the plenary meeting in Belgrade (2006) of the international mixed Catholic-Orthodox Commission, dialogue undertook a new positive path. After a first fruitful phase in which three important documents on the sacraments and Church unity were issued (1980-1988), the Commission experienced a period marked by hot debates on the theme of 'Uniatism', during which it did however publish a significant document (Balamand 1993). No true convergence was found on its consequences (Baltimora 2000). For this reason after the Ecumenical Patriarchate attempted repeated intermediations between the Orthodox Churches in 2005, the Mixed Coordinating Committee convened and decided to resume the dialogue on the basis of a project drawn up in Moscow in 1990 for the session held in June of that same year in Freising, which however was never debated. The theme was: "Canonical and ecclesiological consequences of the sacramental nature of the Church. Conciliarity and authority inside the Church". The Belgrade session, hosted with generosity and cordiality by the Serbian Church, bore important fruits and produced a new joint document. But in fact, only half of the project was examined. The remaining half was discussed in the following plenary session (Ravenna 2007), which approved the entire document". Could you tell us more about this document? "The Commission's fifth document addressed the relationship between conciliarity and authority in the Church on three levels (diocesan, regional and universal). Accordingly, on each of these levels there is a protos, a primus (bishop, patriarch - metropolitan, bishop of Rome). The document addresses the core of the prōtos at universal level. It recalls first of all that "both parties (Catholics and Orthodox) agree that Rome, as the Church that presides on charity, occupied the first place in the taxis and that the bishop of Rome was the prōtos among the patriarchs". The last item of the document conveys the importance of the achieved results in these terms: "As members of the International Commission (…) we believe that the above-mentioned statement is a positive and significant progress in our dialogue and that it provides a solid basis for future debate on the question of primacy in the Church at universal level". Are Russian representatives expected in Cyprus? "The Russian members of the mixed Commission will be attending the meeting in Cyprus. There has been a clarification and an agreement between Constantinople and Moscow with the other Orthodox Churches. Orthodox Churches' full representation is crucial to the success of dialogue. Indeed, for the first time in history since the Churches split, dialogue involves the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches in their entirety. This complexity sometimes slows down the progress of dialogue. However, its objective justifies the need for clarification and for the unanimous consensus of all the stakeholders. This is the true novelty in the ongoing Catholic-Orthodox dialogue". Do the fraternal relations between the Churches help theologians' work? "Dialogue can truly progress only with close fraternal relations between the Churches. In the past the dialogue of charity was justly considered the preliminary condition for theological dialogue. The dialogue of charity on the one side enables confrontation with our brothers in faith, on the other it liberates doctrinal questions from burdens that are heterogeneous to faith. This attitude plays an important role in the Commission's work in Cyprus, where the role of the Bishop of Rome in the life of the Church in the first millennium will be closely examined. Judgment and historical prejudice characterize this theme, which requires rigorous and harmonious examination, marked by an open attitude towards the future. It would be useless to seek a wholesome solution in the past. Conflicting interpretations of Scriptural and historical accounts took place already in the first millennium. The Holy Spirit continues inspiring the Church at all times. However, in the first millennium, in spite of the tensions, the Christian Eastern and Western worlds experienced full communion. The message of full communion coming from the first millennium must always be present in the framework of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue". CHRISTIAN CHURCHES On October 11 the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I conveyed his cautious optimism on the future of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Turkey. In a meeting with press officers from the Austrian news agency Kathpress, during their visit to Istanbul, Bartholomew I said, "A number of small steps make us confide that the situations of minority groups in Turkey is slowly improving". "Human rights' adoption in Turkey and the progress towards EU adhesion are proceeding with a slow but relentless pace", he declared. The Patriarch reiterated the decision to remain on the shore of the Bosphorus despite the difficulties that may arise. Bartholomew I acknowledged "improvements for the local Church". "Today it's possible to enjoy the rights that had been denied years ago to the Churches, such as the right to accept donations. Moreover, non-Turkish Metropolitan bishops were prevented from becoming members of the Patriarchate's Holy Synod". Bartolomew I referred to the "very constructive" visit to Turkey of the newly-elected Greek Premier Georgios Papandreou and to the recent agreement signed in Zurich by Turkey and Armenia. "These signs testify to Ankara's decision to undertake political distension". Notably, the many conflicts with Greece "severely harmed the Patriarchate". "We paid for the conflict", he remarked. Bartholomew I referred to Turkey's reforms that are needed "along with a change of heart", he underlined. During a meeting with Kathpress journalists in Phanar on October 9, Vienna's Metropolitan orthodox bishop Michael Staikos said that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople will not let itself be manipulated by politics. Bishop Staikos referred to a recent declaration by Egemen Bagis, Turkey's chief negotiator with the EU, who said that improving the situation of the Turkish minority in Greek-western Thracia would favor the reopening of the Orthodox seminar and of the Theological faculty in the Island of Chalki, on the part of Turkey's authorities. "These exchanges are unacceptable", he declared. "The two things are totally unrelated". "The ecumenical Patriarchate along with the other religious minorities in the Country", he added, "ought to be granted the status of juridical person". Turkey, England, Romania Turkey: Bartholomew I on minorities' future England: common vespers in Westminster Cathedral Catholic Primate Vincent Nichols will celebrate the vespers along with Anglican Primate Rowan Williams at Westminster Abbey on Friday 16th October. Westminster Abbey is the mother church of Anglicanism and the church in which English monarchs are crowned. The event is part of the "Edwardtide Festival", dedicated to Saint Edward the Confessor, king of England from 1042 to 1066, whose remains are buried in the Abbey. "It is not the first time that a Catholic Primate visits the mother church of Anglicanism, but this shows that the Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Bishops' Chamber of the Church of England are in good terms", said the Secretary General for Ecumenical Affairs of the Catholic Bishops' Conference Mgr Andrew Faley. "Anglican and Catholic bishops had a meeting in Leeds in November 2007. They also had a one-day meeting of reflection and prayer last year and will meet again, for the third time, in 2010". "The dialogue between the two churches is lively. Catholic and Anglican bishops are co-operating to spread the Christian message in England and Wales, which are currently facing an ever-growing secularization". Romania: pilgrimage for Saint Parascheva The city of Iasi, North-Eastern Romania, has been turned into the main pilgrimage site of Moldavia for the Feast of St Parascheva, "the light of Moldavia", protector of the city and of the whole region. Since last Saturday, that is in less than two days, some 25,000 pilgrims have prayed before her holy relics which are kept in the metropolitan cathedral of Iasi. One million people are expected to attend the closing celebrations on 14 October. Saint Parascheva, who is venerated by the Romanian Orthodox Church and by other Oriental-rite Churches, was born in Epivat (Turkey) during the first half of the 11th century. She spent her life serving the poor and the weakest before dying at the age of 27. Her relics, associated to a number of miracles, were first kept in Epivat, her home town. They were then translated to Trnovo, capital of Bulgaria, before being moved to Belgrade until 1521 and to Constantinople for another 120 years. In 1641, the relics were finally brought to Iasi where they are currently venerated. Regions: Eurostat Yearbook 2009 EUROPEAN UNION Seen from the regions To find the lowest density of population in the European Union you need to travel in some of the more outlying regions between Sweden and Finland. To encounter the largest number of homes linked to the internet you need to go to the Netherlands. The highest average level of graduates is found, instead, in the region of Brabant Wallonia, in Belgium. These facts, and an overall region-based statistical account of the 27-member EU, are contained in the "Regional Yearbook 2009", published by Eurostat. From demography and economic indicators to tourism. The Statistical Office of the European Commission (http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu) has gathered a huge quantity of data, tables, comparative charts and percentages, which are divided into various chapters and describe the realities of a continent that we don't always know. It's a kind of jigsaw puzzle made up of the member states, the three candidate countries (Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia), and the four members of the European Free Trade Association (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), and which is reassembled piece by piece, observing the Old Continent from the viewpoint of the regions and cities. The Yearbook contains regionally-based data on population, gross domestic product, labour market, family budgets, the structure of businesses, education, new technologies, tourism, agriculture and the preservation of the territory. It also includes for the first time a chapter, overdue in the age of the internet and global communication, on the "information society". London and Brussels the most highly populated areas. The EU, which has comprised 27 countries since 2007, has a total population of some half a billion people, with an average density per square kilometre of c.112 inhabitants. The distribution of population between the individual states is very diverse: we think of the great expanse of reunited Germany and the small - demographically speaking - islands of Malta or Cyprus. But if we proceed to the regional level (271 regions are identified by Eurostat; listed in alphabetical order, they begin with the Abruzzo, in Italy, and end with Zuid-Holland, in the Netherlands), we discover that the most densely populated areas in the EU are Inner London (UK) with 9,354 inhabitants per square km, Brussels (Belgium) with 6,405, Melilla (Spain) with 5,197, Vienna (Austria) with 4,031 and Berlin (Germany) with 3,820. On the contrary, to find regions with few houses and few residents, we need to travel to French Guyana or Ovre Norrland in Sweden, with three inhabitants per square km. The situation is not very different in Pohjois-Suomi (Finland, 4 inhabitants per sq km), Mellersta Norrland (Sweden, 5) or Ita-Suomi (again in Finland, 8). Few residents? Greece, Sweden, Finland… According to the Eurostat Yearbook, "a high population density (500 inhabitants per square kilometre or more) was registered in 32 regions of the EU-27", comprising various metropolitan areas corresponding to national capitals and other major conurbations. "Eight of these areas are located in the UK, six in Germany, four in Holland, three in Belgium and Spain, and one each in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, France, Austria, Portugal, Romania and Malta". A population density (which is not only a demographic, but also an economic, social and environmental index) lower than 50 inhabitants per sq km is found in 28 regions: five of them are in Greece and in Sweden, four each in Spain and Finland, three in France, and one apiece in Bulgaria, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, UK, Estonia and Latvia. To take one or two national cases, it emerges that the most populated region in Ireland is Southern and Eastern (86 inhabitants per sq km), the least populated is Border, Midland and Western (35); in Italy, we find Campania (426) and Valle d'Aosta (38) respectively at the top and bottom of the regional league table; in Hungary, it is Kozép-Magyarorszàg (415) and Dél-Dunàntùl (68). Access to internet: Netherlands holds the record. The Yearbook's statistics on the number of accesses to internet is of particular interest, given that internet is a resource ever more commonly used to assess the development of a country or region. On average, emphasises Eurostat, "60% of families had access to internet in 2008", albeit with different connection modalities and speeds. But "percentages of homes linked to the web higher than 75% are registered in 35 regions of the EU-27": they include the twelve Dutch regions, nine regions in the UK, six in Germany, four in Denmark, three in Sweden and Luxembourg. In the Dutch region of Noord-Holland, the percentage of internet access in homes rises to 90%, while in those of Groningen and Utrecht it is of the order of 89%. Quite the opposite situation is found in 38 regions with an average of internet connection lower than 45% of homes; they are mainly located in Romania, Bulgaria, Spain, Czech Republic, Italy and Greece. Eu in brief Information and Communication Technologies: expanding women's role Companies and industries signing the European "Code of Best Practices for Women" commit to "increasing the numbers of women in science, technology and engineering higher education, and to recruiting and retaining female talent to Europe's telecoms and internet-related industries." A few days ago the European Commission ratified the document, launched past March, binding 28 European corporations to encourage young women to study and follow careers in the telecoms, technology and internet industries. The number of signatories has grown from initially five to 28. "I applaud the increased commitment shown by the ICT industry, especially by the 28 signatories to the code of conduct", said Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "This shows the growing awareness of the ICT sector that it can benefit from and contribute to economic growth and innovation only if it addresses the shortage of qualified staff expected to reach 300,000 by 2010". ""Although women get 45% of all European PhDs, they get only a quarter of those in engineering, manufacturing and construction", the Commissioner stated. The Code focuses on education and employment through "girls' days, mentoring programs, flexible working hours and other innovative activities that help raise awareness and attract women to the tech industry". The "European Entrepreneurial Region award" The EU Committee of the Regions launched "The European Entrepreneurial Award" designed to identify and reward EU regions with outstanding entrepreneurial vision and to encourage local and regional authorities to do more to promote small businesses" across Europe. CoR President Luc Van den Brande said: "This year's theme for the OPEN DAYS is 'global challenges, European responses.' With the European Entrepreneurial Region scheme, the CoR, in partnership with the European Commission, has launched a new springboard for growth and jobs at the regional level. It is a concrete response to the urgent need to support small and medium sized enterprises which are source of growth, jobs and innovation and 98% of which operate at a strictly local level, often having very strong socio-economic attachments to their territory". The EER is open to every region of Europe, regardless of its size, population or wealth. "Any region, city or local authority that has the political mandate to draw up and implement its own strategy for boosting entrepreneurship is eligible to apply for the award". Each year, up to three regions from across the EU will be granted the right to call themselves 'Entrepreneurial Region of the Year'. "The jury will take into account the specific characteristics of the candidate region concerned (such as its competences in the area of business policy, its entrepreneurial potential and the sustainability and credibility of its proposals), as well as the overall presentation of its so-called 'Vision Plan'. Regions wishing to apply for the award must do so via the EER website (www.cor.europa.eu) by 15 January 2010. Integration and local democracy: ten "pilot cities" "Making citizens in the 47 member countries of the Council of Europe more familiar with local institutions and democratic processes, forge closer links between the population and local elected representatives and to raise awareness of grassroots policy programs". These are the objectives of the European Local Democracy Week (ELDW), which launched on October 12-15 a series of events in CoE member Countries focused on "participatory processes and youth awareness". Keith Whitmore, ELDW coordinator from the UK, described the week's initiatives. ELDW is being held during the plenary meeting of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (October 13-15). "In view of the UN Conference in Copenhagen" the CoE plenary "addresses the role of local political representatives vis à vis the global climate change challenge". The European Week this year involves 10 "pilot cities", "whose mission is to be committed in these areas and give visibility to the Week". These are: Bradashesh (Albania), Brussels (Belgium), Ierapetra (Greece), the municipal district of Finlyandskiy in Saint Petersburg (Russia), Boryspil (Ukraine), Kutina (Croatia), Podkowa Lesna (Poland), Strasbourg (France), Salford (the United Kingdom) and Iasi (Romania).
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