FRONT PAGE The European sentiment A fundamental value for the unification process A new European Commission has been installed. The European Council convened for the first time under the presidency of Herman van Rompuy, and last week was marked by a very busy agenda. Now that the Lisbon Treaty has come into force, providing for the renewed performance of European institutions, the new executive has taken office in Brussels, where it will remain for the coming years. Herman van Rompuy clearly said that economic reform must become the first priority. Indeed, the economic crisis highlighted the challenges that Europe is called to face in the coming years. With his very own sober and pragmatic style, EU President Rompuy will seek to persuade his colleagues, and all European citizens, that Asian emerging Countries' dynamics, European research slowdown, the disquieting energetic dependence and ageing population trends require European thrust in order to prevent the Continent's marginalization in twenty years' time. José Manuel Barroso, for the second time at the lead of the European Commission for a five-year mandate, is expected to make similar statements. But he and other 26 Commissioners still need to develop a convincing political approach and a personal style. Many new Commission members are still unknown outside their countries of origin. Some can rely on the experience of a second mandate. Very few of them actually conveyed authentic European enthusiasm during the hearing before MEPs. The latter include French Michel Barnier, at his second assignment as Commissioner after having been in charge of regional policy during Romano Prodi's presidency. Indeed, Barnier's parliamentary hearing was very well prepared, and his conceptions of financial market regulation, calling for greater openness of common market services, were extremely accurate. However, his intention of boosting citizens' attachment to the common market, of which he is now the responsible in the fundamental institution of European Construction, was rather unexpected. Increasing affective sentiment for the common market would be a priority of his engagement, he told MEPs; an accurate intuition, we believe. Who could have envisioned, upon the end of the Second World War, the progress of European nations' peaceful cooperation? Who could have imagined that European integration would attain such high levels? Nonetheless, citizens' attachment to European affairs is still very poor. In this sense, Michel is perfectly right in wanting to turn this proposition into a primary aspect of his assignment. But can one love a market? Whether it is single, common, or domestic, the market doesn't trigger an emotional response. After the War the Germans were committed in the development of the "Soziale Marktwirtschaft". The social teaching of the Church directly inspired the architects of this economic regime. The notion of "economic and social progress" is inscribed in article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty. Perhaps Michel Barnier would be more inspired if he relied on this notion. In fact, along with market economy, which indeed can be useful, if not indispensable, lies the adjective "social", recalling mutual care and attention. It carries a message of charity and concrete support against life's perils and threats, which could touch our own hearts. Having said this, a further reflection on the new European Common Market Commissioner is due. Philosopher Simone Weil, who converted to Christianity at the end of her life, wrote in her book 'L'Enracinement' that "European unification sentiments" ought to be nourished and fuelled. It was 1943, in the midst of the War. In peaceful 2010 Europe, it still is an urgent issue. STEFAN LUNTE <BR>FRANCE Portugal, Germany, Switzerland Portugal: against homosexual marriage The Citizenship and Marriage Platform (casamentomesmosexo.org) has called a "demonstration in support of the traditional family" to be held in Lisbon on 20 February, with the aim of giving visibility to the indignation of thousands of citizens with regard to the recent law that permits marriage between persons of the same sex. Isilda Pegado, President of the Portuguese Pro-Life Federation, stressed that "the aim of the initiative is to provide a mouthpiece and give visibility to the various protest movements that have emerged in the real fabric of society". Recalling that the promoters of the demonstration have already gathered over 90,000 signatures in favour of a popular referendum, the representative of the Platform added that "in response to the government's lack of consideration of citizenship and its reiterated determination to dispense with a public debate, the Portuguese people now intends to show all its indignation". "The protest rally, which will march along the Avenida da Liberdade, is not aimed at anyone in particular", said Isilda Pegado. Rather "it especially wishes to be a symbolic manifestation of liberty, in defence of traditional marriage and the family, by placing in question the model of society that the new law is trying to impose, and by opposing an ethics of regime based on homosexuality". Through its spokesman, the Portuguese Bishops' Conference (CEP) recently declared that it regarded the forthcoming demonstration "with sympathy". It will conclude with a "Feast of the Family", during which moments of entertainment will alternate with reflections, including musical attractions and speeches by representatives of the several associations involved, including a group of former militants of the April Revolution. Germany: a study on ethical investments "Global economy and social ethic" is the title of the study presented in Frankfurt am Main on February 17th. This study was carried out by a group of experts of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK). "The study deals with investments with ethical purpose, and the appraisal of several offers in the market is not always positive", as declared by Bernhard Emunds, manager of the project and teacher at the Nell-Breuning-Institut of Frankfurt. "Many offerers discover a fruitful market as well as the opportunity to create a new customer segment thanks to the ethic label", said Emunds, who warned not to pervert the nature of the concepts of "sustainability" and "ethic", changing them into "low-level marketing instruments". To enhance the reliability of operators in the sector of ethical investments, the teacher proposed to create a "list of convincing criteria", the use of "transparency in the procedures of investment appraisal", and "fair consultancies for customers". According to Johannes Wallacher, president of the expert group, "the investment with ethical purpose can be more than a small mechanism within the financial system, in case it is regarded as a sign of availableness by investors to support the reforms which are necessary in terms of general political conditions". Switzerland: "stop unfair trade" "Let's bank on fair trade!": this is the slogan of the ecumenical campaign of fasting promoted for this year's Lenten season in Switzerland. The campaign, organised by the Swiss organisations "Fastenopfer" (Catholic Church), "Brot für alle" (Reformed Church), and "Partner sein" (Christian Catholic Church) was announced at a press conference held in Berne on February 18th. "Unfair trade conditions are among the reasons why over one billion people suffer from hunger in the world. International trade regulations, speculations as well as agrarian policies and interventions violate the right to food besides endangering the life of millions of people", highlighted the organisers. The campaign aims to "raise awareness of the connections between global trade, food production and food security" as well as to "give concrete suggestions about how the consumers can make their contribution to a fairer trade system through their behaviour and consumption patterns". On 13 Mai, for instance, Swiss bakers will sell roses and bread to raise awareness on the subject of fair trade. The ecumenical campaign will be launched in Lucerne on 20 February. The city will also host an exhibition on global agriculture economy. Cyprus, Scotland, Germany, Italy Cyprus: the feast of Saint Maron To the presence of the highest authorities of the country, including the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias, on February 7 the Feast of Saint Maron, father and founder of the Maronite Church, which counts some 10 million faithful worldwide, was celebrated in Nicosia. The event is linked to the 1600th anniversary of the death of the Saint, which recurs in 2010. During the liturgy the Maronite patriarch of Cyprus, Msgr. Youssef Soueif, called for "a peaceful solution" to the island's division. "This solution is necessary not only for the island but also for the whole of Europe", he said. "It is an example of how cultures can meet and testify to the values based on the principles of unity in the respect of differences". Indeed, he added, "the Maronites, along with the other Cypriot cultures, contribute to the creation of the island's multicultural identity, with the awareness that the more multiculturalism is preserved, the more effective is Cyprus' role in the world, transmitting its message to Europe". No less important, continued Msgr. Soueif, is the widespread commitment of the Maronite Church "in bearing witness to the spirit of unity between the Churches, as testified by the Maronite archdiocese of Cyprus' recent CCEE (Council of European Bishops' Conferences) membership. Finally, mention was made of the forthcoming visit of Benedict XVI to the island in June, which is bound to "strengthen the values of peace and fraternity in a special moment of our history". "Indeed - the Patriarch concluded - Cyprus underwent much suffering in the past and its suffering continues, but our hope must be stronger". Scotland: assisted suicide, "a bad law" It is "a bad law which is wrong in principle". The archbishop of Glasgow Msgr. Mario Conti spoke out against Scotland's assisted suicide bill, currently debated by the national Parliament. The head of the largest Scottish diocese asserted, "It is wrong in principle for someone to take their own life; it is wrong in principle for someone to help them to do so." The bill, proposed by Margo MacDonald, independent MSP suffering from Parkinson's Disease, would allow the terminally ill to seek medical assistance in ending their lives. During the annual Mass for health workers celebrated a few days ago, Msgr. Conti pointed out that "attempted suicide is no longer considered a crime", but laws "against assisted suicide are required, for the good of society. There is room for compassion in the administration of justice". Scottish legislation does not consider attempted suicide a crime while assisted suicide is illegal. "This law is wrong in principle. Hard cases make bad laws", the archbishop concluded. Germany: the bishops' plenary meeting The plenary meeting of the German Bishops Conference (Dbk) will take place from 22nd to 25th February in Freiburg, the archdiocese headed by the president of Dbk, mgr. Robert Zollitsch. It is the first time the meeting will be held in the Baden-Württemberg city. Items on the agenda will include the many reported cases of abuse at Jesuit-run schools: the bishops of the 27 dioceses will discuss what further measures must be taken and their consequences. Proposed ideas, as reported by the German Catholic news agency Kna, should include the priest' training and a review of the existing directives on the approach to such cases of abuse. One further point on the agenda will be the presence of German troops in Afghanistan. "As a Church, we cannot give any recipe to politics on the way peace should be quickly brought to Afghanistan; however, we will take position on this major issue", announced Zollitsch. On this occasion, the German bishops might mention the recent criticism made on the German troops' involvement in Afghanistan by Margot Käßmann, President of the Council of the German Evangelical Church. Italy: a place for worship at the Milan fair On February 18 was inaugurated the Oasis of Silence, an inter-religious area created within the exhibition complex of the Milan Fair. The initiative is coordinated by the Council of Christian Churches and by the city's Forum of Religions. The Oasis of Silence is a place for recollection and prayer for the faithful of all religious traditions. The area is divided into three sectors: an entrance hall, to receive visitors, a chapel for Christian faithful, a room purposely left bare of religious symbols for other religions. During the Fair's major exhibitions this area will remain open for religious services. The Muslim rite will be held on Friday, the Jewish celebration on Saturday, and on Sunday the Christian rite will be officiated. No specific functions have been envisaged for Buddhists and Hindus, but prayer books are available for the faithful who wish to gather in spiritual recollection. LENT IN EUROPE Benedict XVI, Spain, Malta, Belgium, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg Benedict XVI: changing "direction" "Conversion" is a word "that must be considered in its extraordinary seriousness", the call to conversion, in fact, exposes and denounces the easy superficiality that often characterizes our life". Said Benedict XVI, who dedicated the catechesis of the general audience of February 17, Ash Wednesday, to the beginning of Lent. "Conversion means to change direction in the path of our life: not, however, a small adjustment, but a real turnaround". In other words, "conversion is to swim against a current of lifestyle", that is "superficial, incoherent and illusory, a current that often drag us down, dominates us and makes us slaves of evil or at least prisoners of moral mediocrity". The call of the Holy Father was put into practice across all European Churches with initiatives promoted by the local churches, movements and ecclesial congregations. Spain: returning to God losing no time Living Lent in a moment of crisis: "in this painful Lenten period, marked by the suffering caused by the ongoing social and economic crisis of many known and unknown families - all of them dear to us -, the traditional call to conversion becomes all the more important and urgent. No time must be lost in the recovery of the law and grace of God that is close, accessible and bringer of love in Jesus Christ", said the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela. The period of Lent 2010, the archbishop said, "immersed in the preparations for the World Youth Day 2011 and in the pastoral care of the family, must be lived together by all the members of the diocesan Church as the family of God, as His offspring, jointly committed in overcoming widespread materialistic humanism, which in order to exclude God, foredooms all good intentions to overcome the critical moment currently experienced by individuals and societies as a whole to failure". "This humanism - the prelate added - since it is inhuman, as proclaimed by Benedict XVI, is unable to free mankind from the bonds of egocentrism". Only "the love of God - he concluded - invites us to break free from our limits and from non-definitive realities, and gives us the courage to bring forth our commitments in the quest of the common good". Malta: preparing for the Pope's visit Msgr. Paul Cremona, archbishop of Malta, and Msgr. Mario Grech, bishop of Gozo, issued a pastoral letter to the faithful on the significance of the Lenten period. "This is God whom Lent presents to us every year: He is God who accompanies us to teach us and build us up. God who makes himself present in the concrete circumstances we live in, even if these are bad or painful. He is God who helps every person, walks along its path so that gradually, one step after another, it can move out of life's desert". "God leads us to become whole men, alien to sin and tied to his will. First and foremost, He speaks to the heart". "The Lenten talks, the reading of the Word of God proposed by the Liturgy, retreats, prayer accompanied by fasting and charity, are all great moments where we can receive the Word that forms us so that we can then renew our environments: the family, places of work, public institutions and ecclesial communities. We wish that this year Lent will be a time of grace not only for us to take part in the Easter of Christ, but also to prepare ourselves for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's visit", concluded the bishops, referring to the Pope's presence on the island April 17-18 in memory of the Apostle Paul's shipwreck. Belgium: online prayer Online prayer: it is one of the many invitations addressed to Belgium's ecclesial community by associations, religious institutions, and dioceses across the Country for Lent. The Dominican fathers presented the proposal of a Lenten retreat in the city, to be held online (www.retraitedanslaville.org). It is addressed "to all those yearning for spirituality in their daily lives". The retreat began February 17, Ash Wednesday, and is due to end on Easter Sunday (April 4). Last year over 27 thousand people registered for the retreat. In the same period, the association "Entraide et Fraternité" will conduct initiatives to raise public awareness on the condition of women farmers living in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and on their right to have a dignified life. "A Lenten period of sharing - is stated in a note of the Association - helps us renew our faith. It is the privileged moment to return to the roots of our lives. Sharing with the most disadvantaged people on earth is another way to promote development, education, and to spread information on the role of woman farmers in rural areas". The purpose of the Association's fund-raising campaign for Lent is to collect 1.5 million euro for solidarity projects in the Region. In order to pursue this objective the organization developed an animation program, a series of conferences and activities to be carried out across dioceses, parishes, schools, movements and groups, attended also by the population of the Great Lakes. France: sharing riches Fund-raising for Developing Countries, chains of prayer, family meetings for mutual exchange are just a few of the many initiatives implemented by dioceses and ecclesial centers across France for Lent 2010. For the movement "Terre solidaire", the period leading to Easter will be "an immense celebration for the sharing of riches". For this reason, from February 17 to March 30 "Terre solidaire" promotes a path of "fasting, prayer and sharing" which encompasses a series of initiatives. Among these figures "Bouge ta planète" due to be held in Paris (March 10-30), during which over 40 associations working in Developing Countries will share their experiences in favor of fair and equal development. Notably, the meeting of the Catholic Committee against hunger and for development (CCFD) will bring together on March 20 30 thousand young people who will animate Paris' streets with over 375 initiatives in support of South Africa. While from the families of the diocese of Dijon promote a chain prayer, due to be held Feb.17 - March 27 whereby every family unit is committed to pray for another person, a sort of ongoing intercession prayer. "Les Equipes Notre-Dame" promotes the family spiritual retreat in Massabielle March 27-18, that will focus on how to live the Holy Week in the family. Italy: renewed interiority "Return to me with all your heart": the theme of the liturgical and pastoral publication of the Italian Bishops' Conference for the period of Lent-Easter 2010 is drawn from a chapter of Prophet Joel. It is available in Catholic bookshops and on the website of the national Liturgical Office (www.chiesacattolica.it/liturgia). The document provides an itinerary through Lenten Sundays, the Holy Week, leading to the Ascension and Pentecost, illustrating the relevant passages (Proclaiming), providing an explanation of the symbols, like ash, water, fire (Celebrating) and delving into social themes through the account of faith witnesses (Bearing witness). The document includes proposals of community-Lectio Divina and a Via Crucis. "The document - writes Msgr. Mariano Crociata, CEI secretary general, in the introduction - takes the Word of God proclaimed and received in the liturgy as the point of departure, and thus provides indications and insights in communicating the fundamental dimension of the Word, promoting the recovery of a renewed interiority, a sincere and convinced proclamation. Lent is the period for the conversion of the heart, the favorable occasion to recover one's identity. Easter is the time of the joy of the Resurrection, which cannot be confined inside the cenacle. Indeed, it welcomes the joyful proclamation: Christ was resurrected!" Austria, Germany, Luxembourg: leaving the car in the garage Also this year, Christian churches across Luxembourg and South-West Germany invite the faithful to take part in the initiative "Autofasten", "car-fasting", on the occasion of Lent. From February 28 to March 28 those wishing to take part in the Lenten initiative can leave their car at home and travel with environmental-friendly transportation: bicycles, the buses, trains, or choose to simply go on foot. Those who cannot do without the car can opt for car-pooling or car-sharing. Information on the initiative can be found on the website, where registration is possible until February 22. "We want to counter climate change and we must do something about it", said Hans-Gerd Wirtz from the Environment Commission of the diocese of Treviri, taking part in the initiative for the thirteenth time. Also the dioceses of Aachen and Spira, along with the archdiocese of Luxembourg and the diocese of Treviri, are involved in the initiative which enjoys the support of several regional administrative authorities and associations. "Car-fasting" during Lent is also being carried out across Austria. The Catholic and Evangelical Church of Upper Austria called upon the faithful to refrain from taking the car in the period February 17-April 3, with online registration at: www.autofasten.at. Germany: artists, young people, not only Christians Along with the long-established "car-fasting" initiative, Germany has promoted Ash Wednesday for Artists, a traditional encounter dedicated to them. On February 17 in Bavaria the archbishop of Munich and Freising Msgr. Reinhard Marx presided over the Mass co-celebrated with the coordinators of the pastoral care of the artists father Georg Maria Roers and father Rainer Hepler in the dome of Munich. The 55th edition of the initiative was marked by artistic expressions in music, reading and prayers, to the presence of the archbishop and of the Bavaria's Minister for Science and Art Wolfgang Heubisch. Various Lenten initiatives in Germany are being organized by the youth: in Erfurt, in ex-Eastern Germany, every Friday the youth will animate the staging of the Passion at the Domberg. The Via Crucis was organized in such a way as to allow attendants to physically move along the Stations of the Cross. The Via Crucis organized by the youth consists of eight scenes, with a prologue and an epilogue. The initiative is not meant for Christian faithful only. "We don't want to stage the Passion of the Christ from a historical perspective. We wish to point out its significance for contemporary society", said Sister Ulrike Harnisch, one of the authors of the initiative. FRANCE Bioethics: two major tendencies "États Généraux" review the situation ahead of the reform of the law The États Généraux of Bioethics "have undoubtedly marked an important stage in the field of participative democracy" and "shown the maturity of public opinion on the question", declared Father Bruno Cazin, episcopal vicar of the diocese of Lille, haematologist and Vice-Rector of the Catholic University of the same city, summing up the wide-ranging debate conducted in France from 4 February to 23 June 2009 ahead of the planned reform of the national law on bioethics in the spring of this year. The "États Généraux of Bioethics". In view of the progress made by research and the complexity of the questions and social challenges at stake, the State expressed the wish that the parliamentary debate on the reform of the law of 2004 - which substituted the previous law of 1999 - be preceded by a process of consultation, namely, the "États Généraux (States General) of Bioethics", as a way of officially gathering the views of public opinion. To this end an Executive Committee was set up. It promoted three citizens' forums (At Marseilles, Rennes and Strasbourg on 9, 11 and June 2009), followed on 23 June by a final conference in Paris, during which the "Final Report of the States General" was delivered to the Head of State to be transmitted to Parliament. The Catholic Church of France also participated in the consultation, establishing to this end a special Work Group chaired by Archbishop Pierre d'Ornellas of Rennes, which promoted an all-round reflection on the various bioethical issues involving thousands of people in all dioceses through websites, meetings and publications. This consultation (on which see Sir Europe no. 68/2009) was then summed up by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux and Vice-President of the CCEE (Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe), at the CCEE plenary (Paris, 1-4 October 2009). "We did not content ourselves - he had explained on that occasion - with drafting a statement for the time when a vote on the law would take place; we wished to participate actively in the reflection". He warned: "The future parliamentary debate may still hold out surprises. It is better to remain alert". Five reports for a law. The Report of the States General is added to those of the national Agency of Biomedicine (ABM), the Parliamentary Office for the evaluation of technological and scientific decisions (OPECST), the Council of State and the Parliamentary Mission of Information. Despite their differences, the conclusions of these five reports - a résumée of which was presented by the French Catholic daily "La Croix" (16/02) - clearly show a position favourable to research on the human embryo, but at the same time reveal their opposition to medically assisted conception for homosexual couples or single women, and the practice of renting out wombs. "The dominant idea - comments Marianne Gomez - is that medicine must maintain its own true vocation: being able to respond to health problems without extending its own tasks to charge after people's desires". On the other hand, the five reports revealed sharp divergences on such questions as post mortem embryo transfer and the anonymity of donors. This demonstrates, according to Gomez, "an unresolved ethical tension between two major tendencies: on the one hand, the aspiration of the child to know his/her own origins, and on the other the desire to preserve the link of filiation". A delicate balance. "What choice will the legislator make?" asks Dominique Quinio, editor in chief of "La Croix". Summing up the work of the États Généraux, she observes that France "is striving to offer a framework to biomedical science, without gagging it, and without losing sight of the dignity of the person, or the good deriving from new breakthroughs in medical science". The legislator in sum must try to achieve a "delicate balance", by avoiding the temptation to let itself be "inebriated by the idea of man's total self-domination", and by permitting the exploration of "promising avenues of research". According to Quinio, "the terms of the law on some points will be in contradiction with the teaching of the Church, but in any case more restrictive bans will be maintained than those in force in neighbouring countries. This is a unique feature - she concludes - that should be emphasized and would be desirable in other fundamental debates". For his part, Fr. Cazin points out that "no consensus was reached" on the proposition that the embryo, "endowed with dignity", cannot constitute an object of research; however, what did emerge from the States General is the widespread recognition "that man is incapable of saying the last word about man". According to the Vice-Rector of the Catholic University of Lille, "there's a strong recognition that the law cannot be towed by scientific research; on the contrary it is scientific reason that must submit to the needs of ethics". "The States General - he concludes - have permitted our society to liberate itself from two obstacles that are usually injurious to reflection: on the one hand the fascination of progress, on the other the emotional and compassionate challenges linked to these questions". ROBERT SCHUMAN 60th anniversary of the Declaration Celebrations to remember May 9,1950 An initiative " especially for those who understand the importance of a concrete commitment for the development of peace". This is the focus of the programme chosen by two French dioceses, together with other ecclesiastical organizations under the patronage of the European Union, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. Reconciliation and peace "On May 9th 2010, we are going to celebrate the anniversary of the Robert Schuman's Declaration. A daring initiative in its time, promoted for reconciliation and peace". Mgr François Maupu and Mgr. Pierre Raffin, respectively bishop of Verdun and Metz, will chair the Committee to remember the Declaration made by the French Minister of Foreign Affaires that concretely paved the way to the integration process. "As bishops of dioceses, particularly affected "by the conflicts of yesterday" (especially in the XIX and XX century) we want to celebrate this anniversary with an ambitious European event. We will do that with the religious organizations which take part in the European construction process, but also the network of the European congregation and religious communities". Under the slogan "Le neuf en Europe" many the meetings, a three-day seminar and religious moments scheduled for May 7-9. Both economy and politics. The Declaration of Minister Schuman, Catholic, "man of the frontier" by origin and cultural background, was prepared in concert with some Western Europe governments, since the continent was divided by the "iron curtain". In the aftermath of World War II, the need for a close cooperation of the central European countries, aimed at creating common economic interests that would have triggered- according to the "inspiring fathers"- a parallel political pacifying process and cooperation among the States. Schuman was backed by two other Christian-Democratic prime ministers, German Konrad Adenauer and Italian Alcide De Gasperi, besides the support of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. The Declaration led to the creation, one year later, of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the first supranational community with delegated powers from the six signatory States. In 1957, the European Economic Community (EEC) that grew geographically, institutionally and in competences into today's European Union. On the Franco-German border. May 9th events will be held in the French territory bordering Germany. Verdun in 1916 one of the most ferocious battle-fields of World War II ; Metz the city where Robert Schuman dwelled most. His home in Scy-Chazelles is still today full of his memories. "Still too often- Maupu and Raffin said," people perceive the European community as too distant, too technical. So it is important to give a meaning to this ideal. The future of Europe cannot be forgotten by Christians". The programme foresees an opening celebration on May 7th with a historical retrospective and a moment of prayer in the Verdun cathedral: on the following day a visit to the historical place of Douamont (Franco-Prussian war 1870): on May 8th and 9th in Scy-Chazelles and the cathedral of Metz with the participation of cardinals Peter Erdo and Andrè Vingt-Trois, some bishops, including Irish msg. Noel Treanor, historians and European politicians. The promoters of the event include the EU Commission, Comece (Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community) and l'Institut Saint Benoit Patron de l'Europe, that is working for the beatification of Schuman. Programme, history and Declaration on the web site "World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it". "Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan: It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity". These are two excerpts from the Schuman Declaration May 9th 1950, which is considered to mark the beginning of European integration. "With this aim in view, the French Government proposed that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of other countries of Europe." This year's main events are available online at www.9mai2010.eu, in five languages (French, English, German, Italian and Spanish), together with an explanation of the Schuman Plan and an analysis of the reasons behind the choice of the venues. EU PARLIAMENT Inside and outside the home International questions and aid to marginalized European communities The European Parliament is growing familiar with the Lisbon Treaty, which boosts MEPs' legislative powers, as exemplified in the EP's rejection of the SWIFT EU-US data sharing agreement. The EP closely follows the works of the Commission installed a few days ago, called to address a number of urgent issues regarding the economic crisis, the environment and the social sector. While the developments in the international scenario - notably Haiti's reconstruction, Teheran's nuclear program, the Middle East and Burma are reason for serious concern. Iran, Haiti, Ukraine. The latest EP plenary meeting in Strasbourg (February 8-11) addressed the question of Iran. MEPs deplore the Iranian government's opposition to international cooperation fuelling - especially with nuclear testing - a situation of danger and instability across the entire Middle-Eastern region. Parliament equally condemned the Iranian authorities' use of violence against demonstrators and deplored the cancellation by Tehran of a scheduled European Parliament delegation visit in January this year. The Parliament agreed that the EU's engagement in Haiti's reconstruction process ought to involve immediate humanitarian aid, consistent funding and political determination. Other primary foreign policy issues addressed by the Parliament range from the organization of the External Service, coordinated by the High Representative Catherine Ashton, to the stabilization of democracy in Ukraine, to the next climate change negotiations, to relations with the Balkan region. Burma: elections and human rights. MEPs further addressed the international scenario focusing on the concerning developments in Burma. The Asian country, which gained independence in 1948, is controlled by a fierce military dictatorship since 1962. The last free elections date back to 1990, won by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD). The results of the election were subsequently annulled. Since then the democratic leader was arrested many times and her freedom of movement was severely restricted, while protests are crushed with violence and 'enemies' of the regime are often deported to forced labor camps. New legislative elections are due to take place in 2010, but the risk is that they be held in a situation that is far from being peaceful, free and democratic. In a resolution the European Parliament calls for the respect of human rights and the liberation of San Suu Kyi, Nobel peace prize for peace in 1991 and deplores the ban which prevents her standing at the next election. All EP political groups condemn the ruling junta, which fails to respect the fundamental rights of citizens and violently crushes also the peaceful protests of Buddhist monks and of faithful from all religions. But Burma also represents a social and humanitarian problem. Following the clashes of July 2009, thousands of people left the country, while there are 150 thousand Burmese border refugees. The Parliament calls on the Commission to extend humanitarian aid to refugees residing along the Thailand-Burma border. Housing for the needy. At EU level, the EP approved a regulation providing for housing renovation funding to poor communities. The amended regulation, which has been agreed between Parliament and Council, will entitle all 27 Member States to use the ERDF funds, "in addition to other sources, to renovate the existing houses of their 'marginalized communities' or to replace them with new ones, irrespective of whether these are in urban or rural areas". Until recently only urban housing improvements in the 12 countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 were eligible for ERDF money. Accordingly, funding for housing, except for energy-efficiency and the use of renewable energies is provided for in "those areas hit or threatened by deterioration or social exclusion". Member States that recently acceded the EU can refer to integrated urban development projects, while all other countries fall within the "integrated approach for marginalized communities". Expenditure (amounting to 3% of ERDF allocation) is eligible "for intervention on existing multi-family housing or on the replacement of public buildings for housing purposes for low-income families or for people with special needs". These include large families, disabled or non-self-sufficient family members, the poor, marginalized and extra-EU population.
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