"They [the Catholics] are not to be trusted. They do not belong here." Just back from Ireland, the voice of a mother resonates in my mind, pointing out just how fragile peace is in a place that once, not so long ago, was devastated by religious divisions and psychological borders. The mother has since changed her mind after participating in the EU-funded PEACE programme, but her words are a strong reminder that Brexit can reignite past discord.
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Millions are fleeing war or persecution worldwide. As we commemorate their strength and courage on World Refugee Day, we can hardly stay quiet as we see the number increase every year, reaching in 2018 the record of 70.8 million displaced people – 11 million higher than the total population of Italy - 29.4 million are refugees or asylum seekers.
After just coming back from a demanding mission in Ethiopia, with a high-level EESC delegation, the images and contents overlap in a whirlwind of emotions and convictions, which I could sum up in this way: in a world where autocrats seem to be gaining ground, here is a country that is going in the opposite direction and could claim the title of good news of the year and, perhaps, lion of the African Renaissance.
The final results of yesterday’s European elections are trickling in one by one, giving us a chance to set the political backdrop for the next parliament.
In a little less than three weeks, more than 400 million Europeans, the largest electorate in the world after India, will go to the polls to elect 751 members of parliament in an election that is probably the most decisive for the future of Europe since 1979, the first time we went to vote for our transnational parliament. For the past two years, EU and national leaders have been working relentlessly to define a vision for Europe. Several scenarios were outlined by the European Commission. Discussions and consultations were organised, plans sketched, solutions formulated.
As we approach the European elections and the political discourse increases in toxicity, the time has come to restore the true meaning of the European Union to avoid it becoming once again the scapegoat of countries' inability to face the transformations of the 21st century.
My agenda this week is under the sign of migration: I will visit the Red Star Line Museum, open the 5th Meeting of the European Migration Forum and have a meeting with his Excellency John Issam Darwish, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Furzol, Zahle and the Bekaa, to talk about his work with refugees along the Lebanese border.
The EESC will switch off the lights in support for Earth Hour. This important annual event reminds us to take joint action for a better future on our planet. We can no longer turn a blind eye to climate change and its impact on our environment and people's lives. The latest UN report is another wake-up call.
Hundreds of thousands of people are joining Greta Thunberg today for a Global Strike for Future. We can only support the appeal of these young people, who resolutely aim to forge a sustainable Europe, a sustainable planet.