Young World-Wide-Minded Europeans towards the EU Political Union (1/2)

Scene of a plenary session in the European Parliament, Strasbourg, Spotlight Europe
The author is expecting from the European leadership to work closer together politically. Only this way can human rights be efficiently secured and defended. (Flickr: European Parliament/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The elaboration of a one and only idea concerning what to ask of the new European leadership is neither simple nor univocal. So stated, it is important to underline that this aspect is not a negative point at all: Europe is a complex reality and this should be the heart of a new process of evolution towards a political unification.

Indeed, a crucial aspect concerning the Old Continent is nowadays its ability and strength to fit and keep the balance with the more and more worldwide operating economic powers. For this reason it is important for all the institutions to cooperate in order to push Europe in the middle of the 21st century globalised world, not only in economic terms. From this point of view, there is a key theme which is too often undervalued and forgotten in our realities: Human Fundamental Rights, in general, and, more in depth, immigration.

“The best way to guard Human Rights would be to reach the Political Union.”

I cannot avoid thinking that, for what concerns our own continent, the best way to guard Human Rights would be to reach the Political Union. In building this conviction, I was strongly inspired by the work of a group of people and in particular by one of these, Ursula Hirschmann. As a young Jewish and socialist she was forced to leave Germany when Hitler gained the power and Ursula decided to follow her husband, a political prisoner of Fascism to Ventotene Island in Italy. There she met Altiero Spinelli and Eugenio Colorni and together they wrote what is considered today as the theoretic basis of EU, the Ventotene Manifesto.*

They faced the biggest tragedy and violation of human rights that the world had ever run through, World War II. Consequently they affirmed that only a Federative Union could be the solution against racism and any other kind of cruelties that had happened. They stated that the birth of a single huge European Nation would have been the only way to guarantee to every man “[…] An area of free choices as wide as possible in order to allow the highest development of their personalities”. In addition to this I always like to recall an Ursula Hirschmann’s sentence: “I have nothing but my chains to loose in a united Europe. That’s the reason why I am a Federalist”.

Man walking past European flags in the European Parliament, Brussels, Spotlight Europe
Europe´s compexity should be at the heart of a political unification. (Flickr: European Parliament/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Like this small group of freedom and democracy defenders dreamt, so do I. I am convinced that reaching the Political Union would be the best way to guarantee equal respect for human rights and equal possibilities to succeed to every EU citizen.

Sadly, the idea of Union they portrayed seems nowadays a bit more difficult to achieve. Indeed, the current crisis which is compromising the economic situation of many countries has dramatically damaged the relationships between the European nations. We find ourselves in front of an evident separation between economically weak countries (such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal etc.) and stronger countries, being together for what looks just like a matter of money.

“The European nations should concede their power to continental institutions.”

What I would ask the new EU leadership to do would be to cooperate not only to support the common currency and finance to defeat the crisis but also to work in order to reach a political unification. The latter is the only one which could observe a real equality of respect for fundamental rights among every EU citizen and third-nationals staying on the European territory. In order to reach the Political Union (which would mean only one parliament, one government and one juridical system), all the European nations should necessarily concede their power to the continental institutions. Consequently both the monetary and the fiscal unions are nothing but small steps on the way to the political union, already drawn at the time on Ventotene.

A particular institution, not belonging to the frame of the European Union but to the one of the Council of Europe that should acquire a stronger influence, is the European Court of Human Rights, so that a wider and wider space to guarantee human rights across national borders could be reached.

*Spotlight Europe background information: The complete text of the Manifesto can be read and downloaded here.

About the author:
Camilla Crovella, Spotlight Europe
Camilla – Author at Spotlight Europe

Camilla (21) is a member of the Eustory Alumni Network and writes articles for online magazines. She studies Law at the University of Turin.

How Many Rights Can Be Violated at Once?

Room in an abandoned hospital, European Spotlight
Hospital Room (Flickr:Luca Rossato/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

September 15, 1985:
Valentin Câmpeanu is born. He is a Romanian citizen of Roma ethnicity abandoned by his mother at birth and placed in a foster home.

Valentin is considered to be part of the severe disability group, having “profound mental retardation” and “an IQ of 30”. He is also confirmed to be HIV-positive, a virus he contracted during the pregnancy.

The boy turns 18 and is meant to be on his own. However, because of his condition the government is forced to take responsibility for him.

February 5, 2004:
Valentin is placed in a medical institution that supposedly suits his needs, after his medical file reads “average disability group” and signs of “social integration”.

February 6/7,2004:
He starts feeling agitated and is violent towards members of staff and other patients.

February 9, 2004:
Valentin is taken to Poiana Mare Neuropsychological Hospital (PMNH) for examination.

February 13, 2004:
The boy is once again taken to PMNH, this time for four to five days of psychiatric therapy.

February 1,9 2004:
He stops eating and taking his medication. He is prescribed an IV treatment. He is however found to be in a damaged state.

February 20, 2004:
A group of volunteers from the Centre for Learning Resources (CLR) is inspecting the PMNH and finds Valentin in horrible conditions, with only his pyjama blouse on, in a cold room and with no help to eat or use the bathroom, which at that time he could not do alone. They inform the hospital staff, however on that night Valentin is found dead.

His story did not end there. In the following days, the CLR decided to pursue legal action against the Romanian government which has obviously misplaced Valentin and mistreated his medical condition. They take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), even though Valentin is dead and he cannot file a claim anymore. Until this case, the ECHR has not accepted any case on behalf of deceased clients. For 10 years, the NGO CLR had fought alongside Interights, a London-based charity which offers legal consulting services, to move the case further and prove the importance of bringing justice to Valentin Câmpeanu to the authorities.

In 2014, a decision has been made, a historical one we could say. The grand jury of the ECHR ruled in favour of Valentin Câmpeanu and sentenced the Romanian government to pay € 25,000 to CLR and € 10,000 to Interights, for the costs involved in maintaining the lawsuit.

“Given the timeline of Valentin’s life and the improper and poor manner in which he has been taken care of, there is no doubt the Romanian Government need to be held accountable for his death. However, the sentence given by the ECHR is questionable.”

Given the timeline of Valentin’s life and the improper and poor manner in which he has been taken care of, there is no doubt the Romanian Government need to be held accountable for his death. However, the sentence given by the ECHR is questionable. The purpose of this lawsuit seemed to make the Romanian civil society as well as the political class aware of the situation in the medical system and of what should be the repercussions of negligence towards citizens. But instead of asking the Romanian government, for example, to implement a self-regulating system of the medical institutions, in particular those dealing with members of minorities, which could be overseen by an NGO, they sentenced the government to only pay money to the two NGOs that have supported the case in court. Asked how the money will be used, a representative from Interights responded that “the money represent the expenses of the organisation that have supported the case in court and in front of authorities for ten years. Therefore the money will be used however they find it appropriate, limited by their charitable purpose.”

It is thus difficult to say whether there won’t be any other case like Valentin Câmpeanu’s in Romania; it is yet unknown whether the Romanian government will take the necessary measures to regulate the irregularities in the medical sector. The fate of Romania’s parentless, disabled and Roma-ethnical citizens is still undecided.

About the author:

Picture Anathea Cristea 1Anathea (19) is a member of the Youth Council for the Future. She is involved in “My Europe” since the workshop in Bucharest in 2011.

“New Anti-Semitism”

As a young adult in Germany, the acts of cruelty of World War II were present in the education and socialization of each of us. At primary school we experienced through the Diary of Anne Frank how a girl of the same age suffered under the hateful ideology of National Socialists. Followed by additional trips to different meeting points, to Holocaust- memorials, also to concentration camps, I have never lost the feeling, I was educated in the “feelings of guilt”, which I have never felt. Till this day I do not feel so.

Every human born guilty? – The great difference between a collective guilt and a collective responsibility

The European concept of what it means to be human is based on the idea that everyone should become an authentic person discovering his/her own liberty through the use of reason. Taking into account this understanding of humanity, it is important to make a distinction: There is a big difference between a collective guilt and a collective responsibility. I am innocent of the crimes of Nazism. Neither the German legal system nor the European know a transmissible guilt. Every single individual has to assume responsibility for his/her own action. My generation is born a half a century after the Second World War. How could we be guilty then? Exactly this is where the collective responsibility becomes important. I am consciously talking about a collective one. Therefore it is not just a German or Austrian, it is a global – a human responsibility. This responsibility includes two obligations for each of us: Firstly to recognize the abomination of any anti-Semitic ideology. The cruelty of anti-Semitism should not be called into question. The second obligation goes further: It means the responsibility to combat and to respond to every expression of anti-Semitism.

Wrong education of young Europeans?

Nowadays there is a dangerous trend: Specific groups of the population, mostly minorities, are increasingly discriminated. Especially the mass media stir up new prejudices. It is a fatal mistake to impose different roles on children: Jewish children and adolescents should not take the passive “role of the victim”, as well others should not be educated in “feelings of guilt”. We should free ourselves from historical roles and understand that only self-confident adolescents can reflect the failures of the past, learn from them and avoid them in the future. In a society characterized by diversity, every part of society should “show its face”. But “Showing face” assumes that all of us have the possibility to approach the past without any impartiality.

Focusing on that point, I think it would be better to teach young Europeans not just the historical facts and horror, but rather how to deal with history. A good historical education should put methods and tools into the hands of the next generation to help them to develop constant principles and maxim.

“European values”: universal rights or privilege?

The European Union is a community based on values, such as the rule of law, human rights or protection of minorities. Even if these are often declared as “European values“, they are nevertheless values of humanity. Maybe the emphasis of “European values“ seems necessary, because they have been violated in such a brutal manner during the first part of the 20th century. It is an appeal to all human beings, to all politicians and decision-makers to make sure that we remain innocent.

human rights
Human rights and European values need to be universally applied (Flickr:Catching.Light/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

However, a lot has been said in media about a “New Anti- Semitism”. In essence, it means the same sickening ideology and vision of the world declaring Judaism as “the evil”. The only new thing about this anti-Semitism may be the criminal groups. Also and especially in view of the conflict in the Middle East the term of “Anti-Semitism” runs through the Western reporting. In my opinion too careless and sometimes not reflected upon at all. Actually there are a lot of anti-Semitic statements hidden behind the freedom of opinion, which a democracy provides for citizens. Anti-Semitism starts, where Israel is regarded as “the representative of the Jewish faith”, where a construct of a categorical “good” and “evil” is established. But it is a fatal error to declare every criticism directed towards Israel as a state or Israeli policy trends as anti-Semitic. A “club” of a categorical anti-Semitism suspicion damages the democratic culture of debate. This culture teaches us to adopt a well-considered stance- The respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are non-negotiable. Everything else is- at least in the context of the democratic culture of debate. In Europe there exists no legal vacuum: In the 21st century there is a consensus of humanity teaching us the equal treatment of each human being. Resulting from this fact, everyone should apply the same yardstick across the political spectrum. So how seriously do we take our “Europeans values”, our “democratic culture” if their applicability is for disposal?

History can not disqualify one from making moral judgments! On the contrary, the past teaches us to assume more responsibility. If we want to remain innocent, we have to!

About the author:

Picture Anissa AsliAnissa (21) is a member of the Youth Council for the Future. She started being active in the “My Europe” Initiative in 2011.