Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Will the New Law in Montenegro on Religious Communities limit Freedom of Religion or Belief?


ECPM MEPs  expressed their concerns about the new law on religious communities that was adopted in Montenegro in the beginning of this year. In a statement, they call on the government of Montenegro to abide by and implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission   and to refrain from using violence against its citizens. It also asked the European Commission to closely monitor the performance of the government of Montenegro regarding freedom of religion, as it constitutes an essential element of the EU accession. 

But what has happened in Montenegro? Why does this new law raise concerns on the Freedom of Religion in Montenegro? Read here an analysis of my colleague Lefteris Kaloterakis.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Will the needed EU Recovery Fund result in a better or a bigger Europe?


Today the European Council discussed a proposal drafted  by the European Commission for the economic recovery in Europe in the aftermath of coronavirus. The Recovery Plan is two-fold: (1) Next Generation EU is a new recovery instrument of €750 billion which will boost the EU budget with new financing raised on the financial markets for 2021-2024, an instrument which is part of the larger (2) Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 of more than €1 Trillion. But how does the European Commission want to realize this? And will it contribute to a better Europe or a bigger Europe? See here a critical analysis on this Proposal

Saturday, May 9, 2020

EU Petition calls for more concrete actions against the rise of antisemitism


This year, we celebrate the 75th anniversary from the end of the Second World War and the surrender of Nazi Germany to the allied forces. However, as allied troops liberated Europe, they came across the horrible atrocities of the Holocaust. Around two thirds ofEuropean Jewry were murdered. Their memory should lead us to do everything in our power to never allow such savage acts to take place again. Unfortunately, we are witnesses to a rise in antisemitic acts across Europe. 

In 2018, the Fundamental Rights Agency of the EU (FRA) conducted a big survey on discrimination and hatecrime against Jews.  The survey covered 12 Member States, where the vast majority of EU’s estimated Jewish population live (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). It was the biggest survey of Jewish people ever conducted worldwide. Over one third of all respondents (39 %) experienced some form of antisemitic harassment. Antisemitic acts originate from across the political spectrum. When asked to describe the perpetrator, the respondents, in 31 % of the cases identified the perpetrator as someone they do not know, in 30 % as someone with Muslim extremist views, and in 21 % of cases as someone with left-wing political views.

Additionally, it is very worrying that most respondents (79 %) who experienced antisemitic harassment in the five years before the survey, did not report the most serious incident to the police or to any other organisation. Almost half of them (49%), said that they did not report the incident because they believed that nothing would have changed had they done so.

Because of these worrying developments on a European level, the ECPM decided to support an EU petition that asks for concrete actions against the rise of antisemitism. The EU petition is in 23 different languages used as official language in EU Member States. We ask for measures to guarantee the safety of Jewish communities and for the removal of any barriers for the reporting of antisemitic acts. Finally, we call for special attention to the Holocaust and the contribution of the Jewish communities in the field of education.

The generation that lived through the Second World War and the Holocaust is gradually passing way. The duty therefore falls on us, the newer generations, to ensure that such atrocities do not take place again in Europe and anywhere in the world. The European institutions as well as each Member State must take action so that the phrase we frequently use for the Holocaust “never again” is not a mere slogan.

If you are an EU citizen and you want to raise your voice against antisemitism, you can sign the EU petition here


Saturday, March 21, 2020

WORLD DOWN SYNDROME DAY 2020 – A CALL FOR ACTION


On the 21st of March, we are celebrating the World Down Syndrome Day. Unfortunately, the corona virus crisis we are currently facing has left its impact on the different celebrations that were planned. Nevertheless, it remains an important cause to mark and it is good to discuss our responsibilities towards our fellow human beings with Down syndrome and to evaluate the European policies. It is encouraging that 108 Members of the European Parliament signed a declaration that demands better rights for persons with Down syndrome giving an important call to action.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Council of Europe asks for the Respect for Freedom of Religion or Belief on the Workplace


The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has reaffirmed that Member States has an obligation to ensure non-discrimination in the workplace based on the grounds or religion or belief in an adopted resolution, based on the report  of Davo Stier (EPP/CD). PACE called on Member States to “promote a culture of tolerance and ‘living together' in a religiously pluralist society”, while ensuring that “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is respected”.

The fact that freedom of religion and conscience on the workplace has been reaffirmed is a very positive development. This is in line with previous resolutions and international documents that are calling the Member States to promote reasonable accommodation. It is an "adjustment made in a system to accommodate or make an individual exception based on a proven need". The United Nations use this term in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities"  supporting the view that refusal to make accommodation results in discrimination. Although as a concept, reasonable accommodation was first mentioned in relations to the rights of people in disabilities, it is now used to describe similar arrangements based on religion, culture etc.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year’s Message



The politics of 2019 was focused a lot on environmental issues and climate change. However, I saw as well that this issue is becoming radicalized, with political far left and right opposing each other and using it in their political agendas. As Christians we are guided by the Word of God. In this year's message I like to explore a bit more on the theme of environment and climate change and what we can learn from the Holy Scriptures.



God the Creator
When I explore the Bible, the first thing I notice is how blessed we are by the fact that God created the heaven and the earth, with forests, mountains, and oceans, and their rich life. God the Creator deserves all the glory and praise, as prophet Nehemiah mentions.

“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you” (Nehemiah 9:6)

Human being a collaborator with God
At last God, created the human being and established him in the Garden of Eden as a steward (Genesis 2:15). He did not want the man to be alone. For this reason he created a helper. It is therefore good to jointly take care of the creation. The man also received a special mandate, to give names to all living creatures. (Genesis 1:19-20)

We observe that there is a special relationship between God, humankind and the Creation. God is the ruler over the heaven and earth, and we are assigned to be good stewards/administrators of His creation; all in collaboration with God Who gives life and brings it to fruition. Thus, whatever is one’s view on the Climate Change, we are taught to be responsible for God’s Creation.

Responsibility for the earth
However, the fall of Man brought sin, evil, and selfishness into the world. Humankind has tried to usurp the position of the creator. Consequently, this affected the way we treat the environment. We deploit our natural resources, use plastic excessively, and pollute our environment and oceans. As a result, the Creation is getting destroyed for our own gain.

How do we want to reflect on this in politics and our personal lives?
Since wise stewardship is a biblical assignment, I believe that in all our economic policies we should consider the impact we make on God’s creation. Although member states of EU have responsibilities of their own, I believe that the EU can be a driving force to jointly achieve a sustainable Europe. For instance, EU can allocate funds in environmental research and innovation and create incentives for sustainable businesses. We should be careful that the EU does not use the Climate Crisis as a tool to try to just take more power on areas that could harm the subsidiarity of their Member States. However this does not take our responsibility for the Creation away and a good balanced should be found.

The need for our responsibility for our Creation is also well-summarized by the ECPYouth, the youth organization of the ECPM. In their Odessa Declaration, they declared: “Our Social responsibility to improve living conditions and society implies also to be respectful of the earth and nature which is God’s creation as well. Research and innovation should be encouraged in order to protect the environment and maintain a balance between technological advances and the preservation of nature.”

Concerning our lives, we are entrusted different responsibilities. At the end of this year, I think it is good to reflect a bit to what extend the hectics of our lives and the successes and economic progress we are pursuing are affecting our lives, Also, how they are affecting our relations and the world in which we are living.

As we move into 2020, let us remember that each of us is a creation of God. Let us be good stewards, managing well of whatever is entrusted to us our families, jobs, studies, our countries but also the environment we are living in. All in service and honor of our Creator.

I wish you all a blessed 2020