Image by aktivioslo via FlickrIn an interview with the leading Italian regional daily newspaper 'Il Gazzettino,' Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has pointed to the emergence of cynicism, discrimination, selfishness, insensitivity and inhumanity in Europe.
The Secretary General said that the ongoing economic crisis is sometimes used as an excuse for trampling human rights, particularly those belonging to 150 million Europeans living below the poverty line.
He noted that child poverty is growing in Europe, but also that many elderly and disabled people face extreme hardships, while groups such as Roma are excluded from society.
Il Gazzettino quotes SG Jagland saying that in these circumstances debates over issues such as the burqa ban and the Swiss referendum on minaret building create an impression that “the other” is the problem. “Ignoring requests from the European Court of Human Rights and deporting asylum seekers to countries like Libya or Tunisia, rich countries act from commonplace selfishness: Norway returns refugees to Greece, while Sweden sends Roma to Kosovo,” says the SG, adding that the ongoing Roma expulsions from France fit the same pattern.
He underlined that a well-developed sense of identity is needed to participate fully in multicultural society, “but growing unemployment and marginalisation mean people lose that identity and start defining themselves in opposition to others, which offers fertile ground for extremists to spread their message of hatred. It is nothing new. It happened in the 1930s. New generations must not forget that lesson in order not to repeat the horrors of the past.”
In his statement, SG called on all member states to ratify Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits all forms of discrimination, adding that if every country ratified the protocol it would be a moment of great symbolism in the year when the Convention – signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 - celebrates its 60th anniversary.