Sunday, October 08, 2006

Europe is not ready

I had coffee this afternoon with a friend of mine in an idyllic cafe by a canal. We were talking about the power of politics and what one should do to make the world a bit better. Yes, seriously, this was the discussion. I told him that it is important for me to feel that I am making a difference and getting something done. This builds up a lot of frustration but it also boosts you to go a bit further. This weekend I got three reminders of why the world still needs some work.

1. Revealing the truth is still dangerous as the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaja reminds us. Very often people tend to have the impression that journalists are people who pass the line to parties and receive free CDs and T-shirt on a daily basis. Politkovskaja wanted to show the other side of Putin's Russia and lived constantly under death threats. One can only admire her courage and relentless pursuit for the truth.

2. People want to be involved. I was this weekend in Brussels for the launch of European Citizens' Consultations, an initiative of the Commission and several foundations to hear what Europeans think Europe should do. For the launch the organisers had invited randomly selected eight people per member state to set the agenda. With the help of simultaneous interpretation people were given the chance to express themselves in their own language. It was motivating to see that people have something to say although I was somewhat concerned for the amount of protectionism and xenophobia.

3. The level of civilisation is measured by the way the state takes care of the very weakest. I could not help crying today when I read an article of the mental problems of asylum seeker children in the Netherlands. Most children who wait with their families for an asylum, suffer from apathy, depression, hyperactivity and suicidal tendencies. An investigation is carried out whether the Netherlands is violating the International Declaration for Children's Rights. The teenagers interviewed in the article do not see a change for the better in their future. The Minister of Integration says that the asylum seekers are strongly personally responsible for their situation as they refuse to go back.

I worked earlier this year with asylum seeker teenagers in a video project. These youngsters were the nicest, the most clever and the smartest young people I have come across in the last few years. And at the same time the thing called the welfare state is showing clearly to them and their families that they have no right for dignity or for a better future. Let me remind you that only a year ago 11 asylum seekers died in a fire at the Schiphol airport detention centre due to lack of proper safety equipment. This all happens in a country that has still the reputation of a tolerant and caring welfare state.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tässä linkkejä suomalaisiin blogeihin jne., joissa on kirjoitettu Anna Politkovskajan murhasta ja sitä seuranneesta mielenosoituksesta. Osan olet varmaan jo ehtinyt lukeakin.

Eilisestä mielenosoituksesta huolimatta olo on voimaton.