independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Higgins warns Europe over racism

President Michael D Higgins delivered his speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg

President Michael D Higgins has warned Europe about a rise in racism, disharmony and loss of social cohesion as policy is dominated by concerns for a powerful financial sector.

In a hard-hitting speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Higgins said people are suffering because of actions and opinions of unaccountable ratings agencies.

He warned that the inspiration and achievements of the founders of the European Union cannot be taken for granted.

"Today, citizens in Europe are threatened with an unconscious drift to disharmony, a loss of social cohesion, a recurrence of racism and an increasing deficit of democratic accountability in some decision making of an economic and fiscal kind," he said.

The President described these as the "threatening clouds over Europe".

Mr Higgins went on to question the role and influence of big players in the world of finance and money markets. He said that European institutions have struggled to keep pace with an onslaught of economic crises and that it comes from unaccountable sources.

"We cannot, however, ignore the fact that European citizens are suffering the consequences of actions and opinions of bodies such as rating agencies, which, unlike parliaments, are unaccountable," he said.

"Many of our citizens in Europe regard the response to the crisis in their lives as disparate, sometimes delayed, not equal to the urgency of the task and showing insufficient solidarity with them in their threatened or actual economic circumstances.

"They feel that in general terms the economic narrative of recent years has been driven by dry technical concerns; for example, by calculations that are abstract and not drawn from real problems, geared primarily by a consideration of the impact of such measures on speculative markets, rather than driven by sufficient compassion and empathy with the predicament of European citizens who are members of a union, and for whom all of the resources of Europe's capacity, political, social, economic and intellectual might have been drawn on, driven by the binding moral spirit of a union."

Mr Higgins raised the issue of unemployment with 26 million people across the EU out of work, including 5.7 million young people, and 115 million in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion. The President said there is nothing more corrosive to society and more crushing to an individual than endemic unemployment, particularly among the young.

Press Association

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