By Susan Gately - 24 May, 2014
While Ireland went to the polls to vote in the European elections yesterday, the bulk of the European Union’s states will vote on Sunday.
Voting in the EU Parliamentary elections began on Thursday in the UK and Netherlands.
Ireland and the Czech Republic voted on Friday and today is round two of the Czech vote, as well as the vote in Latvia, Malta and Slovenia.
The biggest round of European votes takes place tomorrow (Sunday) when citizens vote in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
In advance of the elections, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE ) has appealed to all European citizens to vote.
Underlining that the outcome of these elections will shape the legislature of the EU for the next half-decade and will have major implications for those who lead the Union over the coming years, the bishops say.
The stronger the turn out, the stronger the new legislature.
The bishops say it is the right and duty of every EU citizen to cast his or her vote. Those aspiring to political office should be aware of the “collateral damage of the banking and economic crises which began in 2008” which has caused a growth in the “new poor”.
“The Christian message is one of hope. It is our belief that the European project is inspired by a noble view of mankind. Individual citizens, communities and even nation-states must be capable of putting aside particular interest in pursuit of the common good,” they write.
Underlining the natural virtue of ‘temperance’, the bishops suggest that a culture of “restraint” must shape the social-market economy and environment policy. “We must learn to live with less, but by the same token see that those in real poverty get a fairer share.”
In terms of the underlying principles of the Union, the bishops stress that moves towards unity in the EU should not “sacrifice the subsidiarity principle” – a basic pillar of the unique family of nation-states which constitutes the EU.
“It should be seen to govern policy at every level across the EU, between nations, regions and population groups. We need to build a different Europe, with solidarity at its heart.”
Underpinning all areas of socio-economic policy is a vision of the human person rooted in profound respect for human dignity.
“Human life must be protected from the moment of conception to that of natural death. The family, as the basic building-block of society, must also enjoy the protection it needs,” they write.
In relation to migrants and asylum seekers, COMECE calls on member states to share the responsibility proportionately and says it is vital that treatment of migrants at the point of entry be humane, that their human rights be respected.
Finally the bishops’ conferences call for religious freedom, for respecting and attaining CO2 emission targets, respect for a “shared weekly day of rest – Sunday”, and particular care for the elderly.
The European Union is at a turning point. “We, Catholic Bishops, would plead that the European project not be put at risk nor abandoned under current duress. We have too much to lose if the European project is derailed,” they warn.