Europe is at a crossroads – with respect for human dignity at stake


The Guardian, Tuesday 20 May 2014
Ethnic Albanian refugees flee their homes near Kacanik, in Kosovo in 1999.
Human dignity at stake: ethnic Albanian refugees flee their homes near Kacanik, in Kosovo, in 1999. Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/EPA
We have a global crisis with refugees and internally displaced people. Every day in 2012, over 23,000 people were forced out of their homes; 45 million people were forcibly displaced. The situation has got worse, with Syria worst hit: 40% of its population, 9 million people, half of them children, have fled their homes.

We collaborate on an EU-funded COST Action (a research network centred on nationally funded projects) on ethics and disasters. We have witnessed, worked in, and studied disasters worldwide. Refugees flee for their lives. Neighbouring countries are overwhelmed. Refugee camps are often inhumane. The Treaty on European Union declares: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.” Some EU countries accept a few thousand refugees; many accept none.

Barbed wire is being erected around our borders. Our “respect for human dignity” seems to apply only inside the fence.

We are citizens from 15 EU countries: doctors, humanitarian workers, and professors. Colleagues from another nine countries support us. Our countries have a history of poverty and conflict. Only circumstances make one a refugee and another a comfortable EU citizen. Our ancestors had to leave home, and foreign shores accepted them. Will we welcome the stranger?

We urge EU voters to elect those who uphold our founding principle: “respect for human dignity”. This applies to refugees, our fellow brothers and sisters. We want to honestly sing the EU anthem, “Alle menschen werden Brüder” (All men will become brothers).
Dónal O’Mathúna Senior lecturer, ethics (Ireland); chair of COST Action IS1201: Disaster Bioethics, Ayesha Ahmad Tutor, medical ethics (UK), Ana Borovecki Assistant professor, bioethics & public health (Croatia), Roger Bromley Emeritus professor, cultural studies (UK), Ernesto d’Aloja Professor, legal medicine and bioethics (Italy), Francesco Della Corte Hon. fellow, EuSEM, disaster medicine (Italy), Federica Demuru Researcher, bioethics (Italy), Ignaas Devisch Professor, philosophy of medicine and ethics (Belgium), Heather Draper Professor, biomedical ethics (UK), Vasil Gluchman Professor, philosophy and ethics (Slovakia), Ghaiath Hussein Doctoral researcher, bioethics (UK), Niklas Juth Associate professor, medical ethics (Sweden), Péter Kakuk Assistant professor, bioethics (Hungary), Eleni Kalokairinou Associate professor, moral philosophy (Greece), Pierre Mallia Professor, bioethics (Malta), Signe Mezinska Lecturer, bioethics (Latvia), Goran Mijaljica Lecturer, medical ethics and psychiatry (Croatia), Emilomo Ogbe Researcher, Sexual & Reproductive Health (Belgium), Salvatore Pisu MD, emergency medicine (Italy), Paulina Pospieszna Assistant professor, political science (Poland), Aivita Putnina Director, social anthropology (Latvia), Joanna Rozynska Assistant professor, bioethics (Poland), Jackie Leach Scully Professor, social ethics and bioethics (UK), Kadri Simm Associate professor, practical philosophy (Estonia), Peter Sýkora Professor, philosophy and biology (Slovakia), Emanuele Valenti Lecturer, bioethics (Spain), Johan von Schreeb Disaster medicine specialist (Sweden), Behnam Taebi Assistant professor, ethics (The Netherlands), Marcin Waligóra Assistant professor, Bioethics (Poland)

Supported by colleagues outside the EU:
Y Michael Barilan Associate professor, medical education (Israel), M Murat Civaner Associate professor, medical ethics (Turkey), Alma Dzubur Kulenovic Assistant professor, psychiatry (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Maureen Ehrensberger-Dow Professor, translation studies (Switzerland), Nir Eyal Associate professor, global health, medical ethics (US), Dusanka Krajnović Assistant professor, biomedical legislation and ethics (Serbia), Jay Marlowe Senior lecturer, refugee settlement (New Zealand), Veselin Mitrović Research associate, sociology and bioethics (Serbia), Elysée Nouvet Postdoctoral fellow, humanitarian healthcare (Canada), Deogratias M Rwezaura Social Ethics & Forced Migration (Kenya), Vojin Rakić Professor, political philosophy & bioethics (Serbia).

• One hundred years after the beginning of the first world war and 40 years after the end of the second world war, Europe is at a crossroads. If neoliberal austerity and authoritarian policies are not reversed, catastrophe awaits Europe and the world: further decline of democracy, increase in poverty and inequality, destruction of the environment, the inexorable rise of extreme rightwing and fascist forces which grow in the soil of despair created by unemployment and deprivation. Europe needs and deserves a new deal that re-founds the ideas of liberty, equality and solidarity recently betrayed by liberals and social democrats.

The candidacy of Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, the Greek radical left party, for the presidency of the European commission carries a strong symbolism. Greece was chosen as the guinea pig in a huge neoliberal experiment which has led to a well-documented humanitarian crisis. Tsipras’s nomination as the candidate of the European Left party offers a ray of hope that neoliberalism and authoritarianism can be stopped and reversed.
Etienne Balibar, Costas Douzinas, Wendy Brown, Tariq Ali, Judith Butler, Slavoj Žižek, Chantal Mouffe, Lynne Segal, Joanna Bourke, Sandro Mezzadra, Drucilla Cornell, Hilary Wainwright, Athena Athanasiou, Engin Isin, Bruce Robbins, Leo Panitch, Adolphe Reed, Doug Henwood, Johann Kresnik, Martijn Konings, Frances Fox Piven

• Hats off to your picture editor. The shot through the tattered European flag to the writing on the wall for politicians beyond really was worth a thousand words (Special report: European elections, 20 May).
Roger Woodhouse
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands


One response to “Europe is at a crossroads – with respect for human dignity at stake

  1. Pingback: Are Social Ethics Dead? - Zahal IDF Blog News·

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