Welcome to the ECPYN blogspot!

This blogspot was started by the participants of the 5th International Summer School of ECPYN in Chisinau, Moldova, August 24-29 2008.
You can also visit our official website at www.ecpyn.org, follow ECPYN on Twitter or join our facebook group. Opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent official ECPYN positions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christian Democracy in Europe: realities and perspectives

Saturday, November 27th I was invited by Youth of the Christian Democratic Party from France to participate for a weekend of political training. We have met in Brussels for 2 days to discuss about the rules and procedures for EU decision-making and the relevance of the message of the Christian Democrats concerning European construction.

The participants agreed that one of the most serious challenges of the future invite us all to reflect and cooperate, to commit both at national and European level, and to reevaluate the role of Christianity and in the same that the Christian Democratic ideas must further play an essential role.

I was really impressed by Youth of the Christian Democratic Party and the subject of our debate - Christian Democracy in Europe: realities and perspectives. I believe rather to have a defensive position, we must assume a courageous position to show the right way of the Christian Democracy in Europe.

First of all, in our days, we talk about the economic and financial crisis. Secondly, the identity, social and political crisis. In all these crises, there is a spiritual and moral dimension. The changes we must make in our behavior, must be an answer to this profound crisis of values that is the cause of everything.

In this crisis we must mobilize all our forces and resources not only political but also moral and spiritual and to become a driving force of European construction and to promote responsability, social justice, respect for life, the central role of the family, solidarity, social market economy and civil society. And all these problems remain a major priority that guides our actions.

European politics deserves a new face, a revival based on democratic values. First of all, European politics means the responsible freedom, justice, solidarity, authentic Christian values. It is Europe which is a Christian building, a gift of Christianity to us. Democracy owes its existence to Christianity. In the same measure, a Europe free and responsible, is the reflex of Christian Democracy.

And one of the fathers of the European Community, Robert Schuman, not only one of the greatest politicians ever known in France, but also an inspiration for Europe and for Christian tradition, guide our actions today. In the last book he left, Pour l’Europe he writes:

"Democracy owes its existence to Christianity. It was born the day man was called to realize in his daily commitment the dignity of the human person in his individual freedom, in the respect of the rights of everyone, and in the practice of brotherly love towards all. Never, before Christ, had similar concepts been formulated."
Thus democracy is linked to Christianity, ideologically and chronologically at the same time.

Christian values are universal and unifying values, and the message of the Christian Democrats do not want to be merely conservative, but one which is based on moral progress. Human dignity must be preserved. If we could continue this vision, than life in Europe will become more responsible and coherent. And we have a lot of success examples, we can talk about the example of the Christian Democratic Movement from Georgia, a political party that in only 2 years win 8% in national elections and 12% in local elections. We can talk about the Christian Union from the Netherlands under the direction of André Rouvoet that was a minority partner, but very important in the government coalition during the previous mandate. Other example, in France, the Christian Democratic Party, founded by Christine Boutin, currently have 2 MPs, several elected by universal suffrage and the number of its members keeps growing. And I can continue with examples from different European countries which have the same European Christian structure.

In the same time it’s really important to improve active participation, exchange best practices and promote mutual contacts between political youth organizations what can assume an important role to promote at national political level the Christian democratic ideas and to influence on internal political changes, if we discuss about young politicians.

This is the main goal of ECPYN, to create a young soul for the future of Europe, to help ensure the words of Robert Schuman, and the ambitions of the EU's founding fathers, are realised.

Together we can build Europe stronger, more efficient and better able to promote its values, its principles and defend his vision in Europe.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Democracy is not everything. A plea for non-democratic enclaves

During the ECPYN Regional Conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, a Ukrainian participant raised an important question. Christian-Democracy is one way, but there have been Christian politicians that functioned in different forms of government, so why Christian-Democracy? In this article Jonathan van Tongeren explains how democracy is not a goal in itself, but a means to a certain end and why democracy should not be a Christian-Democrat’s first concern.

Read more at the Christians and Politics Portal !

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Symbols matter

When a Member of Parliament says a minister is making symbolic statements or taking symbolic measures, it is usually meant in a pejorative way. What such an MP suggests is that it is an empty gesture. Although this use of the term symbol may be very usefull rhetorically, it underestimates the importance of symbols.

Let us consider an example. Say the mayor of a town decides to post a policeman near a crossroads one random day a week, to see if nobody passes a red light. He chooses a crossroads that is notorious for traffic accidents. One of the town councillors might say that this is a 'symbolic measure', because all the other days of the week people can freely pass the red light most of the time as there won't be a policeman posted at the crossroads.

You might say the town councillor has a point, but on the other hand the mayor knows that the 'symbolic measure' sends a message to the drivers, that they would better not pass a red light because there might be a policeman standing by to fine them. On the other hand if the local authorities would decide the policemen shouldn't concern themselves to much with traffic, it would send an alternate message, that it is okay to pass a red light, because there won't be any consequences (as long as you don't crash into someone else).

What we can conclude is that some political statements or measures might indeed be symbolic, but we shouldn't mistakingly assume that symbols don't matter. Symbols do matter, they convey a meaning or a message.

Religious symbols
An entirely different example of how symbols matter to people, is the example of religious symbols. Many people wear a crucifix around their neck for example. The public display of Christian symbols is subject to debate in many countries in Europe. In the United Kingdom and in the Netherlands there have been cases, in which employees of public transport enterprises have been required to remove a little cross hanging around their neck while at work.

Another example is the case of Lautsi v. Italy, which is now before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In Italy it is not uncommon that public schools display crosses on the walls of classrooms. Recently an Italian named Lautsi has complained to the ECHR that the fact that a public school displays a Christian symbol is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Chamber of the ECHR has ruled in favour of Lautsi. Italy has now appealed to the Grand Chamber, which has yet to convene. Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Romania, the Russian Federation and San-Marino have been listed as third parties and have expressed support for Italy’s position in the media.

ECPYN's working group on Church, State and Public Domain (CSPD) would like to determine its position regarding the public display of Christian symbols. Before we determine our position we would like to hear from you how you feel about these issues. You can join a discussion on this topic on our forum: http://www.ecpyn.org/forum/364725/590

Sunday, October 3, 2010

People, demonstrate! – but not for the protection of the unborn please

In this short article Dennis Riehle, a German psychologist and blogger, discusses how people will take to the streets for anything, except for one of the greatest problems in German society, as they fail to see the immense consequences of the current ‘culture of death’.

By Dennis Riehle

One can hardly believe it these days: Germany is returning to a usage, that good citizens seemed to have forgotten for twenty years. It is trendy again to demonstrate; to go on the street and make ones position clear. We see demonstrations everywhere these days: Against health care reform and subway stations, against bonuses for bankers and against nuclear power plants. And then there were some 1500 others that showed their colours: People often made fun of and poor people in many respects, that protested in support of God’s greatest gift. As every year they marched through the capital and they met the – meanwhile also traditional – feminists and those, that see baby’s rather as a burden than as a miracle.

All the media covered the new protest groups. But not much was heard of those who stood up, for the protection of the mothers who choose for their offspring. In the Christian media the number of participants was celebrated as a success – and yet a population that takes to the streets in thousands to show their indignation on all sorts of problems, but does not think a minute on the foundation of the continued existence of our nation, should be ashamed.

On top of that many church leaders, especially on the protestant side, have astonishingly withdrawn silently, when they could have supported the initiatives that aim to break the automatisms that surround the daily praxis in many hospitals, where abortions are tolerated. And this is especially maddening, when such a retreat, of those who specifically talk of values and moral, occurs at the same time as a trend that is arising in public life: “This crying annoys me!”, “This buggy is in my way!” or “Give him his bottle so he will be quiet!” – typical expressions that make clear: Obviously they are no longer tolerated, those who are supposed one day to pay for the retirements of those, who mock them today. When it comes to reforming the welfare state and environmental protection, people demonstrate for carefulness and understanding – when it comes to “annoying little ones”, they demonstrate ignorance and cold-heartedness.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Debate, design, departure

On Friday we started with a lecture by Attila Kiss, assistent professor at the 'Partium Christian University' in Oradea (Romania). Kiss discussed the historic development of the concepts of statehood and nationhood and how this influenced the situation of minorities in the Carpathian basin in general and in Transylvania especially.

After a short break the plenary was addressed by Vladimir Gjorcev MP (VMRO-DPMNE), chairman of the Committee on Defence and Security, who spoke to the theme of the summer school.

Before lunch a debating course was held. What was learned could of course immediately be applied, not only during the course and over lunch, but also in the afternoon. In the afternoon the group was divided into four. Each group was challenged to design a symbol to represent reconciliation. After some hasty discussions and drawings, each group came up with quite different designs.

The seats in the plenary room had now been arranged like in the House of Commons and two parties had to defend their own design against each other and attack the design of the group facing them. Thus two finalists were decided upon by a jury, consisting of Aleksander Ogorodnikov, Attilla Kiss and Vladimir Plamadeala. The two groups that were selected by the jury stood out on presentation and debating skills respectively. After a fierce final debate the public decided by one vote which design had won.

After some cooling down - in the case of many by having a swim in the beautiful nearby lake - Friday evening concluded the summer school with a closing dinner. During the dinner many speeches were given, each national delegation represented itself by singing a song and/or dancing a dance and at the end all the participants received a certificate for their participation in and contribution to the summer school. After this the party went on for a while of course :-)

Saturday morning, after breakfast, most of the participants checked out of the hotel and gathered in front of the loby to say goodbye to each other. Many left by bus for Skopje and from their on to their respective countries, some others went to Tessaloniki with another bus, to spend some time in that other (Greek) part of the geographical area called Macedonia.

Friday, July 16, 2010

King Samoil, Icons and Saint Clement Ohridski

After the coffee break we had lectures by Guido van Beusekom (ECPM secretary) and Aleksander Ogorodnikov. We then had lunch. After lunch we went to see the old town of Ohrid and especially the citadel. This citadel helped the Macedonians to resist for example Ostro-Goth invasions. We visited five churches and a galery of antique icons. We walked to some pitoresque parts of the town to finally end up at the beach, where we had some drinks, before we went back to the hotel.

At the hotel we had some workshops, that were also given on Tuesday, before we went to dinner. After dinner the representatives of the member organisations gathered in the conference room for the congress. The annual (financial) report was adopted, slightly modified statutes were accepted and Auke Minnema and Denys Dhiver were elected into the board after I had been thanked for my services over the last four years. After this it was time to relax a bit on the terace and notice that the WiFi wasn't exactly working again. When it started working again, it was time to write a blog :-)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Protection of Ethnic Minority Rights in Macedonia

Early this morning the board convened to have a board meeting over breakfast and discuss some last issues in preparation for the congress (general assembly).

At nine the participants gathered in the conference room to listen to Ilija Dimovski, who is among other things a Member of Parliament of Macedonia for the VMRO-DPMNE, a center-right party of Christian-democratic orientation. Dimovski explained how the Macedonian system secures the rights of minorities. An important instrument in this is the fact that in order to change some basic laws parliament needs to reach a qualified majority. This means that an absolute majority is not enough, but half of the members of parliament representing the minorities should also agree in order to reach this qualified majority. Besides this formal requirement there are also some informal political customs aimed at reaching consensus and including minority parties, especially the parties representing the large Albanian minority.

The lecture was received very well, because of its informative content. Afterward some questions were raised and comparisons were made with other countries. It was concluded that some countries could take an example in the Macedonian approach.

And then there was coffee..

Economic integration / Excursion

On Tuesday afternoon there was a second round of workshops, including 'debating', 'ethnic minorities in the Carpathian basin' and 'Communication and Conflict Management'.

In the evening prof. dr. Florin Duma, economist at the University of Cluj (Romania) gave a lecture on the title 'The Economic Integration of Romania in the EU: Opportunities and Challenges'. In his lecture he gave a balanced perspective on this topic, equally discussing both sides and fairly mentioning possible downsides and risks to (fast or unprepared) economic integration into the European Union. He also gave some advice to countries hoping to join the EU in the future, to start preparing already, in order to be able to integrate economically in a way that benefits their country.

After the lecture there was a nice dinner. After that there was time to relax. Some people went for a boat trip, others visited the old town of Ohrid or went for a swim.

Wednesday morning we gathered at nine to go on an excursion by bus. After quite a long drive, which provided time for a lot of discussions and jokes among the participants, we arrived in Bitola. We first visited the historic museum. There was an exposition on the history of Macedonia from the time of Alexander the Great, the Roman occupation and Christianisation and also of the Macedonian revolution against the Otoman Turks. There was also an exposition on Mustafa Kemal 'Atatürk', the founder of Turkish secularism (aka Kemalism), who lived in Bitola at some point. After walking through the centre of Bitola and having coffee at a café, we took the bus to an archeological site, where several layers of urban settlement had been excavated. We could see, among other things, a Roman theatre and a beautiful mosaic in a Christian church, which included a lot of symbolism. Christians were represented by deers (inspired by the Psalm 'As the deer pants for water..') and the Romans were represented by a leopard attacking a deer et cetera.

From the archeological site near Bitola we went on to Krushevo. We visited the monument for the resistance fighters, where Viktor Mitevski gave some explaination on the Macedonian struggle for independence from domination by the consequent multinational countries, the Ottoman empire and the 'Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. We then had a look at the inside of the memorial, which hosted an exposition on the topic. From the monument we went on to the old town of Krushevo, where we visited an orthodox church with beautiful icons and fresco's.

When we arrived back at the hotel in Ohrid, we had dinner, after which we went to down town Ohrid, where we embarked on a boat, to make a tour of the lake and have a look at the monasteries, the chateau and villas on the side of the like. It was a nice tour and the lights in the dark added to the ambiance, which resulted in a good atmosphere for informal conversation and getting to know each other better. We continued this, when we disembarked and on to a café for some drinks and a bit of dancing (even though some were to shy to dance ;-) ).

When we got back to the hotel many went to bed, but others such as me started their computers...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pictures Summer school

Pictures of the summer school can be found on http://www.ecpyn.org/page/27980.

Repentance, justice and forgiveness as prerequisites to restoring relations

I was supposed to be flying from Amsterdam to Skopje by way of Budapest, but when I arrived at the gate in Budapest for the flight to Skopje, it turned out to be overbooked. This meant that I had to wait for some hours. After that I could fly to Zagreb (Croatia), I had to spend a few hours there again, which I used to visit the inner city. In the end I arrived in Skopje at quarter to twelve in the evening. It wasn't before three in the morning that I arrived in Ohrid, which explains why I haven't been able to give an update here until now. These problems in my travelling were frustrating, but the kind personnel, some compensation and the opportunity to visit Zagreb helped in reconciling myself with the fact I was going to be late ;-)

In my absence on Monday evening, the summer school was addressed by the Macedonian President of Parliament (Trajko Veljanovski) and the Minister of Defense (Zoran Konjanovski).

After a good local breakfast we started on Tuesday with a speech by the secretary general of the Department of Culture, who spoke about the importance of preserving Christian cultural heritage. After this Viktor Mitevski explained the political history and the workings of the current political system of Macedonia. Vladimir Plamadeala (Moldova) explained the situation regarding the so called frozen conflict over Transnistria (aka Pridnestrovje).

After a short coffee break on the terrace overlooking the Ohrid valley filled by a big lake bordering on Albania, we went on to four different workshops. Leo van Doesburg (ECPM representative in Eastern Europe) gave a workshop on 'Communication and Conflict Management', Jacques Bazen on 'Geopolitics', Krisztina Deme (Hungary) on 'Minority Problems in the Carpathian Basin' and the undersigned on 'The Christian Concept of Reconciliation'. In my workshop we indentified different types of conflict and several trajectories for reconciliation. We then applied this theoretical framework to existing conflicts. In conclusion we discussed the process of European integration as a kind of postponed reconciliation. In the sense that the founders of the European Community of Coal and Steel acted as if France and Germany were reconciled. In the long term reality would follow this imitation. The presentations will be published on the website after the summer school.

After a good warm lunch, part of the group went on a visit to the Monestary of Sv. Naum, who was a discipel of the Saints Cyrillus and Methodius and the others went for a swim or sightseeing in the town of Ohrid.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Follow the progress of the summer school on our blogspot!

From Monday July 12 till Friday July 16, 2010, the 7th International Summer School will take place in Ohrid, Macedonia. The summer school is the core event of ECPYN. This year's theme will be 'Reconciliation'. Besides the ECPYN member congress, the conference will include lectures and workshops from senior politicians and other professionals from several countries and an excursion. You can follow the progress of the summer school semi-live on http://ecpyn.blogspot.com , because I will regularly publish short reports after sessions.

Friday, April 2, 2010

ECPM statement Christians in Islamic world‏

In response to the Statement regarding the situation of Christians in the Islamic World several Dutch newspapers published an article.

Dutch evening newspaper Reformatorisch Dagblad (Reformed Daily) published an article today about the ECPM statement on Christians in Islamic countries today: 'ECPM: Make EU help subject to conditions' http://www.refdag.nl/artikel/1470751/ECPM+Voorwaarden+stellen+bij+EUhulp.html

The morning newspaper Nederlands Dagblad (Dutch Daily) also published an article about it: 'EU should firmly address persecution of Christians' http://www.nd.nl/artikelen/2010/april/01/-eu-moet-christenvervolging-hard-aanpakken-#12283