Brussels, 9 May 2016. On the occasion of Europe Day, a day to celebrate peace and unity in Europe, ECRE calls on European leaders to remember and uphold the values that contributed to the creation of the European Union. Renewing the EU’s respect for values will also help protect its interests and contribute to peace and unity within Europe – at a time where neither can be taken for granted.

A project of solidarity born out of the ashes of World War II, Europe as we know it was created to avoid the repetition of that humanitarian disaster. Now, faced with a long-standing economic crisis and a newly unfolding humanitarian crisis, the European project risks losing its original purpose, with Europe withdrawing to become a self-interested and self-absorbed continent.

“While on some level political choices always reflect compromises between values and interests, in Europe’s response to the plight of refugees, we see the predominance of interests and a total disregard for values,” stated ECRE’s Secretary General Catherine Woollard. “Inaccurately portrayed security and national interests are trumping the respect for fundamental rights in a race to the bottom. But this approach is not even in Europe’s interest as it is generating division and antagonism among the Member States. It is also destroying Europe’s identity and reputation as a normative power, which used to inspire and guide others.”

Last year was scarred by the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who fled conflict and persecution to seek safety in a continent which used to pride itself on its respect for human rights. While many ordinary European citizens showed solidarity and support for refugees, most European leaders responded with fences, walls and razor wire. There were notable exceptions – leaders, parties, individual politicians – who stood up to defend the rights of refugees and they deserve our praise. Today, ECRE urges European leaders to remember the values of human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, and the rule of law that are among the founding principles of the EU.

“We are living at a time of historical importance for the European project. Our leaders have the chance to show that the founding values of the EU are not lost. It is time to correct the imbalance between interests and values: repeal deals that trade in people and focus on maximising protection for refugees and asylum seekers. Let’s remember Europe’s legal and moral obligations towards those seeking protection on our shores,” added Catherine Woollard.

Europe Day should be a day of pride in the European ideal and the millions who have embraced it. To be proud of Europe once again, we need to help those who seek protection.

For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Rita Carvalho
+32 2 212 08 20