A Europe Commited to Freeing People from Poverty


People write and speak of more than 10 million people trapped in extreme poverty in Europe.

Behind this figure you and I see millions of children for whom school is for others, not for them. Behind this figure we see young people who will be among the one third of school leavers who will never have found a job by the year 2000. Behind this figure we see parents who have been unemployed for 5, 10 years or more and can no longer count on the use of their hands and their intelligence. Behind this figure we see mothers depending on soup kitchens to feed their children, and thousands of children taken away from their families every year because of poverty. Ultimately, behind this figure, we have three million households in Europe condemned to homelessness, discarded in the dead-end of extreme poverty.

You refuse this Europe of injustice, hunger and suffering. You seek a Europe respectful of Human Rights, justice, freedom and solidarity. We were almost alone before in calling for this. Today, we are no longer alone.

Everywhere, we are seeing people like the Pope, Pérez de Cuéllar and Lech Walesa rising up to say “no” to extreme poverty.

They join us in reminding those who have scientific, political, and economic power that when it comes to extreme poverty, we cannot make it up as we go along. Human rights must be taken as a whole, and extreme poverty cannot be overcome simply by affirming principles, by asserting the right to education, to work, to a home and a secure existence. Eradicating extreme poverty means pursuing policies that enable everyone to exercise their rights effectively.

A government minister said to me recently, “For me, political action is based on this essential question: ‘Is what I do, say and propose of help to the poorest people in my country?’”
Friends, today these are the question I leave with each and everyone of you. Do I really want to build a Europe for all? Does what I do, what I say, what I propose bring about a Europe where the poorest will finally be liberated, a Europe where Human Rights are finally respected?

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