We in Europe ourselves do not have a good record historically on religious tolerance. I speak as a member of a religious minority myself – a Catholic in Great Britain. For 300 years, we were not allowed to practise our faith. That, you might say, is a long time ago, and we are proud in Europe of our record on religious tolerance, but in the century in which all of us were born there were appalling acts of genocide and intolerance in western Europe.
The reason this report is important, and what we should focus on, is the appalling acts of intolerance taking place on our very doorstep – in the Middle East. A number of speakers have mentioned that, but it is important to keep repeating it and to keep putting pressure on our governments to raise such issues with friendly nations in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
A humanitarian disaster is unfolding in Syria. As many speakers have mentioned, as many as 20 000 innocent people have died and 1.5 million people have been displaced. We say that they are displaced, but what does that mean? It is a dry, technical term, but we mean that the lives of 1.5 million people are a misery. When faced with such a great disaster, it is perhaps impossible in a short speech of less than four minutes to give any general examples, so I hope that the Assembly will forgive me if I discuss just one community. I want to talk about particular examples because it is important that we use the opportunities we are given to put the spotlight on what is happening in particular communities. Once the spotlight is on them, it makes it more difficult for these horrendous human rights abuses to take place. Read the rest of this entry »
Sometimes when one is about to give a speech, one is a bit irritated if an earlier speaker takes one’s best line, although I do not feel irritation in this case. I had not discussed with Lord Anderson what I would say today, but I was going to end my speech with the comment that he made: beware of pointing out the mote in someone else’s eye when there is a beam in one’s own. That is the text on which I wish to speak today. Although Lord Anderson is a Socialist and I am a Conservative, I agreed with much of what he had to say. Read the rest of this entry »
I apologise in advance if what I say may not be popular with everybody in the Assembly, but sometimes you have to say what you have to say. The truth is that, as we know, we in Europe are faced with record deficits. If you have a deficit that is caused by debt, you cannot spend your way out of it. You have to deal with the problem through an austerity package, but you also have to deal with it in terms of your own national needs, as we are attempting to do – with great difficulty – in Great Britain. You cannot have solutions imposed on your country from above.
We heard from the Minister of Economic Affairs of Iceland about the steps that his country took – a balanced set of steps – which were based on tax rises and spending cuts. However, he did not tell us that he devalued his country’s currency by 40%. Sometimes you have to do that to make yourself competitive. This crisis is therefore made infinitely worse by the existence of the single currency, which is preventing countries in the Mediterranean from doing what is necessary for their people. We talk about democracy, but are the people of Europe being consulted? Are the people of Germany, Austria and Holland being consulted about the fact that they will have to make enormous fiscal transfers to the people of the Mediterranean if the euro is to be saved? No, they are not. We are talking, potentially, about €100 billion. Are the people of Greece, Italy and Spain, who face record unemployment, being consulted about what is happening? Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Leigh MP delivered this speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
With the great cost in human life currently being paid in Syria, there’s no doubt that this is a subject of urgent importance worthy of discussion amongst all Europeans.
Yet there is a firm reluctance amongst the proponents of liberal interventionism to take into account the reality of the situation we are dealing with in Syria.
The casual dualistic thinking whereby Assad and his cronies are the big baddies and the insurgents and their allies are the goodies is simplistic folly which must be disregarded by all serious thinking people.
The regime of Bashir al-Assad and that of his father before him have been responsible for horrendous human rights abuses including arbitrary detentions, deaths, and even massacres.
The uprising against Assad has been carrying on for over a year now, allowing us an opportunity of observing what life is like in the areas under the control of the Free Syrian Army. It does not paint a pretty picture. Read the rest of this entry »
THE PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Çonkar. I call Mr Leigh. We wish you good health and hope that your hand will recover soon.
Mr LEIGH (United Kingdom) – It is an honour to be called in the debate, which is extremely timely. Sadly, there is far too little interest in Europe in this subject. To my shame, it is only because my daughter works for the United Nations in Kenya that I have been kept up to speed on the issue. There has been too little publicity and interest, and it is significant that we are debating the most severe famine crisis this century only towards the end of this week.
The figures are truly alarming. As we have heard, perhaps 12 million people do not have enough to eat, and the situation deteriorates daily. I am told that violence is escalating and that a minimum of 1 000 people every day flee Somalia. Although we talk in terms of millions, we must have some compassion for people as individuals. If the situation were so bad in one of our own countries that 1 000 people were having to flee every day to save themselves from starvation, we would understand the situation more easily. Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday 12 April, Edward Leigh rose to speak on behalf of the European Democrat Group in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in the debate on the Council’s Report on the Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue:
I am sure that I speak for everyone when I say what an inspiring session we have had so far. It truly reminds us of the value of religion. I am sure that none of us could disagree with anything that we have heard. Indeed, I am sure that there is nothing in the report that any of us could disagree with, and that leads me to the theme of my remarks. I believe that the problem in Europe today is not diversity of religion, the strongly held views of people of various religions, or arguments between them; it is indifference from a great part of the European population. Read the rest of this entry »
The following is the text of the speech deliver by Edward Leigh MP to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, assembled at the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg, 27 January 2011:
Mr President, it is a great pleasure to be asked to speak to this motion on behalf of the European Democrat Group. We very much share the sentiments expressed by other speakers on the rights of men and women to live their faith in peace. Read the rest of this entry »