First Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness MEP was at a private audience with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican, Rome on Saturday last. The MEP was in Rome for a conference on Christian’s contributions on the future of Europe also attended by Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Manfred Weber, Chair of the EPP Group.
During the private audience with Pope Francis, MEP McGuinness discussed the future of Europe and her role as Vice-President with responsibility for Dialogue with religious and non-confessional organisations.
“It was an honour to meet Pope Francis and to discuss my role with him. We talked about a number of issues and the importance of communication between the generations.
“In his later address to conference attendees, Pope Francis highlighted the important role of those who produce the food we eat and make the clothes we wear, noting that these are essential roles to fulfil basic human needs but are often the sort of jobs that can be unappreciated at times,” McGuinness said.
In her own speech on the theme of “What kind of Economy for Europe in a changing world” in Rome on Friday, McGuinness called for an economy that is people-centred, built on solid foundations of diversity, and based on sustainability criteria taking climate change, resource efficiency, respect of nature and biodiversity into account. Not one that is based on wanton consumption.”
McGuinness touched on a concern similar to that raised by Pope Francis saying: “The balance between capital and labour has shifted. Today we read of exploitation of workers in the agriculture sector in Europe – those who provide our daily bread. Such exploitation is unacceptable in our Europe today and these sharp practices must be addressed, so that those most invisible in society – who care, who clean, who gather and grow are afforded the same dignity and respect as others in more high profile and higher paying roles.
“The future European economy must be fit for purpose, regulated, responsive and provide opportunities for all, including education, housing, health care and support . We are talking about a social market economy,” MEP McGuinness said in Rome.
“Growing fears about globalisation must be listened to and responded to by putting in place safeguards. Many of the world’s poorest have been lifted from poverty by globalisation, but many in Europe see it as a threat to their way of life. Robust and accountable institutions are essential both within the EU and outside. We need an economic model that is greater than statistical analysis about return on investment. It must be a model which puts economic growth at the service of society. Through fair taxation, with corporations contributing their fair share in order to provide social supports,” she said.
“Increasingly, the squeezed middle are concerned that they carry an unfair burden of taxation and are demanding a rebalancing. Society needs an open and robust debate about rights and responsibilities – of society in general and the individual role in society. Wealth need to be created to provide money for social support system. Wealth also needs to be redistributed – so that the balance between capital and labour is the right one. Fairness, morality and ethics must be part of the conversation,” McGuinness said in meetings involving Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) and others.