Battle for hearts and minds begins

first_imgEnlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen denies that the information strategy is designed to combat a wave of anti-enlargement tub-thumping by populists across the EU such as Austria’s Jorg Haider and his xenophobic Freedom Party.Verheugen insists the information campaign was a priority even before the far-right’s electoral success in Austria. But concern about the negative impact of taking in up to 13 new countries with a combined population of around 170 million and where the average income is less than half current Union levels is not confined to the Union’s right-wing parties.Even Germany and Austria’s centre-left Social Democrats want protective measures to stem the potential flow of workers from countries bordering the EU after enlargement. Given Germany’s own experience as it struggled to absorb former east German citizens, winning the political argument in favour of enlargement will be a tough task. Success will depend as much as on what sort of concrete safeguards the Union can provide to those living in border areas, who will be most affected by expansion, as to the warm words used in the information campaign.To ensure the positive message about expansion gets across, the Commission is planning the biggest media campaign since its 200-million euro publicity drive for the single currency. But the money will be shared between the 15 current EU member states and the 13 applicant countries. Spreading the cash over seven years means there will only be an average of 4 euro a year per person to spend. As a result, a small country such as Latvia with a population of 2.5 million will get under 100,000 euro annually, while Poland will receive 1.5 million euro.The Commission has already indicated that the funds will be targeted at key countries and groups in society to achieve maximum impact for the money available. It intends to focus the campaign on key opinion formers such as business executives, parliamentarians, trade unionists and educationalists, although special attention will have to be paid to those with the most to lose from enlargement like people in border regions, farmers and workers in industries being restructured.The Commission’s strategy involves taking a strongly decentralised approach to the campaign, allowing each country to decide which aspects of the enlargement debate it wants to emphasise to ensure that it tackles the most pressing issues in each particular situation. This is particularly important given that the campaign will not only be aimed at overcoming suspicions in existing EU member states about the effects of enlargement. Levels of support for joining the Union in the applicant countries themselves are a more sensitive issue and, in some countries, the majority is favour of membership is perilously slim.While in existing EU member states, the decision to take in a new country has to be approved by national parliaments, most of the candidate countries have committed themselves to holding a referendum on entering the Union. As close votes in the EU have shown, the views of groups with the most to fear from joining the Union could be crucial in deciding the result.last_img read more

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Sins of the fathers to cost church $660 million

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles will pay a historic $660 million to more than 500 victims who were abused by clergy during the past 70 years, sources said late Saturday. In what would be the largest payout in the church’s sex-abuse scandal, sources close to the archdiocese and a lawyer for the victims said Saturday that terms of a settlement are being worked out this weekend. If the agreement holds, each victim would receive between $1.2 million and $1.3 million. The news came just two days before the first of more than 500 clergy abuse cases is scheduled for trial jury selection Monday. Ray Boucher, attorney and negotiator for the victims, confirmed late Saturday that a settlement had been reached, but he declined to provide specifics. He said a news release will be issued today (Sunday) about the formal announcement of the settlement, which will take place on Monday morning. A source close to the archdiocese confirmed to the Daily News that an agreement had been reached but said details and legal language were still being hammered out. The settlement also calls for the release of confidential priest personnel files after review by a judge assigned to oversee the litigation, sources said. 70 years of abuse The deal includes signing off with more than 60 attorneys seeking differing sums for more than 570 claims of abuse occurring by 221 accused clergymen. The staggering payout would will be by far the largest of any diocese in the country resulting from the church’s sex-abuse scandal. “If you had asked me Thursday, I thought we had it done, but on Friday I was pulling my hair out,” Boucher said Saturday. “These are tough issues, and we are still at the table, working hard, to come up with a solution before Monday.” Jury selection for trial in the first of the cases was set to begin Monday. A spokesman for the archdiocese would neither confirm nor deny news of a possible settlement Saturday. “All I can say is that the archdiocese will be in court Monday morning at 9:30 a.m.,” archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said. Could cost more Some experts said the costs to the archdiocese could potentially be even larger if cases were to go to trial, particularly if claimants seek punitive damages. “No matter what the amount, it’ll definitely be the largest settlement in clergy sex-abuse history,” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It’s because church officials have so much to hide.” Going to trial also would force Cardinal Roger Mahony and other top church officials to testify publicly about what they knew about priest abuse and what, if anything, they did to stop it. In the past, Mahony has said that while payments in the sex-abuse cases would come mostly from insurance, the archdiocese also could have to sell property or reduce ministry services to make up the difference. “Is it going to hurt? Oh, sure, we could have used the money for other pastoral works,” the cardinal said in a previous interview. “But it’s also an acknowledgment and a recognition of our responsibility, that the church failed these people. “The church accepts responsibility, and I accept responsibility.” The archdiocese, insurers and several Catholic orders had previously agreed to pay more than $114 million to settle 86 other claims. Reports of a potentially large settlement have raised concern at some parishes fearful that they may be targeted for closure or merged with another parish — a move that would allow the archdiocese to sell off valuable land. “The issue first came up about a year and a half ago,” said Patricia Casado of Los Angeles, a parishioner at the 100-year-old St. Victor’s Catholic Church in West Hollywood. “We were told we were vulnerable because our church does not have a school associated with it,” Casado said. “But we’re prepared to fight any attempt by the archdiocese to close down St. Victor’s and sell the land it sits on.” Victims confused Even as details of a possible settlement surfaced Saturday, early reports created confusion among some victims who thought the archdiocese had officially made an announcement. Some survivors, members of SNAP, hastily called a midafternoon news conference in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels downtown — only to cancel it. “We thought a settlement had been reached, but we were mistaken,” said Mary Grant of Long Beach, western regional director of SNAP and herself an alleged abuse victim. “We’re waiting on pins and needles.” News of the large settlement was met Saturday with a mixture of sadness and relief from some Catholics, who have known of the clergy sex-abuse scandal for several years and now hope their church can move on. “I like my religion, but I don’t like what they do,” said Joe Lozano of Mission Hills, who attends services at John DeLaSalle Catholic Church in Granada Hills. “(The clergy) are supposed to be setting an example for me. I try to set a good example for my children. They should be doing the same with me. God knows I can go astray any minute. “If my money is going to the settlement, I’m not happy. I’d like for it to go to children, education and to worthy causes.” Parishioners worried The potentially hefty settlement drew the most concern among Los Angeles Catholics. “It’s ironic that a church that has long asked its parishioners to tithe is now having to resort to double-tithing to settle this tragic offense on the children of those same faithful,” said Los Angeles attorney Alex Jacinto, who is actively involved with parishes and Catholic lay organizations in the city. Rich Raya of Mount Washington, a member of St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Highland Park, said it is a sad day for the church. “I’m a devout Catholic, but some individuals seem to ruin every aspect of life — in politics, in teaching and even in the church,” Raya said. “They’re rotten apples, but we also have many more good apples. Unfortunately, there’s going to be some bad in everything. “The other thing that concerns me is that the church needs to get rid of these priests and not protect them. But there’s a shortage of priests, and I worry about the church continuing to move around these kinds of priests who do these things because it needs priests.” — Staff Writer Brent Hopkins contributed to this report. Tony Castro, (818) [email protected]last_img read more

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