European conventions

Europe has a wealth of cultural differences that blend into a pleasing melange. Whether it’s music, food, literature or philosophical outlook, we Europeans and many non-Europeans cherish those differences.

Take the legal framework in the EU. We elect a whole bunch of European politicians and ministers serviced by thousands of administrators and clerical workers, house them in massive parliamentary buildings spread over Western Europe and feed them in the finest restaurants our taxes can afford. Then we argue about whether law made in Europe should apply to us Italians/English/Irish – take your pick.

But what of the European Convention on Human Rights? The word ‘convention’ should give you a clue that it’s neither mandatory nor enforceable. Yet this is a document that sets out the framework for fairness and the protection of liberties that have been fought over, debated and already incorporated in national legislation in many countries.

The UK adopts the attitude that the merits of the European Convention have to be demonstrated on a case by case basis. Recently a woman who squatted a property that had not been inhabited for many years, and which had no clear right of ownership, was forced to challenge UK law that is being introduced to criminalise squatting. Her lawyers are using the European Convention as the basis for their challenge. I wouldn’t be optimistic about her chances of continuing to raise her family in the vacant property that she has made home for her children, and where she has been paying council taxes for years.

Property and wealth seem to curry greater favour with some law makers, than making sure that the vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society have a safety net. Why should buildings be left empty, and in some cases vandalised to make them uninhabitable by public bodies, if there is no intention for them to be occupied in the foreseeable future?

Homeless people deserve better from their fellow human beings. The right thing to do is not always clear, but criminalising those who find shelter in unoccupied buildings, and then paying large sums for them to be housed in prisons is clearly wrong.



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