6:54 am - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Pope: EU risks loss of trust

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Pope Francis said Tuesday that the European Union risks losing the trust of citizens by ignoring the social costs of the financial crisis.In the first papal address to the European Parliament since 1988, the year before communism’s collapse in Eastern Europe, Francis warned about the excesses of free markets.

There are “certain rather selfish lifestyles, marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest,” Francis told the 28-nation EU assembly in Strasbourg, France. “To our dismay, we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate.”

The pope’s remarks coincide with growing EU concerns about the social and political consequences of economic sluggishness. The euro area is seeking to counter the risk of deflation, bolster economic growth and reduce 12 percent unemployment after five years of German-fashioned budget austerity prescribed to overcome the sovereign-debt crisis that threatened to break up the single currency.

The economic malaise has fueled the rise of protest parties across the EU, where a decades-long consensus about the benefits of greater European integration is being challenged.A symbol of this trend is the EU Parliament itself, where euro-skeptic groups boosted their share of seats in elections in May to about 30 percent from 20 percent.

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