U2 lead singer Bono urged the European Union today (June 9) to prove its relevance to young people by doing more to help the poor and hungry in Africa.
U2 lead singer Bono urged the European Union today (June 9) to prove its relevance to young people by doing more to help the poor and hungry in Africa. Speaking in Brussels after meeting European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, Bono said the EU was facing a crisis of confidence because people did not share the ideas promoted by political leaders.
He said Africa "offers us a chance to redescribe ourselves, our value systems," and he urged leaders to make a tangible difference to the planet's poorest. "I am in a band and we travel around Europe and around the world and what we pick up from our audiences is a lack of vision from Europe," he said. "People don't feel Europe. I think they don't see the vision of Europe because they don't feel Europe is a vision they can relate to."
Bono said the current EU crisis about its planned constitution, rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands, was of little consequence compared to the tens of thousands of deaths every day in Africa from easily avoidable hunger and disease. This failure to act, he said, has disillusioned people and distanced them from their leaders. "If we allow this, then we do hold no sway," he said.
Although the global Live 8 concerts on July 2 will raise awareness of African poverty, Bono urged the leaders of the EU's 25 member nations to do more than just pay lip service to the issue. "We have to create a sense of momentum, of occasion," he said. "There is a long way from politicians signing checks to cashing them. I'm in the check business."
Bono said the resources were there to deal with poverty and illness. "People are dying for the most stupid reasons," he said. "It's not wide-eyed, misty-eyed Irish nonsense. It's a winnable war. Describe Everest and we'll climb it."
But Bono played down the current EU constitution worries. "All this fighting in the European family feels so Irish," he said. "The European family is strong because of its diversity and its narkiness."
Barroso welcomed Bono's efforts to raise the profile of debt and aid, and to mobilize political leaders. And he promised that despite Europe's own complex agenda, Africa would not fall back in the political landscape.
"We are the biggest aid donor in the world, contributing 55% of the aid," he said. "We have the resources. We have the strength of popular feeling. And in 2005 we have a chain of events that have given political leaders a window of opportunity to achieve an historic deal for Africa's development. What we need now is political will and leadership to turn this into action."