20 Years of EMA : the European Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation
‘Bearing in mind the principles of the International Law of Human Rights and in the spirit of inter-university cooperation, we declare open the Academic Year of the European Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation.’ These words, constituting a solemn and challenging commitment, were read out in chorus for the first time at 12 noon on 6 October 1997 in the Palazzo Ducale by rectors and professors from the universities participating in EMA, for the opening of the academic year. Every year since then, this reference to the great universal values that international human rights law has turned into principles of ius positum, has been repeated, as a confirmation of the commitment of European academia for the effectiveness of this ‘new’ law. That day in 1997 was the official start date of the original undertaking that was the European Master’s Programme. The preliminary stage had begun in the latter part of 1996 and had completed in July 1997, in Villa Herriot on Giudecca Island, when the EMA Statute, known as the Venice Charter, was adopted. We wanted to combine the contents of Article 6 of the Amsterdam Treaty, signed that same year, with the incipit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that indicates teaching and education as the most effective guarantee of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The immediate idea was to develop a new higher education project in an inter-university structure that would also serve as a more general message of integration and peace. For the first six years, the University of Padua was the legal and organisational ‘womb’ for this inspiring enterprise.