EUR/PL: Churches meet Polish EU Presidency – People must be at the centre of the European integration process

Sikorski Radoslaw EUR/PL: Churches meet Polish EU Presidency   People must be at the centre of the European integration process

The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Radosław Sikorski, during his speech at the Munich Security Conference 2008. CC/Harald Dettenborn.

The Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski asks the churches to support his government’s idea to establish a European fund in support of initiatives that promote democracy all over the continent and beyond.

On Thursday, 28 July 2011, the Foreign Minister of Poland addressed a delegation of church representatives from Poland, whose churches are members of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and of the Commission of Bishops´ Conferences in the European Community (COMECE). The meeting is the latest in the long series of encounters between the rotating EU Presidencies and the churches.

Following a presentation by Foreign Minister Sikorski on the priorities of the Polish EU Presidency, the church representatives placed on the agenda issues such as the EU Eastern European Partnership, migration, religious freedom, Sunday protection and the environment. In relation to each of these agenda items, the Foreign Minister and the church representatives agreed that it must be the people who have to be at the centre of all European policies. Even if at present economic recovery is one of the key issues for the Union, economic growth must be in the service of the people and must be balanced by social measures. The Foreign Minister commended the role of the churches in caring for the people and in representing the voice of the people at the European level.

Based on the long-standing experience of the Polish churches in reconciliation processes with the EU´s eastern neighbours, the Polish EU Presidency and the churches expect to strengthen their cooperation in view of the Summit and the Civil Society meetings of the EU Eastern European Partnership, which are to take place later this year.

With regard to the refugee crisis in North Africa, the churches urged the Polish EU Presidency to insist that the EU provide appropriate shelter for those few refugees that reach Europe and to support those refugees that fled from Libya and have found shelter in neighbouring countries. The Polish EU Presidency is also expected to advance developments towards a common European asylum system in the second half of this year. The churches expressed their hope in a higher level of protection for asylum seekers with fair and accessible asylum procedures.

The church delegation thanked the Foreign Minister for his support in raising awareness of the issue of religious freedom in the European Council earlier this year and for intervening when religious minorities were attacked in other regions of the world. Religious freedom should be one of the issues within the larger human rights agenda to be addressed by the newly established External Action Service of the European Union.

The churches delegation was composed of Archbishop Abel (Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church), Bishop Wiktor Wysoczanski (Old-catholic Church), Superintendent Edward Puslecki (Polish Methodist Church) and the roman-catholic bishops Wiktor Skworc, Stanislaw Budzik and Wojciek Polak. The delegation was accompanied by the Director of CEC´s Church and Society Commission, Revd Rüdiger Noll, and the General Secretary of COMECE, Fr Piotr Mazurkiewicz.

The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 120 Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant, and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, and of 40 associated organisations. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.

The Church and Society Commission of CEC provides a platform for the CEC membership to reflect on socio-ethical issues ecumenically and to involve them in common action and advocacy in relation to the European Union, the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations (in European matters). CSC operates as a forum for action, dialogue and ecumenical training in European affairs.