“Justice must not be just a slogan”, EU Bishops have warned the bloc on the economic and social recovery after the coronavirus pandemic.
Monsignor Antoine Hérouard, the president of the Social Affairs Commission of COMECE – the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union – spoke to SIR May 29 about ‘Next Generation EU’, the €750 billion pandemic recovery fund for the EU announced Wednesday by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
The commission that Hérouard heads up prepared a response to the fund that it published Thursday, and in which it urged that pandemic reconstruction efforts must be based in justice.
“People have a very profound and deeply rooted concern for greater justice for all. Yet justice must not be just a slogan”, reflected Hérouard, who is also auxiliary bishop of Lille, in France.
Justice “must have a very specific content”, the bishop explained.
In the first place, “it must be ecological justice. Clearly, we must change our consumption and production patterns”.
Also “social justice must be strengthened because the health crisis – like all crises – creates injustices and disparities between those who can continue standing on their own two feet and those who stay on the margins”, Hérouard continued.
“Then there is financial and fiscal justice, since tax evasion does not benefit the poorest and weakest in society”, the COMECE social affairs president explained.
– Free movement, free trade and the euro at stake
With their call to prioritise justice in the pandemic recovery fund – still to be approved in a European Council meeting in June, amid the reservations of more economically-conservative member states – Hérouard said the COMECE Bishops were asking the EU nothing more and nothing less to return to its origins.
“The Union was a deeply desired and longed-for project to foster and strengthen the peace process after the Second World War, through the creation of solid bonds between European countries”, Hérouard recalled, adding that even if the bloc’s origins “have been somewhat forgotten in recent years”, still “we must make the effort to renew the spirit of our founding fathers”.
The main risk if European unity and solidarity don’t make themselves felt now in the aftermath of the pandemic is “to lose everything that has been achieved over the years, the free movement of people, free trade, the Euro currency”, the bishop warned.
Not only that, but if the European project is undermined by the response to the pandemic, the “growing divide between the United States and China, between the poor countries of the South and wealthy countries” will only be exacerbated, Hérouard said.
“Europe can play a major role in redressing the balance. It is its duty”, the bishop insisted.
– “No country has the capacity to save itself alone”
Despite the ongoing threat of division, COMECE bishop Hérouard stressed that all is by no means lost, at least for the moment.
“There may arise the opportunity to rediscover – in the light of this crisis – the spirit of solidarity between European countries and take a step forward in the development of a project centred on people, on the human dimension, and not only on financial interests”, he suggested.
The bishop went on to say that the lesson to be learned from the “lack of solidarity, a lack of readiness to help the countries most affected” at the height of the pandemic is that “if we are to confront the serious negative consequences of this crisis on the economy and society, we need to act together”.
“No country has the capacity to save itself alone. It’s no longer possible”, Hérouard explained.