An ecumenical delegation of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) had an online meeting on Tuesday 27 October 2020 with Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office, to exchange on the priorities of the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
During the meeting, the delegation presented reflections, proposals and policy recommendations, addressing pressing priorities for the EU Presidency such as the COVID-19 recovery, climate issues, migration and asylum and the forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe.
In the current context, dramatically marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the delegation of EU Churches highlighted the need for the European Union to assert and express solidarity by supporting each Member State in recovering, through ecological, social and contributive justice, thereby transforming this dramatic and painful crisis into an opportunity.
Churches encouraged the EU Presidency to facilitate effective dialogue among the Member States in order to proceed speedily towards an agreement on the Recovery Plan. “A delay – highlighted the delegation – would severely damage sectors relying on EU funds to mitigate the impact deriving from the COVID-19 crisis and negatively affect the most vulnerable members of our societies”.
While welcoming the European Green Deal as an ambitious strategy, the delegation underlined “the crucial importance of achieving a socially just transition, reconciling competitiveness and economic growth with a sustainable economy and society”.
In light of the recently adopted new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum proposed by the European Commission in September 2020, Churches welcomed the idea of setting out a new comprehensive framework, aimed at creating a fair and predictable migration management mechanism.
The ecumenical delegation also called on the EU and its Member States to act in concrete solidarity and responsibility towards migrants and refugees, stressing that rescuing people in distress at sea is a moral and legal obligation that should be respected by all States and non-State actors.
The meeting was also an opportunity to exchange on the Conference on the Future of Europe. EU Churches expressed their availability in “actively and constructively contributing to and participating in the Conference” in line with Article 17(3) TFEU and alongside other stakeholders, providing inputs for an institutional structure that better serves the Common Good, promoting dialogue and person-centered policies.
The event followed a first preparatory meeting held in July 2020, during which EU Churches presented their joint contribution on the programme of the German EU Presidency to Michael Clauss, Ambassador at the Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU.
Meetings with rotating EU Council Presidencies are part of a long-standing tradition supported by Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which foresees an open, transparent and regular dialogue between the EU institutions and Churches.
The meeting was held by video conference. The EU Churches’ delegation was composed of:
- H. E. Mgr. Franz-Josef Overbeck, Bishop of Essen and Vice President of COMECE;
- Bishop Frank Otfried July, Director of the EKD Commission of European Affairs;
- Manuel Barrios Prieto, General Secretary of COMECE;
- Jørgen Skov Sørensen, General Secretary of CEC;
- Lena Kumlin, CEC Senior EU Policy Advisor;
- Katrin Hatzinger, Director of the EKD Brussels office;
- Gabriela Schneider, Policy Advisor of theCommissariat of the German Bishops, Catholic Office;
- Oliver Thomas Rau, Advisor of the German Bishops’ Conference;
- Friederike Ladenburger, COMECE Legal Adviser for Ethics, Research and Health;
- Stephan Iro, Deputy Representative of EKD Council.