The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union has urged the EU to sponsor “a fair and people-centred Eastern partnership, promoting sustainable and integral human development and lasting peace”.

Driving the news

The COMECE Secretariat this week released a contribution to the EU public consultation on the Eastern partnership (EaP), a Brussels initiative to deepen cooperation wih the post-Soviet states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

In that text, the COMECE said that the EaP “should above all be understood as a partnership for sustainable and integral development of persons, families and local communities”.

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The EU Bishops said that a priority in the EaP must be the empowerment of youth “at all levels of social, economic and political life”.

In the context of the partnership, the prelates also called for “special attention to vulnerable communities” such as the Roma or refugees from the Ukraine, and for the “improvement of human connectivity and infrastructure… [to] foster social cohesion”.

“The economic dimension of the partnership should always be reflected upon in relation to its social and ecological component”, the COMECE warned.

For that reason, “investments should thus not merely consist in a calculation of economic profits, but create decent employment opportunities for local communities and strengthen the local economic systems in the longer-term, while respecting the environment”, the Bishops said.

Why it matters

Since “true security can only exist in sustainable peace”, “the EaP should be a partnership for lasting peace in Europe and its neighbourhood”, the COMECE explained in its contribution.

To that end, the EU should step up its efforts in “pre-emptive peacebuilding” and “preventive diplomacy and mediation” in the region, the bishops stated, for example with the appointment of an EU Special Envoy.

Along with that peacebuilding, however, the COMECE also urged greater “processes of trust-building and reconciliation”, “the establishment of platforms and programmes to facilitate an inclusive encounter and dialogue” and an emphasis on the “resilience of persons, families, local communities in order to enable their recovery from past crises and prepare them for possible future challenges and risks”.

“Closer cooperation in areas, such as fight against corruption and organised crime, as well as enhancing transparency of public finances and effectiveness of public administration, and strengthening the independence of the judiciary, should be envisaged in the future EaP framework”, the COMECE added.

For the record

“The EaP should be a fair partnership, a two-way process based on reciprocity and the strive for mutual benefits in the short- as well as long-term”, the EU Bishops continued in their contribution.

“The EaP should be a people-centred partnership, based on solidarity and subsidiarity, characterised by an inclusive participation of citizens in processes of open and constructive dialogue and cooperation”.

The COMECE concluded its text calling on political actors to find ways “to give a voice to citizens with fewer opportunities” in the EU’s neighbours to the East.

“Failure to include all parts of society in political, social and economic processes might fuel support for polarising voices and provide breeding ground for extremisms”, the Bishops warned.

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