An ecumenical delegation comprising H. Em. Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), and Rev. Christian Krieger, president of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), met with Augusto Santos Silva, Portuguese Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday 12 May 2021 in Lisbon, to exchange on the priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The ecumenical delegation congratulated the Presidency for the Porto Social Summit held last week, which involved both social partners and civil society. COMECE and CEC highly commended the commitment of the Presidency to developing the EU social model. In particular, they welcomed the Porto Social Commitment issued with the aim of guiding the social policies of the EU for the times to come.
During the meeting, the delegation and the Presidency exchanged on the Conference on the Future of Europe, which was launched on the occasion of Europe day, on Sunday 9 May 2021. COMECE and CEC expressed the hope it will involve all European citizens, civil society, as well as Churches and religious communities, and renew trust and reinvigorate commitment to the European Union as a true community of values.
“The voice of Churches needs to be heard. Representing millions of citizens in all EU Member states, and being present at all levels of European societies, COMECE and CEC have a real value to add to the Conference on the Future of Europe,” said CEC President Rev. Christian Krieger. “Our key focus is promoting our common European values,” he added.
Part of the meeting was dedicated to exchange on the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. COMECE and CEC highlighted the need to support the most vulnerable, implement the European Pillar of Social Rights and promote a fair and just recovery in the context of a green and digital transition that leaves no one behind.
Highlights in the discussion also included exchanges on EU migration and asylum policies, a more inclusive Europe, the European Green Deal and care for our common home, the EU-Africa partnership, and the handing-over to the Slovenian EU Presidency in July 2021.
The meeting in Lisbon was also an opportunity to hand over to the Presidency the COMECE-CEC joint contribution issued earlier in January, comprising of reflections, proposals and policy recommendations, addressing pressing priorities for the Portuguese EU Presidency.
The delegation also shared position papers on return policies, readmissions and cooperation with third countries within the framework of the proposed EU Pact on migration and asylum. The documents were issued by a coalition of nine Europe-wide Christian organisations, including COMECE and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), supported by CEC.
In this context, H. Em. Card. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, President of COMECE, stressed “Europe has the responsibility to share peace and prosperity with our neighbours, and to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants by developing policies based on respect for human rights and the human dignity”.
Meetings with respective EU Council Presidencies is part of a long-standing tradition in line with Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which foresees an open, transparent and regular dialogue between the EU and the Churches.
In line with standard anti-COVID precautions, part of the delegation attended the meeting by video conference.
Members of the COMECE-CEC delegation:
- Em. Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich SJ, President of COMECE;
- Christian Krieger, President of CEC;
- E. Msgr. Nuno Brás da Silva, Bishop of Funchal and Delegate of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference to COMECE;
- Bishop Jorge Pina Cabral, Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church;
- Dr Manuel Barrios Prieto, General Secretary of COMECE;
- Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen, General Secretary of CEC;
- Dr José-Luis Bazán, Legal advisor for Migration and Asylum and Religious Freedom, COMECE
- Lena Kumlin, Senior EU Policy Advisor, CEC