Press Release

BELGIAN EU PRESIDENCY | European Churches meet with Ambassador Willem van de Voorde

An ecumenical delegation representing the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) met with Ambassador Willem van de Voorde, Permanent Representative of Belgium to the EU, on 18 January 2024, in Brussels, to discuss the priorities of the Belgian EU Presidency. Read the COMECE-CEC Contribution

COMECE-CEC Ecumenical Delegation meeting with Belgian Ambassador Willem van de Voorde. (Photo: Belgian Permanent Representation to the EU)

The meeting was a fruitful occasion to present and share Churches’ contributions to the main policy areas of the Belgian Presidency of the EU Council.

European churches emphasised the need to strengthen democracy and unity in the European Union, addressing fundamentalism and polarisation in society. In this context, the positive contribution that Churches can bring to further promote peace and justice in Europe and abroad was highlighted.

COMECE and CEC expressed concern about the misuse of religion, misinformation, societal polarisation, populism and extremism, especially in view of the 2024 elections of the European Parliament.

Churches also reiterated their willingness to work together with EU  policy-makers to promote dialogue on the role of religion in a democratic society, ensuring the respect of fundamental rights.

In context of the ongoing wars in Europe and beyond, as well as of the mounting tension between major international actors, CEC and COMECE urged the EU Presidency to ensure sustained efforts for peace and stability.

They encouraged boosting concrete solidarity for Ukraine and its people, intensifying diplomatic efforts towards a peaceful, just and sustainable resolution.

Churches also had the opportunity to exchange with Ambassador Willem van de Voorde some of the most sensitive aspects of the recently agreed EU Pact on Migration and Asylum.

CEC and COMECE welcomed the attention devoted by the EU Presidency for a just transition and sustainable future of our continent. According to EU Churches, this aim should be achieved without neglecting its social cost while pursuing a political and social consensus. Regarding the agricultural sector, Churches underlined the need to support a dialogue that includes a broad representation of the large diversity of farmers throughout the EU.

The delegation appreciated the priorisation given by the Belgian EU Presidency to the further development of the European Education Area, stressing the role of non-formal and informal education, as well as of a holistic approach to education for a successful integral development of the person. Churches also encouraged the Presidency to make dialogue with young people a structural part of the EU democratic process.

Meetings with EU Presidencies are part of a long-standing tradition supported by Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which foresees an open, transparent and regular dialogue between the EU and Churches, religious associations or communities.

The COMECE-CEC delegation was composed of:

  • Manuel Barrios Prieto, COMECE General Secretary;
  • Dr. Peter Pavlovic, CEC Study Secretary;
  • Alessandro Calcagno, COMECE Assistant General Secretary.

Download the COMECE-CEC Contribution