A dialogue seminar on a European social market economy took place on 14 December 2012 at the European Commission in Brussels.
It was co-organised by the Bureau of European Policy Advisors of the European Commission together with the Church & Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CSC/CEC) and the Secretariat of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).
The Treaty of Lisbon defines “a highly competitive social market economy” (Art. 3.3 TEU) as a goal for the European Union. Critics say that the competition element is in danger of outstripping or undermining the social element in practice.
The Conference of European Churches stressed last week that the seminar recognised that it was addressing the operation of markets in "a time of deep and severe financial, economic and social crisis, in which unemployment and poverty are rising in Europe and austerity programmes aggravate the social consequences for many people."
In his State of the Union 2012 Address, President Barroso highlighted the social market economy several times as the European model of economy and a key principle to overcome the crisis in Europe.
The term “social market economy” refers to the German economic model developed after World War II, but also to other concepts of welfare state in Europe.
Many churches in mainland Europe feel very much related to this model because it is about balancing economic and social challenges, giving policy a high and irreplaceable value as a regulatory institution.
"At this time of the crisis more than ever, a debate has to be launched to which extend this understanding of economy, policy and society can help to overcome the crisis in Europe," the press release announcing the seminar declared.
The event enabled a conversation about developments in different European countries to assess the contribution of a social market economy and welfare state in facing the crisis.
It also discussed the commitment of churches to youth unemployment as an example for the contribution and involvement of civil society and social actors.
Keynote speakers included Landesbischof Professor Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Bavaria; , Bishop Gianni Ambrosio of Piacenza-Bobbio, Italy, vice-president of COMECE; and Olivier Guersent, head of cabinet of Commissioner Michel Barnier, Internal Market and Services.
Dialogue seminars have a longstanding tradition in the cooperation between the European Commission and the Churches in Europe, the participants say.
"Since their beginning in the early 1990s, they have proved to be a significant discussion forum for matters of common concern," CEC says. "They represent an important element of the open, transparent and regular dialogue between the European Commission and the Churches in Europe."
The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 120 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 associated organisations. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.
The Church and Society Commission of CEC provides a platform for the CEC membership to reflect on socio-ethical issues ecumenically and to involve them in common action and advocacy in relation to the European Union, the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations (in European matters). CSC operates as a forum for action, dialogue and ecumenical training in European affairs.