Following the official start of the Greek EU Presidency, the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Dimitris Kourkoulas, has received a delegation of senior Greek and European Church representatives in Athens.
The aim of this meeting, one in a long-standing series of high-level encounters between Church representatives and the incoming presidencies of the EU, was to discuss the principal issues the Greek EU Presidency hopes to address in the first six months of 2014.
Top of the agenda were the questions of social cohesion and migration in the European Union.
A the beginning of the discussions, Minister Kourkoulas underlined how important he viewed the encounter. It was his view that the Churches could draw on their pastoral experience, with projects on the ground, and their wealth of social teaching to assist in working toward solutions to the challenges on which the Greek Presidency is keen to focus.
The meeting with the Presidency in Athens was organised by the Vice-President of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), HE Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, and by the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), together with the Churches in Greece.
The Churches expressed support for the Greek Presidency in its resolve to strengthen social cohesion in Europe and in developing the social dimension of the EU.
The Church delegation voiced its concern about high levels of youth unemployment, particularly – although not exclusively – in the countries of southern Europe. Here, there is a risk of the emergence of a lost generation, with little concrete hope of an improvement in their economic prospects or of social inclusion, they agreed.
Comprehensive, humane and sustainable economic development and the creation of employment in Europe are key aims in any realistic policy which sets to overcome the current crisis, the churches said.
It is essential to avoid precarious employment and the creation of a new class of 'working poor'. In any creation of new jobs, attention must be paid to the quality of work.
The churches were keen to draw attention to the fact, highlighted in the maritime sector on which the Greek Presidency wants particularly to focus, that social dumping and exploitation must be avoided.
A review of the Europe 2020 Strategy is set to take place during the Greek Presidency. In this context, the initial objective of a ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ should be reinforced. Following this approach, Churches indicated that social services should not be considered primarily as a cost factor, bur rather as an instrument to sustain economy and employment.
The meeting also encouraged a positive and just approach to migration and people movements.
* Conference of European Churches (CEC): http://www.ceceurope.org/
* COMECE: http://www.comece.org/