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Church leaders urge Germany to prioritise EU solidarity during presidency

03 July 2020


Gordan Grlic Radman (left), Foreign Minister of Croatia, presents Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister, with an olive tree, in front of the Brandenburg Gate, on Wednesday, after a symbolic baton handover to mark Germany’s takeover of the EU Council Presidency from Croatia

Gordan Grlic Radman (left), Foreign Minister of Croatia, presents Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister, with an olive tree, in front of the Branden...

LEADERS of the Evangelical and Roman Catholic Churches in Germany have urged their country to use its presidency of the European Union, which began on Wednesday, to push reforms through, while co-operating closely with the UK and resisting a move to “solo national efforts” in the wake of the coronavirus.

“Besides giving consolation and offering orientation during the current crisis, we see ourselves as a public voice advocating solidarity and concern for the weakest,” the joint appeal says.

“We are convinced our common future lies not just in nation-states, but in Europe; so we call on German policy-makers to shape the future of our common European home in responsibility for European togetherness.”

The appeal was issued before the handover of the rotating presidency from Croatia to Germany on Wednesday, which will guide the work of the European Council until 31 December.

The appeal says that Germany is the “largest and economically strongest member-state”, at a time when the poorest sections of the EU’s 446 million population have been hit hardest by Covid-19. Germany should push for rapid “recovery and reconstruction”, besides pressing on with measures to make the EU climate-neutral by 2050.

The document, co-signed by Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, who chairs the Evangelical Church of Germany, and the President of the RC German Bishops’ Conference, the Bishop of Limburg, the Most Revd Georg Bätzing, says: “Only a united Europe can overcome this pandemic’s economic and social impact; solo national efforts, selfishness, and mutual blaming are of no help to anyone.

“Although Great Britain left the EU officially earlier this year, both sides should seek a close and stable partnership, based on high environmental and social standards, and fair economic relationships, which preserve our common heritage.”

The council presidency changes every six months, and requires the country holding it to set the agenda and work programme for meetings of heads of state and government, while facilitating dialogue with other EU institutions.

The German tenure coincides with widespread demands for change in methods of governance and economic management, in the light of systemic vulnerabilities highlighted by Covid-19.

The Churches’ appeal says that the crisis has highlighted the need for a better balance between “economic interest and social justice”, for “perspective and hope” for young people, and for improved migration and asylum procedures.

“The EU is essentially grounded on the idea of a legal community, which in a pluralist society guarantees democratic participation and the rule of law — these principles must not be set aside under the pretext of containing the virus,” the document says.

“Through its presidency, Germany can provide ground-breaking impulses for responding to current European and global challenges, when European integration urgently needs a new dynamic for these difficult times.”

The Evangelical and Roman Catholic Churches make up, respectively, 24.9 per cent and 27.2 per cent of the 83-million population of Germany.

The joint appeal coincides with new data that show a sharp drop of more than 270,000 in each denomination’s worshipping community last year.

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