Religious leaders gather to discuss EU’s neighbourhood policy

ENPI info
Religious leaders from across Europe have met in Brussels to discuss effective ways to promote rights and liberties with a view to building a Partnership for democracy and shared prosperity between Europe and its neighbourhood.

A European Commission press release said around 20 senior representatives from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions as well as from the Buddhist communities met on the invitation of President José Manuel Barroso and co-chaired by Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council. This was the seventh in a series of annual meetings launched by President Barroso in 2005.

José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President said: "Our task and ambition is to promote democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, human rights and social justice not only in Europe but also in our neighbourhood. I strongly believe these challenges cannot be met without the active contribution of the religious communities.”

EP President Jerzy Buzek added: "Religious communities are of paramount importance for the social fabric in EU countries. This is also true for the dynamic changes in our neighbourhood. The European Parliament always stressed that the freedom of religion or belief is one of the most fundamental human rights. In order to be fully effective, as part of its neighbourhood policy, the EU needs to cooperate on the ground with religious groups on issues ranging from education and health care to rebuilding post-conflict societies.”

President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said history was on the march in North Africa and the Arab world, a long march to freedom and justice – “precisely the values that are rooted in the European Treaties. This is not then the time for us Europeans, to become less open, less tolerant, more selfish or materialistic, even more racist.”

“Values cannot survive without spiritual, religious or ethical impetus,” he told the religious leaders. “This is where you can play a major role. Nobody has a monopoly on the great human values which give meaning to our lives and our societies. But without this impetus and without this drive, everything may collapse.”

The press release said discussions took place in a frank and open spirit, adding that the faith leaders had welcomed the EU’s renewed engagement with its neighbours. They expressed their readiness to work side by side with the European institutions to promote democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

May 30, 2011, ENPI Info Centre

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