Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Mr. Lazlo Surjan, Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and twenty-four Senior Leaders met in Brussels and discussed the theme: Intergenerational Solidarity: Setting the Parameters for Tomorrow's Society in Europe.
Twenty-four Senior Representatives from the Christian (Orthodox, Catholiques, Protestants), Jewish and Muslim religions met in Brussels. The Church of Cyprus was represented by His Beatitude the Archbishop of New Justiniana and All Cyprus Mr. Chrysostomos II.
This was the eighth in a series of annual meetings launched by President Barroso in 2005. This is the third time that the meeting takes place in the context of the Lisbon Treaty which foresees in its Art 17 that the Union maintains an open, transparent and regular dialogue with religion, churches and communities of conviction. The meeting testifies once again of the importance that the European institutions give to this dialogue.
Mr. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said: "To tackle the economic crisis, we are doing a lot to ensure the right balance between solidarity and responsibility among Member States. But we need to devote at least as much attention to solidarity and responsibility among the young and the old. Ultimately, we will only be able to come well out of this crisis and lay the foundations of a prosperous future, if we keep solidarity between people and generations at the heart of our actions. This is the glue that keeps our communities together. The churches and religious communities are well placed to build bridges in our societies."
Mr. László Surján, Vice-President of the European Parliament, stated: "Intergenerational solidarity is an obligation in Judeo-Christian heritage and in other religions as well. Nowadays, it is not only a question of religion but intergenerational solidarity has strong financial implications too: today's debt can be seen as tomorrow's potential taxes. Debt reduction therefore is a matter of intergenerational justice. Debt is not only a burden for new generations; it is multiplied by an interest rate. Europeans might well be envious of interest-free medieval times, or could well listen to other cultures in which there is no interest to be paid at all. It may be unrealistic to think about an interest-free financial system, but the alarming recent news from the City of London creates a strong desire for something completely new."
Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council said: "We cannot afford, socially, economically and in the first instance, humanely, a 'lost generation' in Europe. Neither can we afford to have older people side-lined for 'lesser productivity'. The productivity of wisdom and knowledge is for sure not as measurable as the productivity of manufacturing consumer goods, but African wisdom reminds us that when an older man dies, a library disappears. Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and their NGO's, schools and associations are bringing, at local level, persons together. They can, also therefore, play an important role in improving understanding and mutual learning between generations"
In his speech the Archbishop of New Justiniana and All Cyprus Mr. Chrysostomos II among other said:
... “Family is part of the main core of the orthodox Christian tradition and has a prominent position. In a combination with the Christian virtue of love, family becomes the nursery of society where the concepts of caress, respecting and the responsibility one to other are been developed ....
But it is natural that in today's complex societies solidarity goes further than to the person....
As from now and on human life is extended, the burden of supporting a large number of older people, for example the cost of their pensions as well as their medical care is to be carried by fewer numbers of young people......
The danger that is created is that young people will start to resent for the cost of a society that is getting older and older and especially if they sense that themselves will not have the same privileges and standard of living as their parents had and especially now that employment of young people has reach such a high level throughout the European Union.....
Under these conditions there has never been more need for building relationships of mutual support, respect and trust between the parents....
If we could aid the older people in living independently and productively for more years as the year of acting ageism and solidarity between generations is urging us in doing so, then we could limited this weight and reinforce the inter-generation solidarity.....
We totally agree with the position that the European year of acting ageism and solidarity between generations is offering a great opportunity to motivate all interested organisations in aiming the ensure of the culture of active ageism, based on a society that offers possibilities for all ages.
It is here that the Orthodox Church is working for testifying its own contribution and role. It is underlining the need for:
• The implementation of love and respect towards every human being regardless age, sex, nationality, religion or other criteria and the fight against any kind of prejudice.
• The promotion of voluntary activities and especially at the level of the local community.
• The promotion of dialogue and understanding of the social needs and the finding of ways for their accomplishment.
• The promotion of dialogue and understanding among young’s and olds.
• The fervent support of family as the healthy part of the social core. Especially the essential support of families with many children which are the hope and the solution of the demographical problem while at the same time we must support the social insurance funds that are facing liturgical problems.
The Church of Cyprus is ready to unify its own powers with the rest that are present here today for the support of solidarity among generations.
I am very glad that my country, Cyprus, will host the conclusive conference for the European year of active ageism and solidarity 2012. Let us take care that this thrust that this European year has given does not end but continue being the motive power, contributing in the creation of a better and justice society for all ages. ».
After the press conference a business lunch followed at which the participants had the opportunity for their last suggestions.
During the meeting, participants agreed on the need to raise awareness of the huge societal challenges, to take up responsibilities in important areas like strengthening solidarity between young and old, and fighting discrimination, and to effectively contribute to the Commission's overall growth strategy for Europe, by striving for better education, less poverty, and a fairer society.
The European Year offers a framework for triggering new initiatives by a wide range of stakeholders, including religious organisations.
Vice-President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič and Commissioner Connie Hedegaard also participated in the meeting.