(photos by the European Commission site).


(photos by the European Commission site)

Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Mr. Jersey Buzek, President of the European Council, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and around twenty Senior Representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim religions as well as from the Sikh and Hindu communities met in Brussels after an invitation of President Jose Manuel Barroso and discussed effective ways of combating poverty and social exclusion.

At this meeting, the Archbishop of Cyprus Mr. Chrysostomos II was represented by Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis, Director of the Representation of the Church of Cyprus to the E.U. The Archbishop of Greece Mr. Ieronimos II also took part to this meeting.

This was the sixth in a series of annual meetings with the Religious Leaders since2005, which started at 10 a.m. and was completed at 2 p.m. The meeting began with the speeches of the 3 Presidents and those of the Religious Leaders followed up.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the Commission President said: In Europe, several million citizens live at the edge of social exclusion. A poor testimony for one of the richest regions of the world! As Europe recovers from this crisis, I want to see a generation of growth which integrates the most vulnerable into main stream society. He added: Churches and religious communities are important providers of social services in EU member states. If we want to combat poverty effectively, it is essential to draw from their long standing and wide raging experience.

Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament added: The promise of a better life for all without exceptions must always be at the heart of the European project. Combating poverty and social exclusion is a task for the partnership of all; local, national and European levels as well as laymen and churches. Our first and foremost priority is to restore social and economic security. Churches have a crucial role to play in this regard. They contribute with a long standing experience in social work with individuals and communities. This experience has never been as valuable as it is today in a time of crisis.

Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council said: We all know that this issue is mainly linked with homelessness, with a better access to the labour market, with the possibility to apply for health services, with, indeed, what can be called the material conditions of life. But combating poverty and social exclusion is also, in essence, willing to restore human dignity, the dignity of both men and women. And that is why societal, cultural and ethical questions should also be taken into account.

In his speech Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis among other said: The Orthodox Church of Cyprus believes that all social institutions need to cooperate in order to bring relief to those belonging to vulnerable social groups such as large and low income families, elderly people existing on small pensions, the homeless, the unemployed and migrants. The European Union s strategic objective of lifting 20 million Europeans out of poverty by 2020 is encouraging but it is not enough to deal substantially with the problem.

In parallel with these measures, we propose that the most important objective should be to treat the causes of the financial crisis which has led to such a dramatic increase in poverty. Unless this is achieved, the crisis will unavoidably return, again and again. Drastic treatment requires the rediscovery of the principles and values that have given meaning to European civilization for two thousand years, such as respect for the human form as an image of God; solidarity with and charity towards the poor and the marginalized; social justice; and respect for creativity.

The Church of Cyprus is experiencing and suffering the social drama of its poor and socially rejected children. It is working with all the means at its disposal for the material and spiritual relief of all those who seek its assistance. It achieves this through its network of parishes and volunteers. It is present here in Brussels through the Office of its Representation to the European Institutions. It is both willing and committed to participate in the European Platform which the European Commission has rightly launched to combat poverty and social exclusion. Joining in this struggle is no longer an option for any of us, but an imperative duty in the name of the present and future generations.

After the press conference a business lunch followed at which the participants had the opportunity for their last suggestions.

For the first time the meeting took place under the new 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. Today's meeting testifies the importance that European institutions give to this dialogue.

The discussions were held under frank and open mind. The religious leaders from fourteen Members States (France, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Denmark) expressed their support for Europe s 2020 strategy and its social and education targets. They encourage the European institutions to increase further the momentum, especially with the prospective of improving access to the labour market, better targeting of social services in member states and ensuring equal opportunities of accessing to education and training.

Promoting employment, inclusive growth and social cohesion is the target of Europe s 2020 strategy. One of the EU wide agreed objectives is to reduce to 20 million the number of Europeans exposed to poverty and social exclusion by 2020. Progress will be measured by three major indicators, poverty; material deprivation, and jobless households.

The following members of the European Commission also participated in the meeting: Vice-President Viviane Reding, Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, Commissioner Maria Damanaki and Commissioner Laszlo Andor.


(photos by the European Commission site)




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