The Community of Protestant Churches in Europe on the Year of Citizens – "Civil Rights and Human Rights must go hand in hand"

The Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) welcomes the decision of the fora of the European Union to dedicate the European Year 2013 to the topic of its citizens.

On the occasion of the official opening of the European Year of Citizens in 2013 the General Secretary of the CPCE, Bishop Michael Bünker, emphasizes: “For the CPCE the process of European unification has always been a process of reconciliation and peace which has led and continues to lead not only countries but above all their peoples. The EU has no future if it is not carried, even structured, by them. Consequently I should very much hope that the European Year 2013 does not consist exclusively in presenting existing EU rights, no matter how worthy of recognition the existing rights of the citizens of the Union are.”

The European Year of Citizens 2013 provides rather the opportunity to make the people central not only with their freedom and rights but also with their responsibility for democracy, for our societies and for our social existence in Europe. “In particular, the member-churches of the CPCE in Central and Eastern Europe are still living with the experience of a very lively civil rights movement without which Europe and the EU would not be what they are today” says Bünker. “When we speak of citizens we are reminded by our ancient and Christian tradition in Europe that being a citizen means making the res publica one’s own, i.e. structuring matters of state and community, the task of public welfare, together.” In this tradition the person is not perceived and understood in the first place as a participant in the market or as a consumer and customer. Europe and the EU, particularly in the current crisis, need citizens who are aware of their responsibility for co-existence in Europe and the EU. To do this, however, they must be given room for participation and co-operation.

“The CPCE would wish very sincerely that in 2013 – i.e. in the run-up to the next elections to the European parliament in 2014 – there would be a lively debate on democracy and participation in Europe and the EU,” says Bünker. “Particularly as Protestant Churches we can make considerable contributions to this debate and at the same time learn more ourselves.”

It would be impossible, however, to speak honestly about the rights of citizens of the EU and at the same time curtail the fundamental rights of others, particularly the refugees and immigrants in Europe. “We should talk about our Civil Rights in Europe, but also about the fact that people attempting to escape to Europe are still drowning in the Mediterranean,” states Bünker emphatically. “Civil Rights and Human Rights must go hand in hand.” Already in 1999 at the summit meeting in Tampere the governments of the EU promised the alignment of the rights of Third World citizens with the rights of EU citizens. “It would be splendid if in 2013 steps were to be taken to keep this promise. Consequently the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe is eager to see how the topic of European Civil Rights is taken up this year.”

Vienna, 10th January 2013.

At present 107 Protestant churches in Europe (including five South-American churches originating from Europe ) belong to the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE). Lutheran, Reformed, United and Methodist along with pre-Reformation churches such as Hussites and Czech Brethren grant each other pulpit and table fellowship on the basis of the Leuenberg Agreement of 1973. The Secretariat is housed in the Severin-Schreiber-Gasse 3, A-1180 Vienna, office@leuenberg.eu, tel. +43.1.4791523.900, fax .110 The CPCE press officer is Mag. Ingrid Monjencs (Vienna), tel. +43.699.18878052, i.monjencs@leuenberg.eu.

10.01.2013 Frank-Dieter Fischbach/Brussels, Ingrid Monjencs

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