During its meeting on 23rd and 24th June the Council of Europe approved the “EU Strategy for the Danube Region” which had already been accepted by the 27 EU states in April. At the heart of the roughly 200 measures stand the economic development, the improvement of the transport infra-structure, the energy sector and the extension of protection for the environment. Additionally, culture, education and tourism are names as goals to be supported.
The General Secretary of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, Bishop Michael Bünker, welcomes the decision of the Council but points out important deficits in the purely economic orientation. “Regrettably the themes of reconciliation and the bringing together of people from different cultural and political backgrounds do not have the weight in the strategy which in the view of the churches would be necessary”, thus Bünker on the occasion of a conference today of the Danube Civil Society Forum in Eisenstadt (Austria). This forum serves as civil society’s accompanying platform for the EU Danube Strategy.
The Danube Strategy does offer “various possibilities for development”, Bünker emphasizes. It draws in non-EU states and so contributes to integration. Bünker adds: “For churches and congregations the possibility is offered with the Danube Strategy of seeking contact across borders more intensively than in the past. Precisely for the Danube region with its tumultuous history this is of great significance.” Inter-cultural exchange, religious tourism, education and culture are themes common to the Danube Strategy and the work of the churches. Bünker called the churches in the region to use the opportunities now being given to contribute with their own special possibilities to the development of the Danube area.
CPCE had participated along with CEC, the Conference of European Churches, and COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences in the European Community, in the public consultation process of the European Commission and welcomed the transnational approach of the strategy in a joint declaration of June 2010. At the same time the churches emphasized the need to strengthen mutual cultural and religious understanding as an essential condition for the development of the region.
Following the Baltic Sea Strategy the Danube Strategy addresses the second European region to which the EU is devoting special attention. It comprises the eight EU countries of Bulgaria, Germany, Austria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary as well as the six further states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and the Ukraine. With its 100 million people the Danube region contains a fifth of the total EU population.
Vienna, 30th June 2011
At present 105 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, email@example.com, tel. +43.1.4791523.900, fax .110 The CPCE press officer is Dipl.theol. Thomas Flügge (Bern), tel. +41.31.3702502, firstname.lastname@example.org.