Free for the Future – Responsibility for Europe

The 7th General Assembly of the CPCE in Florence has issued a formal statement to its churches and the general public outlining its stance on the current situation in Europe.

In this statement, the CPCE voices its recognition of the efforts already undertaken to combat the current crisis and concurs that there really is no simple panacea under these complex circumstances. Nonetheless, any concrete proposals must be evaluated in terms of the aid which they provide to those people and societies most affected as well as their potential contribution towards the process of European integration.

The member churches of the CPCE strongly believe that the courage must be gathered to face the real extent and consequences of this current crisis in order to open up new avenues for decisive action. This is not just an acute necessity under the current circumstances, but the very act of facing difficult truths can also be quite liberating in itself. Any ideology that espouses single solutions represents the antithesis of the truth, and, citing the words of Saint John’s Gospel, the churches of the CPCE reiterate their strong belief that “the truth will set you free”.

The General Assembly of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe is critical of the strategy adopted towards tackling the crisis by focussing all efforts on the application of austerity measures and enforcement of budgetary discipline, pointing out that this approach has failed to consider in adequate terms the social repercussions of the crisis. The emphasis so far has been placed quite overtly on budgetary savings way above and beyond any socio-political considerations. Fiscal policy has also been paid rather scant regard in comparison with austerity measures. Public investment in the field of education as a means of tackling youth unemployment, in particular, and higher levels of taxation on high income and assets, even just as a temporary measure, would make quite appropriate attempts to distribute the burdens imposed by this crisis more fairly. Christianity itself espouses the fundamental belief that the strong can bear more than the weak.

The Protestant view that freedom is intrinsically linked with responsibility leads the churches of the CPCE to demand that the principle of this relationship between risk and accountability also be reinstated within the financial sector. Tangible steps in this direction could be achieved by the introduction of a tax on financial transactions alongside the establishment of a European Banking Union.

The statement also goes beyond the CPCE’s proposals for immediate action, raising underlying questions concerning the appropriate economic model. The Protestant perspective of the social market economy views it not just as an economic paradigm but as a whole system of intrinsic values. As such, instead of concentrating on economic growth and market logic alone, conscious efforts must be made towards achieving greater distributive justice, establishing stable social systems and promoting sustainable economies that are aimed at preserving Creation for all.

The General Assembly of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe wants to strengthen the partnerships between churches spread across the whole of Europe and keenly emphasises the need for solidarity and co-operation amongst the community of European neighbours. The challenges now emerging in the 21st century “demand a free and united Europe whose capacity for solidarity does not end at the borders of each individual state, but instead stretches even beyond Europe’s own continental frontiers”, the CPCE’s statement concludes.

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