The discussions ranged from the challenges posed by populism and intolerance to the vital role of education and grassroots outreach in improving integration and social cohesion in Europe. The leaders agreed to work closely with the Commission to ensure European values are embraced in the context of migration and integration.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "Religious leaders play a pivotal role to spur the integration and participation of all their members in Europe as full Europeans, no matter the place of their cradle, no matter their creed. Through these dialogues we identify those common fundamental values that bind us, instead of harping on the issues that divide us."
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, who also participated in the event, said: "Reaching out to all communities, including the different religious ones, is essential for creating and maintaining a cohesive and inclusive society for all. With the rise of nationalism, xenophobia and extremism, we must ensure that our society remains welcoming – especially to those fleeing from war and in need of international protection – while preserving its core values and principles."
The meeting took place within the framework of the ongoing dialogue with churches, religious, philosophical and non-confessional organisations as enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty (Art 17 TFEU) and followed an annual meeting with philosophical and non-confessional organisations, which took place on 30 June 2016.
High-level meetings and working level discussions are held regularly between the European Commission and churches and religious associations and communities as well as philosophical and non-confessional organisations. Today's meeting with religious leaders is the 12th in the series of annual meetings launched by the Commission in 2005. The dialogue with churches, religions, philosophical and non-confessional organisations has been enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty under Article 17 since 2009.
On 7 June 2016, the Commission adopted an Integration Action Plan of Third-Country Nationals outlining a set of actions ranging from education, employment and access to services to non-discrimination and social inclusion. The Commission puts a particular emphasis on promoting inclusive education and European common values as well as reaching out to young people.
The Commission has taken a number of steps to implement the Paris Declaration on promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education, adopted on 17 March 2015. In 2016, the Erasmus+ programme is making more than €400 million available to transnational partnerships to develop innovative policy approaches andpractices at grass-roots level. Under the Europe for Citizens Programme 2014-2020, the Commission co-finances projects raising awareness of EU values, notably tolerance, mutual respect and promoting civil society engagement. The Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme 2014-2020 supports projects focusing on preventing and combatting racist and xenophobic hatred and intolerance, as well as projects promoting the development of tools and practices to prevent, monitor and combat online hate speech, including through the development of positive counter-narratives.
For More Information
List of Meeting Participants
- His Excellency Metropolitan ATHENAGORAS of Belgium, Exarch of the Netherlands and Luxemburg
- His Excellency Heinrich BEDFORD-STROHM, Bishop of Bavaria and Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD)
- Imam Hassen CHALGHOUMI, Imam of Drancy (France) and former President of the Conference of Imams of France
- His Excellency Arie FOLGER, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community in Vienna
- His Excellency Albert GUIGUI, Chief Rabbi of Brussels and Permanent Representative to the EU Conference of European Rabbis
- Imam Benjamin IDRIZ, Director of the Islamic Community in Penzberg
- H.E. The Right Reverend Bishop Robert INNES, Anglican Bishop in Europe
- Her Excellency Antje JACKELÉN, Archbishop of the Church of Sweden
- Elder Patrick KEARON, President of the Europe Area of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- His Excellency Jean KOCKEROLS, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels and First Vice-President of COMECE
- His Excellency Bishop Czeslaw KOZON, President of the Nordic Bishops' Conference
- Imam Yahya PALLAVICINI, President of the "Comunità religiosa Islamica" in Italy
- His Excellency POLYCARPUS, Metropolitan and Patriarchal Vicar of the Netherlands, Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
- His Beatitude RASTISLAV, Archbishop of Prešov and Primate of the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church
- Ms Lakshmi VYAS, President of the Hindu Forum of Europe