Press Release No.: 15/03
16 January 2015
Churches led wide-ranging discussions with the Latvian Presidency team on religious freedom and tolerance, climate change, migration, security strategy and conflict prevention and EU neighbourhood policy. Within a week of taking on the Presidency of the European Council, the Latvian Minister of Justice, Dzintars Rasnačs, received a delegation of representatives from the Christian churches of Europe to discuss the Latvian Presidency agenda. The meeting was held on Thursday 15 January at the Ministry of Justice in Riga.
Delegates underlined the importance of dialogue on matters of respect, tolerance, and peace in the midst of diversity in Europe.
The strengthening of the Eastern Partnership dynamic was also discussed in view of the Riga Summit (May 2015). “We believe that ties between the countries involved in the Eastern Partnership need to be strengthened, says Guy Liagre (CEC), “we also welcome this opportunity for cooperation between the churches in Latvia with their international counterparts.”
The Latvian presidency gave oversight of measures on climate protection and the environment in the run-up to the Paris UN Climate Summit (December 2015). “We pleaded that the challenges faced by developing countries in this regard be factored in to any proposals the EU might make at the Paris Summit,” said Fr Patrick Daly (COMECE). ‘The churches in the EU have demonstrated a commitment to energy efficiency in a wide range of micro schemes implemented by local church communities and will continue to do so.”
The elaboration of a new European security strategy and conflict prevention will be impacted by the growing terrorist threat on EU territory. The churches acknowledged the acute concern about internal security but pleaded for a continuing respect for rights and freedoms of EU citizens.
COMECE and CEC representatives also tackled with the Latvian Presidency the unresolved challenges of migration and asylum. Discussion focused on member states’ responsibility to share the duty of hospitality to migrants from third countries, and the churches were keen to make the Presidency sensitive to the specific needs of Christians fleeing persecution.
Minister Rasnačs, while acknowledging that the Latvian EU Presidency was in his early days, gave a frank and measured – albeit tentative – assessment of the difficulties but also of the opportunities in each of these policy areas. He urged the churches to contribute to public debate on these issues. The minister closed the meeting by assuring the visitors from abroad present in the room that the government of Latvia was very committed to dialogue with church communities and that the Prime Minister consulted regularly with religious leaders in a “Spiritual Council.”
• The Most Reverend Zbignevs Stankevics, Archbishop Metropolitan of Riga, Roman Catholic Church
• The Most Reverend Janis Vanags, Archbishop of Riga, Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Latvia
• The Reverend Dr. Guy Liagre, General Secretary CEC
• The Reverend Father Patrick H. Daly, General Secretary COMECE
• Archimandrite Jans (Vladimir Sicevskis), Orthodox Church in Latvia
• The Reverend Dr. Peter Pavlovic, Study Secretary CEC
• The Reverend Drs. Michael Kuhn, Assistant General Secretary COMECE
• Protopriest Nikolajs Tihomirovs, Orthodox Church in Latvia
• Rita Bruvers, Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Latvia
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The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 114 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 national council of churches and organisations in partnership. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Brussels and Strasbourg.
COMECE is the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. It is made up of Bishops delegated by the 27 Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union and it has a permanent Secretariat in Brussels.