The Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA) of the European Commission in collaboration with the Church and Society Commission (CSC) and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) organized on 20 June at the European Commission seminar on the topic of "EU citizenship – challenges and benefits”. Speakers were European officials and representatives of CSC and COMECE. The Church of Cyprus was represented by Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis.
The seminar was organized for the EU citizenship year, as 2013 has been declared by the European Commission. European officials explained the rationale and presented the facts of EU citizenship, as well as specific study carried out specifically for this issue. The "Programme for the citizens" was also analyzed.
The orthodox side emphasized that beyond the geographical citizenship, national citizenship and the spiritual dimension. Each citizen has the opportunity and responsibility as child of God, to reach sanctification that makes him citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Many European citizens, of vulnerable social groups (elders, disabled, poor, prisoners, etc.) do not feel to be included in EU citizenship because they do not feel that current European Union programs help them. This is why the role of the Church is important, as it brings together such groups and allows them to express their needs and interests.
EU citizenship does not replace national citizenship but rather complements it. Many EU member states have difficulty in recognizing voting rights to European citizens residing in another member state. Actually some member states are reluctant to cultivate the feeling of participation to the European community (e.g. European flag and anthem).
Regarding the upcoming elections in May 2014, representatives of the church are convinced that if Europeans believe in specific goals, then they will vote. But the question remains whether European citizens have the will for further development and the future of the European idea.