On Wednesday the 17th of October 2012 was organised in Brussels at the European Commission a seminar under the topic " Promoting Solidarity in the Current Economic Crisis: The Contribution of the Orthodox Church to the European Social Policy". The seminar was organised by the representatives of the Orthodox Churches sited in Brussels (CROCEU) and the rest being in Europe with the Bureau European Policy Advisors (BEPA). During the Seminar participated representatives from; the Ecumenical Patriarchate the Grand Protopresbyter f. Georgios Tsetsis, from the Church of Cyprus the Ver. Right Reverend f. Benedictos Ioannou, from the Patriarchate of Russia the Ver. Right reverend f. Veniamin Simonov, from the Patriarchate of Romania Professor f. Zoran Krstic, from the Church of Greece the Ver. Right Reverend f. Timotheos Anthis, from the Church of Poland f. Andrzej Kuzman, from the Church of Czech Mr. Ondrej Chrast and from the Church of Albania the Reverend Deacon f. Gregory Pelushi. On behalf of the Church of Cyprus they were also present His Grace Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis and the Theologian Mr. Georgios Ioannou. This dialogue seminar is the first organised by the above mentioned organisations.
Introductory speeches were made by Mr. Margaritis Schinas on behalf of BEPA as well as His Eminence the Metropolitan of France Mr. Emmanuel as the coordinator of CROCEU who among others he stressed the importance of the recognition of CROCEU by BEPA as a strategic partner as well as how important is the contribution of the Orthodox Churches for locating social problems and in struggling against the impairment of humans. On behalf of his Excellency the president of the commission Mr. Jose Emanuel Barosso spoke commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Mrs. Maria Damanaki who made an analysis on the topic of “Creating a Sustainable Future for Exceeding the Crisis".
The seminar was consisted by three parts. During the first part which had as topic “The Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Social Structure of the European Society" and was moderated by Mr. Margaritis Schinas they spoke on behalf of the Commission Mrs. Fotini Dionisopoulou from DG ECFIN, the Very Right Reverend f. Veniamin Simonov on behalf of the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Right Reverend f. Zoran Krstic on behalf of the Patriarchate of Serbia and finally the Very Right Reverend f. Timotheos Anthis. Mrs. Dionisopoulou stressed the need of creating programs that they will renew the entire economy of Europe while at the same time they will create new positions of work. As for the Greek crisis Mrs. Fotini Dionisopoulou emphasised the difficulties that have been created at the different levels of society and especially now when recession has reached 6.8% something that the European Union had never estimated. Finally she mentioned that ‘‘...at the end of 2012 Greece will have a budget with positive numbers.’’ The representative of the Patriarchate of Russia stressed that the European Union as well as the International Monetary Funding should take in consideration the local elements of every country before imposing economical programs. On the other hand he said that they must be always thinking of the difficulties and the problems created in various social levels. The representative of the Patriarchate of Serbia emphasised on the problems created by the economical crisis in Serbia. Among others he stressed that according to researches“...Serbians are afraid of losing their job more than getting ill, while at the same time 28% of the Serbians are unemployed.’’ He emphasised at the corruption of the state as one of the greatest problems of Serbia. On behalf of the Church of Greece f. Timotheos Anthis spoke about the social problems that derive from the crisis and for the programs that the Church of Greece is developing such as; rations for people that are unemployed, distribution of clothing and funding families with many children, services that provide medical care and many others. The Very Right Reverend made a specific reference for the taxation of the Church of Greece. He mentioned that Church pays as all physical people’s taxes but in many cases the Church pays more taxes and gave the example of real estate taxation in which all persons pay 1%o when the Church is paying 3%o.
During the second session of the seminar the challenges and the experiences concerning social cohesion in the view of the Orthodox Church were discussed. On behalf of the European Commission spoke Mr. Viorel Mihai who emphasised on the strategy that the Union has for employment as well as the efforts that is doing for making new positions of work. On behalf of the Orthodox Churches they spoke from the Ecumenical Patriarchate the Grand Protopresbyter f. Georgios Tsetsis, Professor Dr. Andrian Lemeni from the Patriarchate of Romania and the Very Right Reverend f. Benediktos Ioannou from the Church of Cyprus. Father Georgios Tsetsis spoke from the perspective of the Orthodox Church on the topic of the diaconia of the body of Christ as a command of His and the rehabilitation of the dignity of man. Society, as father George Tsetsis said, should be healing towards Man and also Churches should try to promote solidarity through society. Professor Dr. Andrian Lemeni mentioned about the good relations that the Patriarchate of Romania has with the state government and the programs that are running together. He mentioned that the Church of Romania is providing education to more than 18.000 people that were about to leave behind education. Father Benediktos Ioannou on behalf of the Church of Cyprus emphasised on the aid physical and spiritual that the Church of Cyprus is providing to the people that have needs. Among other the stressed that ".......the Orthodox Church manifests her contribution in several social programs (e.g. for poverty, migration, reception of refugees and asylum seekers, struggle against injustice and human rights violation, education, nursing homes for old people etc.)
During the last session on the topic ‘‘Solidarity Among Generations’’ speeches were heard by Mrs Agnes Hubert on behalf of the European Commission who explain in detail the policy of the European Union for solidarity between generations as well as the topic of Active Ageism which is the topic that the European union has dedicated 2012 for. On behalf of the Orthodox Churches spoke the representatives of the Churches of Poland, Czech and Albania. All speakers stressed the need of creating an environment of trust especially among the youth which are suspicious towards the European Union.
Common will of all churches representatives is the continuation of this dialogue with BEPA on an annual base while it can take the form of a preparatory dialogue before the meeting of the Religious Leaders with the president of the European Commission Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso.