At this meeting, the Archbishop of Cyprus Mr. Chrysostomos II was represented by Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis, Director of the Representation of the Church of Cyprus to the E.U.
Twenty-two Senior Representatives from the Christian (Orthodox, Catholiques, Protestants), Jewish, Muslim religions as well as from the Buddhist communities met in Brussels and discussed effective ways of rights and liberties with a view to build a Partnership for democracy and shared prosperity between Europe and its neighbourhood.
This was the seventh in a series of annual meetings launched by President Barroso in 2005. This is the second time that the meeting takes place in the context of the Lisbon Treaty which foresees in its Art 17 that the Union maintains an open, transparent and regular dialogue with religion, churches and communities of conviction. The meeting testifies once again of the importance that the European institutions give to this dialogue.
Mr. José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President said: Our task and ambition is to promote democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, human rights and social justice not only in Europe but also in our neighbourhood. I strongly believe these challenges cannot be met without the active contribution of the religious communities. Today s discussion confirmed our common commitment to the promotion of democratic rights and liberties, including freedom of religion and of belief.
Mr. Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament added: Religious communities are of paramount importance for the social fabric in EU countries. This is also true for the dynamic changes in our neighbourhood. The European Parliament always stressed that the freedom of religion or belief is one of the most fundamental human rights. In order to be fully effective, as part of its neighbourhood policy, the EU needs to cooperate on the ground with religious groups on issues ranging from education and health care to rebuilding post-conflict societies.
Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council said: Let us not forget history. It is on the march in North Africa and the Arab world. This long march to freedom and justice. Precisely the values that are rooted in the European Treaties. This is not then the time for us Europeans, to become less open, less tolerant, more selfish or materialistic, even more racist. Values can not survive without spiritual, religious or ethical impetus. This is where you can play a major role. Nobody has a monopoly on the great human values which give meaning to our lives and our societies. But without this impetus and without this drive, everything may collapse. We must be conscious of this.
In his speech Bishop Porfyrios of Neapolis among other said: ... It has not escaped our notice, however, that in countries such as Egypt, the minority Coptic Christians have become the target for the venting of religious fanaticism. Similar incidents against Christians have been observed in other countries of the region, most notably in Iraq. These grievous incidents, which violate the religious freedom of peaceful citizens must be halted immediately, justice must be done and the danger of further escalation be avoided.
Unfortunately, serious violations of religious freedom are taking place within the European Union too, and specifically in Cyprus. The occupation forces of Turkey, which have controlled 37% of the island since July 1974, do not allow access to a large number of Christian religious monuments, their maintenance or their restoration. As recently as in March this year (specifically on March 13, 2011) they detained former and current Members of the European Parliament who attempted to enter a Christian church in the sealed-off town of Famagusta.
The authorities of the illegal regime, in violation of basic human rights, refuse to allow bishops and other clerics to hold religious services. They halt or interrupt the church services attended by the few remaining enclaved Christians in the Karpass Peninsula. They have transformed churches into cultural centers, warehouses, stables and mosques while still others are demolished with bulldozers.
We request that the European Institutions exercise their political, economic and other influence over Turkey in order to secure and protect the religious freedom of the Christian residents of Cyprus, a freedom that is a prerequisite for every other type of freedom.
We, the Church of Cyprus, are committed with all the means at our disposal to the common struggle for the prevalence of universal values in Europe and throughout the world.
After the press conference a business lunch followed at which the participants had the opportunity for their last suggestions.
The discussions took place in a frank and open spirit. The faith leaders from thirteen EU Members States (United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, France, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Romania, Greece, Cyprus, Poland, and the Netherlands) and from third countries (Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina) welcomed the EU s determined and renewed engagement with its nearest neighbours. They expressed their readiness to work side by side with the European institutions to promote democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms which are indispensable in the building of pluralist and democratic societies.
Vice-President of the European Parliament Laszlo Tokes, Vice-President of the European Commission Viviane Reding, Commissioner John Dalli, Commissioner Stefan Fule and Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom also participated in the meeting.
Above: Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Mr. Jersey Buzek, President of the European Council, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and twenty-two Senior Leaders met in Brussels and discussed the theme: A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity: a common willingness to promote democratic rights and liberties.