By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The Social Affairs Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) released a statement on Thursday, offering the Catholic Church’s contribution to the proposed recovery plan of the European Union.
The statement, entitled “Let Europe recover through justice,” calls on the EU to renew the spirit of solidarity and agree on a recovery plan that puts justice at its centre amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking about the statement, the President of COMECE’s Social Affairs Commission, Bishop Antoine Hérouard, pointed out that “this crisis may be an opportunity for the European Union to take an important step forward in asserting and expressing its solidarity, supporting Europe to recover through ecological, social and contributive justice.”
COMECE welcomes the idea of a recovery fund that enables the EU to raise resources to support members states through grants and loans.
The idea, notes the statement, is in line with Pope Francis’s Easter Message call for “further proof of solidarity, also by turning to innovative solutions.” COMECE encourages EU member states to allow discussions be directed towards “the common good guided by a spirit of solidarity” through ecological, social and contributive justice.
The statement recalls that the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed our “dependence as well as our disastrous impact on a heavily fragile eco-system.” The novel coronavirus – which causes the lung disease Covid-19 – “made us realize that we cannot live healthy on a sick and polluted planet.”
In this regard, say EU Bishops, “we should acknowledge that the Covid-19 pandemic is linked to a larger socio-ecological crisis” that is visible through “climate change, biodiversity loss and its devastating consequences on the most vulnerable.”
COMECE invites the EU to seize this opportunity “to work for radical change and reinforce efforts towards integral development and thinking towards the future.” The Bishops also welcome the proposal to integrate the European Green Deal as a part of the EU recovery plan.
In implementing the recovery plan, the Bishops call on the EU to “care about and respect the needs of the most vulnerable.”
COMECE proposes that this can be done by increasing the funding available in already existing programmes that goes to help the poor, the homeless, migrants and asylum seekers.
It also suggests that the EU should work on a contingency plan that will extend the current financial framework by one year in the case that there is no Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) agreement by January 2021.
“We should ensure that nobody is able to shy away from his or her responsibility to contribute to the recovery process in Europe,” insists the COMECE statement.
In response to the crisis, European Bishops call on the EU to agree on a common corporate tax base and urgently curb the structures of corruption and tax evasion. This is because the pandemic has “revealed to everybody the importance of sound public infrastructures and services.”
In conclusion, the COMECE statement invites EU and national public authorities to find new hope for Europe in a “joint recovery that expresses the ambition to work for a just future in a renewed spirit of solidarity.”