Committee of Representatives of Orthodox Churches to the EU: Mission Possible

by Archpriest Antony Iliin.

On March 17, 2010 in Brussels the Committee of Representatives of Orthodox Churches to the EU has initiated its work. As the first step it issued a Communique describing the importance of a dialogue between the European institutions and the Orthodox Churches in the context of the Lisbon Treaty.

The creation of such a Committee is a response to the today’s challenges. As from December 1st 2009 the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union took effect. In its 17th Article it states the position on constructing an open, transparent and regular dialogue of the EU with Churches on the ground of their identity and their specific contribution to the reality of the United Europe.

No doubt that a fostering of such a dialogue will require a new quality level of interaction by the representatives of the Orthodox Churches in Brussels. The working out of the coordinated interorthodox position regarding the legislative and political initiatives of the Comission, the Parliament and EU Council directly involving both the orthodox identity, the human rights and dignity in most various spheres is crucial by the creation of an institutional mechanism of consultations between the EU Institutions and Churches.

It is clear that there are expectations on the side of the European Union that all Christian Churches would speak with one voice. But the one voice is not merely a singular voice. It is for us above all a symphony of voices of the Local Orthodox Churches. None of the existing inter-Christian organizations acting at the European Union is not capable of speaking on behalf of the Churches of the Tradition even though they count some of the Orthodox Churches among their members.

Giving all due importance to the consensus, based on the search of a compromise, it becomes nothing more than “a minimum common denominator” in case of taking into account the variety of opinions of all Christian confessions and therefore it is not capable of expressing of an Orthodox identity.

The Committee of Representatives of Orthodox Churches to the EU is called to make visible the presence of the global Orthodoxy both for the decision-taking political elites and for an expert community and mass-media in Brussels. Based on a genuine dialogue, a witness of the Orthodox civilization’s values which are spread out from Vancouver to Vladivostok can help to see the new perspectives of Europe.

Europe is a common space united not only by aqui communaitare, the Roman law, the Renaissance culture and the Enlightment project but above all it is united by the idea of freedom and dignity of a human person created according to the image of God, by the idea of Christian personalism and sobornost. Ignoring them makes the whole of the European project lose its content and its historical mission.

The initiative of creating of the Committee of Representatives belongs to Metropolitan Hilarion, the chairman of the Department of external Church relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and to Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, the representative of the Constantinople Patriarchate to the EU who generously agreed to assume the function of the moderator of the Committee. The initiative was taken up by Metropolitan Athanasios of Ahaia, the representative of the Church of Greece and by Bishop Porphyrios of Neapolis, the representative of the Church of Cyprus, as well as the Patriarchate of Romania.

The Commitee of the Repreentatives is not a formal structure but an efficient platform for dialogue and coordination of that kind of cooperation with the European Institutions which is already being realized by each local Orthodox Church present within the member-countries of the EU.

In the framework of promotion of a mutual agenda, articulating their concerns related to the specific regions and communities the Orthodox Churches holding their Representations to the European Union keep on being competent actors in dialogue with the EU in person of their Representations. They do not cede any authority to the Committee of the Representatives in the framework of some ‘above-church competence’.

The Committee is not going to become an ‘umbrella structure’ and it represents not the Orthodox Churches as such but only its members i.e. the acting chairmen of the Representations, which doesn’t underestimate the value and importance of the aims facing the Committee.

Holding the briefings, round tables, seminars and thematic conferences dedicated to the present challenges of today’s Europe is among the prospects of the Committee. It implies forming the expert groups of all interested partners including the acting Orthodox politicians, media workers, scientific community and NGO’s.

The invitation is extended towards everyone who realizes the crucial importance of the Orthodox witness to the United Europe!

[translated by A.E.]