The Danube Region: Taking Differences in Identity and Culture Seriously

CPCE, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, CEC, the Conference of European Churches and COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences in the European Community, are taking part in the consultation process on the EU strategy for the Danube Region.

The European Commission is currently developing a strategy for the Danube Region. Various projects in 14 countries from Germany to the Ukraine are intended to strengthen integration, overcome economic, social and cultural differences and improve environmental conditions around the Danube. CPCE, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, is taking part in the public consultation process along with CEC, the Conference of European Churches, and COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences in the European Community. The process comes to an end with an international consultation in Constanta (Romania) from 10-11 June 2010.

The European churches welcome the transnational approach of the European Commission. “Cooperation and networking across boundaries are immensely valuable”, says the jointly submitted contribution to the consultation. The strategy embraces lands in East and West inside and outside the EU and so can help to advance the process of European integration. However, the churches’own experiences show that such processes require time and patience in order to grow.

Differences of identity and culture are deeply anchored in the region and must not be marginalised. The legacy of the East-West division still weighs heavily, say the churches. Here religion has played a part in various conflicts in the southern and eastern Danube Region. Peace in the region is not something to be taken for granted: “A strengthening of mutual cultural and religious understanding is an essential precondition for the social and economic development of the region.”

In their contribution to the consultation the churches have submitted specific proposals for the Danube Region. These include reconciling work on common history, the integration of minorities with special focus on the Roma, education with an emphasis on civic responsibility, ecological transport and renewable energies to protect biodiversity, involvement of civil society in the overall strategy and the protection of human rights down to the regional and local level.

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