The following is an outcome of the recent meeting of Thematic Reference Group on Peacebuilding and Reconciliation of the Conference of European Churches.
BrusselsIn light of three recent papers on defence policy by the European Commission, the Conference of European Churches (CEC) is calling on the European Union to avoid opening way for the militarisation of its budget and structures. The EU should instead strengthen its role as an actor for peace and reconciliation through non-military instruments.
In June, the European Commission presented a communication on a new European Defence Fund, a proposal for the regulation of financial support for the European arms industry, and a reflection paper with possible future scenarios for the future of European defence.
CEC opposes in particular policies that lead to the third of the scenarios described in the Commission’s reflection paper, as this could lead to transforming the EU into a military alliance. The Commission’s communication on the European Defence Fund and the proposal for a European Defence Industrial Development Programme means that the EU will start funding military research (€90 million until 2020) and subsidise the defence industry (€500 million until 2020).
In its commitment to peacebuilding and reconciliation, CEC opposes the diversion of such significant funding from the civilian EU budget to the defence industry and actions leading to turning the EU into a military alliance. Such increases in military funding has adverse effects on security. Moreover, similar levels of investments in other sectors in fact helps increase reconciliation, stability, and prosperity—the very basis of security.
The European Union as a peace project must strengthen civilian conflict prevention and resolution over and above the militarisation of its budget and institutions.
“As churches living out gospel values, we urge the EU to gather all human and financial capacities for peacebuilding as the basis for shared security,” remarked CEC General Secretary Fr Heikki Huttunen. “The European project, in its various manifestations, stands as an example of what can be done through non-military means to build up a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Europe.”
CEC calls on the European Union to instead turn attention to youth unemployment, regional economic development, and social issues, especially in eastern and southern Europe, and asks its Member Churches to engage with national governments in a critical discussion of their role in the future development of EU defence policies.