The document titled “To promote peace in the world, vocation of Europe”, drawn up by COMECE bishops as a contribution to the EU’s Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, entrusted by the European Council to the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Federica Mogherini, is equally orientative and concrete. Unless the outcomes of the British referendum of June 23 dramatically upset the summit’s agenda, a preliminary discussion on the Strategy is scheduled to take place during the European Council at the end of June. The twenty-two political recommendations formulated by the bishops (the document is almost 40 pages long), thanks to the cooperation of an ad hoc working group of Justice & Peace Europe on the external relations of the EU, provides a reflection based on the fact that the EU is a project of peace needed not only in Europe but also, the document states, to ensure that Europe truly lives up to its vocation to promote peace in the world.
The basic foundation. The presentation of the document, held today in the COMECE offices in Square de Meeûs, a few steps away from Community institutions in Brussels, was attended by bishop Jean Kockerols, auxiliary of Malines-Bruxelles and COMECE Vice-President, and Brigadier General Heinz Krie of the European Union Military Staff (EUMS). “The primary task of an authentic European peace policy should be the promotion of pre-emptive peace and the transformation of violent conflicts through means of justice.” The common security and defence dimension of the European integration project should, however, “not be neglected either, along with efforts to create conditions for and promote disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, in Europe and worldwide.” For the bishops this is the overarching guideline that should animate EU efforts in commitment to peace with “immediate and wider neighbours.”
If the European Union “wants to truly live up to its vocation for peace” at internal and external level, it will have to “strengthen the links between internal and external policy instruments”
and “achieve greater policy coherence and consistency”, while political guidance and economic resources will need to be coordinated more systematically. As for the global context, the EU will need to promote “a comprehensive reform of the United Nations system in order to enhance regional representation”, and ensure that the composition of the UN Security Council “reflects the new world realities and is not dominated by particular state interests.”
Preventing, consolidating … For COMECE, European foreign policy will need to be based on three pillars. The first pillar is pre-empting war and consolidating peace: to prevent situations “in which the only choice is between principally unacceptable violent alternatives.” However, this does not mean passivity, but rather a “broad-based action” stepping in at a very early stage, where the seeds of a potentially violent conflict can be transformed and managed in a sustainable way, thus preventing future use of force from a long- term perspective.” Concrete cases include regional instabilities, the poverty of migrants and refugees, the threat of fundamentalist terrorism. In this case, for example, the bishops clearly explain that prevention means “cutting international financial flows for terrorist purposes” or better information sharing and increased intelligence cooperation among Member States and with third-countries, addressing the social, political and religious roots of the radicalisation of particularly young people, or giving due recognition to religious leaders.”
The second pillar is peace through justice. Guided by the premise that everything is closely interrelated, such an approach must take into account every aspect of the global crisis.
There ensues that “human, socio-economic and environmental development should be developed as essential drivers of peace.” The primary tools are human rights, political dialogue and religious justice, along with ecologic and socio-economic justice. In this perspective the bishops made a set of proposals that include: the adoption by the EU of fair and ethical trade schemes, binding rules to combat tax evasion and tax avoidance, up to closing tax havens and the building of an “energy union” to ensure an improved management of energy resources and regulating their extraction and trade.
Defence capabilities, arms control. There also is the security pillar. In line with the social Doctrine of the Church on war, the bishops express “a cautious support for deepening the common security and defence dimension of the European project”, which Nation States should be free to adhere to.
Although they do not mention terms such as “European army” , they leave open the possibility of “effectively pooling European defence capabilities”
along with “a deepened integration of Europe ́s defence industry”, in compliance with international law and in full respect of its institutions, without “reinforce an armament dynamic in Europe and globally.” In fact, the document calls for “more effective and coherent” regulatory frameworks for “arms export control” and for research and technology in the area of defence.