"More Europe-for the Sake of People"
Nikolaus Schneider pays a visit to the EKD House in Brussels
April 27, 2010
The acting chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Praeses Nikolaus Schneider, visited the EKD House in Brussels for the first time since taking office. Schneider asked for a debt relief plan and a sustainable financial basis for municipalities at a panel discussion on municipal finances hosted by the Brussels office of the EKD Council representative and by the EU representation of the EKD Social Service Agency. Schneider stated that it was at the municipal level that "people experience and shape democracy." Rev. Klaus-Dieter Kottnik, President of the EKD Social Service Agency, also emphasized that in the area of social work, the church, and its diaconal service in particular, depended on its partnership with municipalities. He added that the financial possibilities of cities were steadily declining. This view was also supported by the treasurer of the City of Wuppertal, Dr Johannes Slawig, who described the situation as "not only worrying, but also depressing." He added that if banks were rescued because they were system relevant, municipalities, because of their important role in consolidating the state and democracy, deserved support all the more. The EKD delegation discussed with representatives of the European Commission and Parliament ways in which the EU could help municipalities within the framework of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. As Slawig explained, EU support was possible in principle. Wuppertal, however, could not take advantage of such support because the relevant financial authorities were no longer able to approve even a small local participation in the costs because "they no longer have any decision-making leeway." Schneider's conclusion from the debate was that the "key tasks of the future will not be tackled on a voluntary basis. A community can only function if it has the power to exercise controls. "We do not need less Europe; we need more-for the sake of people." Sven Giegold, Green Party member of the European Parliament, added that, while the EU was able to sanction violations of community rules on competition, in the area of social policy, it was not allowed to even make recommendations. But economic and social policy were closely connected, he added. The participants in the discussion thus asked that the goal of the EU's "2020 Strategy" to cut poverty by 25 percent by 2020, be underpinned by binding national goals, with reports to be regularly submitted and examined by the Union. Schneider announced he would advocate for the adoption by Germany of a definition of poverty that takes into account the overall social situation. "Indeed, poverty is not only about hunger, it is about being on par with one's neighbor and having a share in society," the acting EKD council chairperson explained. Hanover / Brussels, 27 April 2010 Press Office of the EKD Reinhard Mawick / Patrick Roger Schnabel Background information: The EU has designated 2010 as the "European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion." Local communities in Germany and other EU countries play a major role in the social system. The-in some cases-dramatic financial situation of these municipalities, however, fuels fears that they will no longer be able to play their role as a factor of social cohesion and democratic participation. The EKD and its social service agency, as key partners of municipalities-especially in the area of social welfare-are greatly interested in preserving the latter's capacity to function. The EU's "2020 Strategy" targets ecological and socially-inclusive growth. The EU strategy seeks to come to terms with the consequences of the economic crisis and to prevent future crises by concentrating on three goals: the creation of value-added through knowledge, capacity-building for active participation in an inclusive society, and the ushering in of a competitive, interlinked and greener economy. The participants in the discussion were: Praeses Nikolaus Schneider, acting EKD Council chairperson Sven Giegold, MEP, Green Party Dr. Johannes Slawig, Treasurer of the City of Wuppertal Manuela Geleng, European Commission, Directorate General, Employment/European Social Fund Rev. Klaus-Dieter Kottnik, President of the EKD Diaconal Agency