Bishops Note Lack of United European Society

Laments Turnout for Election to European Parliament

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BRUSSELS, Belgium, JUNE 9, 2009 ( The less than 43% turnout for European Parliament elections indicates that a «European civil society is still missing,» according to the president of the European bishops.

Bishop Adrianus van Luyn of Rotterdam, Netherlands, president of the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), congratulated the winners of the June 4-7 election.

According to a statement from the bishops’ commission, the prelate expressed his hope that «dialogue between the Churches and the EU Institutions, especially with the European Parliament, will be deepened for the sake of human dignity and the common welfare.»

But, Bishop van Luyn lamented the 42.9% voter turnout.

He said: «Such a low turnout is all the more inexplicable as the European Parliament will stand to gain additional influence and competences when the Lisbon Treaty comes into force.»

«The low turnout indicates that a European civil society is still missing,» the prelate added. «Compared to the single market there has been too little focus on civil society. The European institutions, the national governments, the political parties and perhaps even the Churches should therefore ask themselves: Was our contribution big enough to raise the European conscience of our fellow citizens?»

The bishops’ commission statement contended that European integration is today «more than ever important.»

Citing circumstances like the worldwide economic crisis, climate change and the food crisis, the statement affirmed that «there is in fact no alternative to a united Europe speaking with one voice and standing up for justice and peace on its own continent and in the world.»

Over the course of its more than 50 years of existence, the parliament has changed from a consultative legislature to one with the power to vote on or amend two-thirds of all European Union laws.

The parliament can also amend the union’s budget, approves candidates for the European Commission, the EU administration and the board of the European Central Bank.

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