World Council of Churches Office of Communication
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29 January - 6 February 2001
Potsdam, Germany

1 February 2001

European market economy must be integrated with social policy, economic justice, says federal president at WCC Central Committee meeting

In a speech that focused on Europe's present and future economy, the president of the Federal Republic of Germany said European market economies must have social controls that include freedom and justice.

"A Europe which does not give social policy a central role will not be able to survive in the long run," said Dr Johannes Rau, in a January 30 speech to the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, meeting in Potsdam, Germany.

Rau noted that the last time the Central Committee met in Germany was 13 years ago, when Germany was divided.

"No one would have dared dream the next meeting would take place in a united Germany," he said. Rau also praised the churches of Germany for the role they played in uniting the country. Church support remains "unforgotten," and the relationship between churches and the government in Germany is good, Rau said.

The president focused most of his address on Europe's economy. "A socially controlled market economy is a just economic order," he said. Europeans must preserve the "welfare state" which provides social protection for its people. Rau said the welfare state is a great cultural achievement in Europe, noting that Europeans spend more on social protection than do the economies of the United States and Japan.

One of the goals of the European Union is to create a social framework for a market economy, Rau said. A common social policy among Europe's 15 social systems has not been sufficiently established or implemented, he added.

"Our global responsibility is to continue to work on a model of an economic order that is aware of social responsibility and builds on cultural roots," Rau said. It is also a social responsibility to serve the basic needs of people living in poverty. Without such attention, the poorest people will not care about values or environmental issues, according to Rau.

"We must continue to work for a world not there, not made, but promised to us," he said. "It's a world which embraces justice, peace and one that overcomes violence."

In response to the president's address, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, said common themes of the WCC and European governments include overcoming violence, addressing issues such as poverty and extending social justice to all people.

In introducing Rau, the Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, WCC general secretary, said the federal president is an active member of the Evangelical Church in Rhineland.

The Central Committee serves as the chief governing body of the WCC between international assemblies. It meets every 12 to 18 months. Its meeting in Potsdam began January 29 and concludes February 6.

Photos from the Central Committee

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.