Interview with Dr. Danuta Hübner, EU Commissioner for Poland

Press October 17, 2006

The 2006 EEA (European Evangelical Alliance) and EEMA (European Evangelical Missionary Alliance) General Assemblies opened in Warsaw, Poland on Oct. 17 with an opening address by the Polish Commissioner at the European Union, Dr. Danuta Hübner.

The following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Hübner.

Thank you for taking your time to be here. To start, I want to ask you generally about what you will be speaking about at the opening address.

I will be focusing on where we are as the European Union, why we have a wave of pessimists, and why support for the EU has waned over the last years. I will also stress that values that bring Europeans together since it is this union of values that Europeans care for..

Where does the church fit into all of this?

I think what we should do now in Europe is to contribute to a European dialogue between the elites and the local people on deciding on the future of Europe. I believe this is also the responsibility of all those institutions that work close to the people, such as the church. I also see the responsibility of churches in launching the dialogue of the future of Europe, and that’s why I accepted this invitation to speak. It is part of my duty as a Commissioner to spare no effort to reconnect Europe with the people. In this dialogue, we need the church.

I think the natural characteristic of the church and of pastors in general is to remain in close contact with the people. Because of the way it is organized, the church has the privilege of staying in contact with ordinary people. That is why I believe it is the responsibility of the church as well as it is the responsibility of politicians to help overcome the distance that exists between Europe and its citizens today.

Let me elaborate. I believe part of the role of a pastor is to be close to the local people. This creates a duty for the pastor to try to understand the reasons why there is distance between Europe and its citizens. To put it simply, just as it is the responsibility of the politicians who are in the place of social structures to listen to their citizens, so I believe there is a responsibility for those who work closely with local people to understand where we are as a community. The responsibility and the future of Europe is our common responsibility.

Can you share a little bit about your faith?

I am Roman Catholic, and my faith comes from my parents. I’ve traditionally had many meeting with representatives from protestant churches in Poland over the years. I’ve not only had meetings with the Catholic Church, but also the Protestant Church, especially in preparation for the accession of Poland into the EU in 2003.

What do you believe is the value of holding such a meeting in Poland, especially at this particular time in history?

I value this kind of meeting because it shows that religion and life are intertwined. This dialogue shows us the practical link between daily life and faith.

I am a strong believer in people meeting and talking, and I think that you can understand other people if only you take the chance to talk with them. Half the problem is solved if there is understanding. That’s why I believe that this gathering is a good opportunity for people to meet, talk, and exchange views. If you remain understanding, you are also tolerant and responsible, because problems only begin when people are not willing to talk.

Born in Nisko, Poland, Dr. Hübner is the first Polish Commissioner to the European Union and one of the country’s foremost economists and policymakers. Her roles in Poland’s Government during the past ten years have included Minister for European Affairs, Head of the Office of the Committee for European Integration and Deputy Foreign Minister and Minister Head of the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland. In 2000-2001, she served as the UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva.

Dr. Hübner studied at the Warsaw School of Economics where she gained an MSC and PHD. In 1974, she became a visiting scholar to the University of Sussex’s Centre for European Studies.

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