John Lampen from Stourbridge Meeting reflects on the recent Annual Meeting of the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA):
QCEA seeks to influence policy in areas of concern to Quakers – currently migration, climate justice, EU support for the arms trade in Europe and new measures of European “defence”. This is supported by most Yearly Meetings and Quaker groups in Europe, including Britain Yearly Meeting (despite Brexit). A new director, Tracey Martin, has just started.
I felt that its work wasn’t well known to British Friends, and that I could bring back information to Friends in my own area. The work was interrupted by covid, the departure of the director after only a few months in post, and the loss of several programme staff. So I joined the 2022 Study Tour and around twenty of us had an interesting time, visiting the Parliament and Commission, being briefed by their civil servants, and also meeting well-informed lobbyists from groups such as Greenpeace, Saferworld and the European Network against Arms Trade. I am very grateful to Central England Quakers for support with my travel costs. Diana (my wife) hoped to come too but was prevented by health problems.
The links between climate change, poverty, migration, injustice (asylum), the fuel crisis, and military spending demand a joined-up approach, which EU structures find it hard to deliver. The new climate targets will only be achieved by a massive effort and sacrifice in the next six years. Europe and the UK are so ill-prepared to receive migrants in a responsible way that we have created a rich market-place for people-smugglers. Yet our response to Ukrainian refugees proves that measures which we were told were “impossible” can quickly and generously be implemented. There are huge lobbies of arms makers and interested groups with privileged access to EU institutions advocating for increased spending on “defence”. But we were shown that many of their claims are false, and that militarisation seriously compromises the EU as a peace-building institution which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.
And we did hear that not all the news is bad. There is a strong community of concerned campaigning groups who work together. There have been many successful interventions leading to positive policy decisions, and change often occurs rapidly. There are many concerned MEPs, and staff members in the institutions who are aware and listening. More public pressure is needed, and greater awareness of how these three areas of concern interlock. I hope to expand on what I learnt in an article in the next issue of the Area Meeting’s Roundabout Newsletter and encourage support for QCEA which is doing vital Quaker work.