In January 2012, the Jesuit European Office (OCIPE in Brussels) became the Jesuit European Social Centres (JESC). OCIPE had centres in Brussels, Budapest, Strasbourg and Warsaw. Whereas OCIPE in Strasbourg will remain, the offices in Budapest and Warsaw are now social centres of their respective provinces.

JESC is a separate apostolic and legal entity within the Conference of European Provincials. Through JESC, the Society of Jesus remains committed to a Europe where human rights, freedom and solidarity are the foundation of integration. Europe, especially the European Union, is currently undergoing the most acute political and economic crisis of its existence. While refusing alarmism, JESC continues, in line with the entire history of OCIPE, to seek a critical but constructive engagement with the EU.

Operationally, JESC will be organized in three areas of work:

- European Affairs: We retain an institutional presence in Brussels to the EU Institutions, and with ecclesial and civil society organizations that relate to them.

Social Coordination: We assume the task of social coordination previously carried out directly by the CEP, to encourage and promote the Jesuit European social sector.

Advocacy/Projects: Advocate on issues around corporate exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo (RPAN); on ecology, coordinating an international network which publishes the electronic newsletter Ecojesuit; and through the ‘Migration Desk’, a service to Jesuits involved in the care of migrants. JESC wishes to embody a Jesuit European engagement which authentically expresses Christian faith, remains close to the poor and marginalised, analyses the social reality with competence, and advocates for justice in European political structures.

Ecojesuit has expressed strong support for the Global Climate Strike this September. Organisers of the event are calling on people from around the world to disrupt business as usual by walking out of their homes, their classrooms, their offices, their farms, their factories, wherever they are on September 20 and 27. The event is happening in parallel with the UN General Assembly from September 17 to 30 where global leaders will convene for the Climate Action Summit on September 23 and the Sustainable Development Goals Summit on September 24 to 25 at the UN Headquarters in New York. “The Global Climate Strike is a strategic and opportune time to encourage local and global leaders to embark in greater efforts to address the climate emergency”, said Ecojesuit in its statement. Ecojesuit, which stands for Ecology and Jesuits in Communication, is an online platform for sharing in the critical work of reconciliation and responding to ecological concerns (General Congregation 35 Decree 3). It was initiated by the Jesuit European Social Centre and the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific. “We encourage schools, universities and all places of learning to hold dialogues, discussions and other educational activities that support the climate strike. Climate action need not always begin on the streets; it can begin in the classroom and at home”, the statement said. Ecojesuit also urged Jesuits and collaborators who are already engaged in climate action to use the time leading up to the Global Climate Strike to reflect on and discern how their apostolates can take further action. “In this, the Universal Apostolic Preferences identify collaboration with others as essential and some of us are already heeding this call”, they said. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report in 2018 that found climate change to be accelerating at a faster pace than previously expected, indicating the need for broader and more urgent action. In June this year, Pope Francis declared a climate emergency. “Though the challenges before us are great, we are confident that we can overcome this climate emergency”, said Ecojesuit. Last year, Ecojesuit called on Jesuit institutions to commit to making ethical investments and to divest in fossil fuels. Read Ecojesuit’s statement supporting the Global Climate Strike here:
Edmond Grace, JESC’s secretary for ecology and justice, gives an overview on the achievements and challenges of European climate policy. Not all news relating to climate change is bad. The EU is on track to meet its emissions reduction target of 20% by next year. In fact, there was a 22% reduction of emissions between 1990 and 2017 while the economy grew by 28% over the same period. The main driver behind the emission reductions is innovation, including progress on renewable energy and energy efficiency. All of the above appears on the offical website of the European Union (www.europa.eu) which also tells us that 2020 target excludes emissions from the land sector but includes emissions from international aviation. Nothing is entirely straightforward in this area of climate action and there are those who say that these targets are not ambitious enough. Differences between the Kyoto Protocol and the 2020 targets These developments are linked by the European Commission to the targets set by the Kyoto Protocol, which is part of the COP process. COP stands for “Conference of the Parties” to the United Nations Climate Change Convention which was first adopted in 1992. Kyoto was adopted in 1997 and came into force in 2005. It requires annual reporting on emissions of seven “greenhouse gases” along with measures taken to reduce them. Its first commitment period ran from 2008 to 2012.  We are currently coming to the end of the second commitment period which began in 2012. The Europa website tells us that “the Kyoto targets are different from the EU’s own 2020 targets”. We are not told why this difference exists. Why, for instance, do Kyoto targets cover land use but not international aviation, while EU targets cover international aviation and not land use? These differences are not fortuitous. They play a significant part in the ongoing role of powerful vested interests in the development of climate action policy. The 2030 EU climate and energy framework has been in place since 2014 and, as with the 2020 targets, is based on the Kyoto process. The commitment is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, increase renewable energy input to 32% and increase energy efficiency by at least 23.5%. The plan allows for an upward revision of these targets in 2023, though last year, in the lead up to Katowice, Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, was confident that emission reduction would reach 45% by 2030. He suggested this as a new target. Powerful vested interests Fourteen EU member states including France and Germany had requested such a target and some of them wanted it to be as high as 55%. At the last moment however, Angela Merkel, demurred after the Federation of German Industries, announced its opposition to “ever more ambitious goals”. Poland and other eastern European states were already of this view which, with Merkel’s, support, prevailed. In any discussion on climate change policy it is easy to get lost in one of two ways – or both! Firstly the sheer complexity of some provisions is such that few outside select group of technical experts can understand the detail. Secondly, the array of powerful vested interests at work in this area are in the best position to employ those with greatest expertise and to use them to make the issues even more complex. With climate policy, there is no simple solution – no silver bullet – and if anything is to be learnt from the events from the past year, well intended provisions can lead to discouraging results. The gilets jaunes phenomenon reflects a legitimate sense of grievance on the part of those left behind by the neo-liberal dominance of recent decades, but it also feeds into a political narrative in which the governed are seen as the victims of those who govern. Care for our common home The challenge in the forthcoming elections is to find political representatives who are able to imagine a future in which humanity has triumphed over the dangers which currently threaten us and where we share a common home with pure air, fresh clean water and fertile wholesome earth. It’s a tall order for this generation of politicians, but they will have to learn to strike the note of pathos. The only way to challenge the self-centred world of populism is by generating hope. Climate policy poses a unique challenge not just with regard to what must be done but in relation to how the issue itself can affect us. To put it mildly, it can be discouraging. If we fail to stand well back and take a simple look at this planet which we all share, then the love, which we need to care for it, will wither. The love in one person, against the background of this reality, may seem a puny thing but this puny individuality is the only form which human love takes on this planet. It’s like life itself which cannot exist apart from the puny single cells which make up every organism on earth. Unless we experience to some degree this combination of fragility and power, all talk about politicians, and policies and elections, is futile. In other words, we need hope. It is vital if we are to face the dark side honestly and to challenge what we find. Edmond Grace SJ, JESC This article has been published in ‘Europeinfos’ the newsletter of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU and the Jesuit European Office
The directors of the Jesuit Social Centres of Europe gathered in Brussels on May 6-7 for two full days of meetings and field visits. The meeting focused on two topics: Listening to the cry of the poor and taking action to protect our Common home (our Planet). The daily work of Jesuit Social Centres concentrates on three main areas of work: research/reflection, education and publishing while advocacy activities transversally cut across these areas by establishing and nurturing relationships with elected officials and other socio-political actors in order to respond to unjust structures that exist within society today. The Directors who attended this conference were from: Aggiornamenti Sociali (Milano), Centre Avec (Brussels), Centre de Recherche et d’action sociales (CERAS, Paris/Saint Denis), Centro cultural Brotéria (Lisbon), Cristianisme Justícia (CiJ, Barcelona), House of Dialogue (Budapest), Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC, Brussels), Zentrum für Globale Fragen (at Hochschule für Philosophie, Munich). The work of the conference started sharing regional and country updates and a presentation by Baudouin Van Overstraeten, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service Belgium, who talked about the dead-ends of migration policy in this Country. Listening to the cry of the excluded To move from theory to practice, Fr. Rožič along with the other directors and members of his staff went to Parc Maximilien and Gare du Nord. They met with people in need at the Gare du Nord, they then listened to the witnessing and requests of Helen Trabelssi, one of the leaders at the humanitarian hub of the Citizens’ Refugee Support Platform, a Belgian civil society initiative that provides food and medical treatment to migrants and homeless people. Another social issue of great importance in Brussels is the prevention of extremism. For that reason, the Directors had a door-to-door tour and dinner in Molenbeek, the neighbourhood in Brussels known for having hosted terrorist involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks of 2015 and 2016. The UZinne project hosted the Directors and Jesuit Social Centers staff in a squatted house along the canal’s former industrial neighbourhood. The menu was based on the concept of avoiding the waste of food. Every day UZinne collects unsold ingredients from supermarkets. The project also offers artistic projects in painting, photography and music. Listening to the cry for our Common home On Tuesday morning on 7 May, the Directors had breakfast with Philippe Lamberts, MEP and Co-President of the European Greens and Free Alliance Group. To learn more about the young people demonstrating for a better planet, the group of Directors also met with Bénédicte Rossetti, a Belgian school teacher involved in mobilisation for climate action and justice.  “The aim of the meeting was to listen to ourselves and to the world - said Peter Rožič SJ - we can live better if we share our experiences as Directors and most importantly as peers.”
Combining career development with spirituality: The European Leadership Programme is a unique project in Brussels. “I was looking forward to a programme inspired by the founding Christian democratic fathers of the European Union,” said Kamil Mikulski, a 27-year-old from Poland, introducing himself. Kamil is one of the five fellows the JESC (Jesuit European social centre) selected for the European Leadership Programme (ELP) started on 1st March this year. Kamil is interested in geopolitics and intelligence security. In his vision, the European Union of the future will have a common European security agency.    Kamil Mikulski, Magdalena Smenda, Francesco Pisanò, Ismail Targuluyey Every year, thousands of postgraduate students arrive in Brussels searching for a path to their career.  Many of them focus on their personal ambitions; many try to find a meaningful experience through an internship in the European institutions. Often they do not find it.  Perhaps it is not just a job that they need - it is a mentor. That was the experience of Kamil who had several work experiences but then decided to do something different and joined the ELP in Brussels. Based on the idea of combining career development with spirituality, the ELP is a project run by the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC), supported, among others, by the Bishops Conferences in the EU. Ismail Targuluyey, 26 years-old and from Azerbaijan, is also an ELP fellow.  He is keen to learn about the existing policies of the EU on education, agriculture, innovation and technology. "I want to see this same sort of development in my own country," he said, hoping for a better future for Azerbaijan.   The five segments of the ELP   Politics, learning, coaching, immersion (in volunteering with people at the margins) and community are the five themes that fill the time of the fellows this semester and those coming in the further semesters. "Coaching is my favourite,” said Magdalena Smenda, a 26-year-old from Poland. “I hope to discover what I can do professionally."  And they enjoy weekends at a spiritual retreat outside of the city to help make them better know themselves, away from daily distractions. This is the same kind of spiritual retreat that Peter Rožič SJ, along with other Jesuits, organises for entrepreneurs and politicians such as Lojze Peterle.   Mr. Lojze Peterle Mr. Peterle is a politician from the New Slovenian party and a member of the European Parliament.  He served as Prime Minister of Slovenia from 1990 to 1992 and then as the country’s Foreign Minister. He is also one of the prominent lecturers at the ELP.  During his meeting with the ELP fellows on 20th March, he talked about his political experience during a time of transition in Slovenia at the end of the communist system.  The fellows appreciated how engaging he was when talking about his own personal growth as a man of faith during the most difficult years of his life. “Being a leader has been a gift to serve my people,” Peterle said. His values, he concluded, are rooted in human dignity and social justice. Mr. Philippe Lamberts These same principles are shared by another MEP, Philippe Lamberts, from the Green group in the European Parliament, who gave a lecture to the ELP fellows on 21st March. “When the world is uncertain,” he said, “when the circumstances evolve and they are unpredictable or harsh, you need a very good compass to find your way.” His compass has always been directed towards the idea of the equal dignity of the human being. “You find it in the Gospel,” he said about equality, “just as it is in the Universal Declaration Human Rights.” The good news for aspiring new fellows is that a new semester of the ELP will start in the Autumn of 2019. Registration opens in July. It will be a great occasion to once again bring politicians and academics, such as Herman Van Rompuy, former European Council President, together with a younger generation of fellows wanting to develop their personal commitment to politics, faith and justice. For more information follow the ELP on Facebook. by Susan Dabbous,JESC communications assistant
A comprehensive six-month programme in Brussels. ‘‘We are happy to announce that this February, JESC will inaugurate the ELP. We will offer committed young Europeans a fellowship experience of professional training that will help them learn to guide ​our society with political virtue and Christian principles.” General Video: https://youtu.be/JxhKk8h9BEU Learning Segment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqsEWUR649o&t=6s The ELP is a Brussels-based project where you, an emerging leader, will develop skills through theoretical and practical methodologies by living together with your fellows for six months. ​The activities will consist of five interrelated segments: You will be immersed in the administrative and political life of E.U. institutions and have the opportunity to meet with political leaders in Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg and beyond. You will participate in modules and workshops presented by high profile academics and practitioners in order to develop your leadership skills and stimulate reflection and discussion. You will be immersed in a voluntary experience of living in and serving a marginalised community. You will receive spiritual guidance and discernment training. ​You will live in, and enjoy, a community of friends that is located in the heart of Brussels. ​​ ​The goal of ELP is to contribute to the formation of spirituality and to build on own calling, this way gaining tools for managing ​the life of a leader. ​Thanks to retreats, on-going formation, spiritual direction, sharing of experiences in groups and community life, those chosen will enhance their self-knowledge so as to understand others in a deeper way. An essential element is the experience of living together under one roof as a community. This experience will focus on building character through community life and common policies, such as spiritual training, environmental vigilance and international hospitality. Applications are now open! Join this adventure for hearts and minds to navigate the challenge.
Following the successful weekend at “La Pairelle” last September, JESC co-organised a panel discussion, along with the Chapel for Europe, who graciously hosted the event. The theme was on “Rediscovering the European Common Good”. Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the European Council, courteously agreed to act as keynote speaker to set up the panel discussion. In his keynote speech, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy gave three examples, during his time as President of the European Council of what he referred to as “applied ethics”: The banking crisis exemplified the need for trust in institutions, “It was ironic that the banks, in which the public had huge confidence, were saved by politicians, who were not trusted at all by large parts of the population.” The role of current economic growth models in Europe and the problems of adaption to fundamental societal change: “Our growth model has changed dramatically in the course of the last several decades. Wrongly, this is often presented as if we still live in a purely capitalist system. Public authorities play an ever-growing role. The main problem is that companies are working internationally, while the countervailing powers are still too national.” The recent migration and refugee crisis, which are bound up with identity and morality in leadership: “The recent crisis, the multiple crisis, was also a moral crisis. A balance had to be found between ‘ethical idealism and political realism’, between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility, between politics as the art of the possible and politics as the art of the necessary.” On the topic of European culture, Mr. Van Rompuy discussed the concept of a common base in a plural society, discouraging the idea of “absolute unity” as an objective in a peaceful and stable society and nothing the necessity of people-to-people contact especially among young people in a time of tablets and smartphones. You can read the full speech of Mr. Van Rompuy, here. After Mr. Van Rompuy's speech, reactions and contributions followed by the panellists of the evening; Marie de Saint-Chéron of Safran, and member of the “Passion for Europe” group, Arch. Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ (President of COMECE), and Rev. Christian Krieger (President of CEC). Martin Maier SJ, Secretary for European Affairs at JESC, moderated the panel. During the discussion which followed, Marie de Saint-Chéron agreed that “common good” is more than solely a European issue, but a broader, moral issue in the world. Archbishop Hollerich added that the EU is the object of study in countries like Japan, where regional tensions are palpable. On the topic of unity in COMECE, he also noted that the bishops, like the politicians and citizens, are divided on political issues. Reverend Krieger stressed that diversity in Europe should not be underestimated. The evening was concluded with a convivial reception in the Chapel’s lobby. Read also the "Passion for Europe" document