Since the 12th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) in Trondheim 2003, CCME is in the process of integration with CEC to the benefit of both organizations.
The aim of the integration is to strengthen the churches’ common witness and service on the important issues of migration today. “We have a challenging journey to go. A focal point to make the churches’ commitment and engagement visible shall be a European Churches year on migration in 2010. All the members are called upon to commit themselves to and invest in this journey together.”
The 12th Assembly of CEC asked that CEC and CCME pursue the question of integration. In the succeeding years, the process of negotiations continued.
As in 2004 the added agreement of cooperation had been adopted by the CEC Central Committee, a meeting between the CEC-CCME negotiation group discussed a number of items, like CEC restructuring, future of CEC’s gender related work and further steps.
The CCME General Assembly took note of the progress of cooperation with CEC and the endeavors towards the integration between CEC and CCME and decided to proceed with the integration process.
The CEC-CCME negotiation group had extensive deliberations on issues to be clarified and finalized a Memorandum of Understanding between CEC and CCME, which was adopted by the CCME Executive Committee (ExCom) and CEC Central Committee in November 2007. This memorandum of Understanding set out the basis on which integration between the two organisations would take place.
The memorandum clarifies changes and requirements for both organizations to facilitate the integration taking effect when the CCME Assembly 2008 adopts revised statutes and the CEC Central Committee adopts the structural proposals and clarifies the process for other decisions like membership in CEC.
At simultaneous meetings in Cyprus in October 2008, the CCME Assembly voted to amend its own legal documents in such a way that CCME would become a Commission of CEC; and CEC Central Committee voted to amend its own legal documents, as well as its own staffing plan in order to recognize CCME as a Commission of CEC.
It was recognized by the CEC-CCME Negotiation Group that some issues would still need to be addressed even once the integration had taken effect. A group continues to work on the question of harmonization of the CEC and CCME salary scales. The integration with CCME raises, for CEC, issues in relation to how it defines its own membership. Technical issues around the question of the legal status of the two organisations are still under investigation.
However, with these issues still to be resolved, it is clear that the integration between CEC and CCME represents an important moment in the life of both organisations.
It is an important sign that at this moment of the 50th anniversary of CEC, looking forward with hope, is also building for the future. Building on our shared work of recent years, the integration between CEC and CCME has positive effects for both organisations.
For CCME, it gives access to the wider constituency which the membership and associated membership of CEC represents.
For CEC, it strengthens our witness by enabling us to maintain and develop that clear voice on issues which are at the heart of our common European life, not least issues surrounding migration, which has already been enabled by the close partnership of the last years with CCME.
Both the CEC Central Committee and the CCME Assembly in Cyprus endorsed the concept that the integrated CEC/CCME should, as an early sign of their integration invite the churches of Europe to designate the year 2010 as the Year of Migration. This year was one in which member churches and organisations actively promoted issues surrounding migration. The intention was to assist them in finding ways in which they can both engage with and give great profile to these issues within their own contexts.
In 2013, the Assembly of the Conference of European Churches has opted for a different structure not foreseeing Commissions as working instruments. The CEC assembly includes migration and asylum work under the aims and objectives of the new CEC.
Taking into consideration the conclusions of the CEC assembly (2013), the 19th CCME assembly in Sigtuna (2014) expressed the conviction of its members that migration and asylum, as well as work with and on diaspora and migrant churches are indeed of core relevance for the work of ecumenical organisations in Europe and beyond. Participants stressed that any scenario for the future cooperation shall be measured by the common aim “to enhance and strengthen the visible witness of churches, Councils of Churches, black and migrant churches as well as church-related agencies with and for migrants, refugees and minority ethnic persons”.
The assembly examined different possible scenarios for the future integration of CEC-CCME:
I. The scenario 1: Incorporation of CCME’s work and property in CEC – Dissolution of CCME was not regarded as providing the necessary conditions for giving visibility for effective work in the areas of migration and asylum, and therefore not considered an option.
II. The scenario 2: CCME in CEC – “one in two”. If and when questions like membership and others are clarified this could turn into an option, when CEC could adopt a working model allowing the existence of an agency/entity inside its structure. This model would enhance that both organisations, while remaining legally separate, are seen and governed as one.
III. The third scenario consists of enhanced cooperation between CCME and CEC.
The assembly mandated the Executive Committee to negotiate an agreement with CEC Governing Board allowing for cooperation for the following 3 years while working towards scenario II in terms agreed by both organisations.
The CCME assembly of June 2017 underlined the need for CEC and CCME to deepen the understanding of migration today and to strengthen their impact by cooperating more deeply. Based on CEC commitment to continued work on migration and asylum, and diaspora and migrant churches and following various consultations, both organizations recognized the difficulties for structural integration but agreed for enhanced cooperation.
During the last years, CEC and CCME have strengthened their collaboration and increased working relationships on issues of common interest. In November 2017, CEC and CCME signed a new agreement of cooperation for the period 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2024. They agreed for an evaluation of this agreement by their respective assemblies in 2023 for further steps.