In today’s diverse Europe, many religions, beliefs and philosophical movements co-exist peacefully and the European institutions are committed to promoting tolerance and mutual respect as important characteristics of our society. The European Union is involved in an open dialogue with religious and non-confessional organisations and the European Parliament actively contributes to these efforts.
Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon, provides for the first time, a legal basis for an open, transparent and regular dialogue between the EU institutions and churches, religious associations, and philosophical and non-confessional organisations. It states:
While the first two paragraphs of this article provide for the safeguard of the special status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities, as well as of philosophical and non-confessional organisations enjoying a comparable status, Paragraph 3 calls on EU institutions to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations.
President Martin Schulz assigned Vice-President Antonio Tajani the responsibility for implementing Article 17 dialogue in July 2014 at the beginning of the 8th legislature. The Vice-President is assisted in this task by the secretariat of the Bureau and other relevant services of Parliament. Parliament hosts several high-level conferences each year, open to all dialogue partners, on topical and relevant themes connected with ongoing parliamentary work and debate.
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The conference focused on the role of women in tackling radicalisation and promoting de-radicalisation in Europe and involved the active participation of Members of Parliament's Women's Rights committee.
A second panel was devoted to assess national and European strategies and projects on the ground. A representative from the European Commission outlined the focus of the EU-wide Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) and presented the main projects carried out by the RAN, highlighting best practices and common strategies among Member States.
2015 was marked by the terror attacks carried out in Paris, both in January and November, which has heightened levels of fear and distrust across Europe and the wider world at the threat now posed to open, free and tolerant societies by such violent and ideological extremists. The worrying rise in religious persecution, especially of Christian communities in the Middle East as a consequence of radical jihad, was also a determining feature in the discussions. The themes of last year's dialogue thus reflected such concerns and attempted to address the rise of radical fundamentalism and the role of religion in promoting tolerance and respect for human dignity (March) as well as the role of education in tackling it (November). An ad hoc event in December sought to shed some light specifically on Christian communities in many parts of the world which are under existential threat from extremists and persecuted, tortured or killed on a regular basis solely because of their faith.
"I am honoured to be coordinating Parliament's implementation of the dialogue with churches and non-confessional and philosophical organisations as foreseen in Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. Parliament endeavours to reach out to stakeholders in industry, consumer groups, employee groups and consumers in many areas of policy but this particular dialogue is vital to a broader set of issues that affect the very cohesion of our society.
We are currently experiencing a rise of radicalism and fundamentalism that is stretching the limits of tolerance in many communities. Only by addressing the subject openly and objectively can we hope to find possible solutions or uncover examples of best practice from around Europe that can be shared. I am especially keen that our regular dialogue is both focussed and fruitful, that it builds on previous discussion, is shared and echoed in Member States and filters down to the local level. In essence, a practical rather than a theoretical dialogue and one that produces results rather than just rhetoric."
As Europe deals with attacks, main faith leaders discuss paths to tolerance with MEPs (24 March 2015)