Dialogue with Churches, religious associations or communities, philosophical and non-confessional organisations
In today’s diverse Europe, many different churches, religions and philosophical organisations make an important contribution to society. The European Union institutions are committed to an open dialogue with these religious and non-confessional organisations, and the European Parliament actively engages with them on EU policies.
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:
- The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States.
- The Union equally respects the status under national law of philosophical and non-confessional organisations.
- Recognising their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations.
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. The European 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.
The European Parliament has given effect to the Treaty provisions through the designation by its President of a Vice-President responsible for conducting the dialogue. The current Vice-President responsible for Article 17 dialogue is Mr Othmar Karas.
The European Parliament’s dialogue with churches and philosophical organisations is a very important element in keeping Parliament close to the citizens who elected us, for social coherence and the democratic decision-making process. It has been a great honour for me to be put in charge of this dialogue by Parliament’s President Roberta Metsola in my capacity as First Vice-President. It is already the second time, that I take over this responsibility.
If the European project is to answer the challenges ahead, it must remain grounded in reality, close to EU citizens and their everyday lives. Churches, faith groups and philosophical organisations, in all their diversity, are very much part of everyday reality for many of our citizens. They are part of our communities across the cities, towns, villages and countryside of all our 27 Member States.
The EU’s dialogue with them has been defined under Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty. This dialogue sends a clear signal that the EU is far more than just an economic organisation, but is fundamentally about people, their human dignity, and the common good. In a world where every political and social issue seems more and more complex, we really need to keep in mind the values that we have in common.
In order to maintain this focus, our dialogue with religious and philosophical organisations is essential. This is why I feel we can - and must -, together, greatly contribute to a value-based debate on European policies.