Policy Dialogue Meeting on ‘The Challenges of Religious Diversity in EU Law and Policy’, 30 June 2011, Brussels

On 30 June 2011, the European Parliament hosted the second RELIGARE Policy Dialogue Meeting on ‘The Challenges of Religious Diversity in EU law and Policy’, co-organised by CEPS, the Catholic University of Leuven and MEP Sophie In ’t Veld. The event brought academics together with policy makers from the European Parliament and Commission, members of civil society and religious organizations to debate ways to reconcile Europe’s growing diversity of religions and beliefs with its liberal democratic traditions. A spectrum of views were heard, from those arguing for less religion in politics to those who contended that only greater efforts on the part of EU governments to accommodate plural religious beliefs could ensure equality between faith groups in 21st century Europe. More than 120 participants attended the event.

While the meeting allowed partners  of the RELIGARE project to test policy recommendations for EU and national lawmakers, it also highlighted the limitations of top down (legislative) solutions, and the importance of bottom up efforts to change attitudes, promote dialogue and mutual understanding.

 

The event was divided in three main panels focusing on different research areas of the RELIGARE project. The first panel explored the issues related to religious freedom and non-discrimination on the basis of religion and beliefs in the workplace as well as special provisions made in the area of labour law for churches and religious-ethos companies.

 

The second panel examined religious and other symbols in the public space and the fundamental question of to whom the public space belongs, and who has access to it. What is the place of the EU in building a more inclusive public space, for instance with regard to education, religious symbols and religious dress?

 

The third panel addressed issues of State support in the context of increasing diversity: which religions are subsidised, in which (hidden) ways, and what is the support to nonreligious convictions, as well as other intermediary organisations? How are these questions of representation and balance relevant at EU level?

 

Finally, Prof. Marie-Claire Foblets (project coordinator) drew general conclusions on the challenges – and policy responses – to questions raised by religious diversity at EU level, particularly in light of the changes brought by the Lisbon Treaty, the legally binding nature of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the EU’s future accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.