The EU and RELIGION
Initiated in the beginning of the 1990s by the then president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, the EU’s dialogue with religious and philosophical communities was seen as an important instrument of participatory democracy, which would allow for a holistic perspective on the European construction. Consequently, already in February 1993, Delors, at a meeting with European religious leaders, Delors was expressing his conviction that "we won't succeed with Europe solely on the basis of legal expertise or economic know-how. If in the next ten years we haven't managed to give a soul to Europe, to give it spirituality and meaning, the game will be up."
Thereafter the EU Commission established a regular dialogue with religious and philosophical communities throughout Europe. The President Barroso has strengthened the dialogue by organizing an annual meeting with high religious representatives and co-opting the two other presidents of the European Institutions (president of the European Council and the president of the European Parliament).
A step further was made in December 2009, with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon (TFEU), which has lifted the dialogue from good practice to a legal obligation, enshrined in EU’s primary law. Thus, art 17 of the TFEU reads that:
1. "The Union respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States.
2. The Union equally respects the status under national law of philosophical and non-confessional organisations.
3. Recognising their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations."
The European Commission Coordinator for the dialogue between the European Commission and churches, religious associations or communities, philosophical and non-confessional organisations is Mr Vice-President Margaritis Schinas.
The European Parliament also has a vice-president in charge with the dialogue with religious and philosophical organizations in the person of Mr Othmar Karas (EPP, Austria).