30 Sep 2010

The Place of Religion in European Union Law and Policy: Competing Approaches and Actors inside the European Commission

Joanna Parkin / Sergio Carrera

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While the EU has no explicit legal competence in the sphere of religion and the management of relations with faith communities, religious concerns have taken on increasing importance within the legal and institutional framework and policy discourses of the European Union in the last years. This paper provides an overview of how religion and issues of religious diversity are being framed and addressed in EU law and policy by undertaking a critical analysis of the ways in which EU law and policy deal with, engage and understand religion at the policy level of the European Commission.
Through an examination of EU legislation and both formal and informal policy initiatives in the fields of citizenship and fundamental rights, non-discrimination, immigration and integration, social inclusion and education and culture, this paper demonstrates that there is a complex and highly heterogeneous patchwork of EU normative approaches delineating the relationship between religion and the EU. These competing framings, very much rooted in the institutional structures of the Commission services, have important implications for discretionary power and sovereignty of the EU member states and for the coherence of European Union policies.
This Working Paper falls within the scope of RELIGARE (Religious Diversity and Secular Models in Europe – Innovative Approaches to Law and Policy), a three-year research project funded under the Socio-economic Sciences & Humanities Programme of DG Research of the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme. For more information about the project, please visit: www.religareproject.eu.