Letter about the involvement of the religious lobby in the EP
Dear President of the European Parliament,
Dear Members of the Bureau,
As the co-chairs of the European Parliament Platform for Secularism in Politics, and Members of the European Parliament from various political groups, we wish to bring the matter of the independence and the transparency of our institution to your attention.
Notwithstanding the valuable work of Vice-Chairperson, Ms Mairead McGuinness regarding the implementation of the Article 17 dialogue, we are deeply concerned by the propositions submitted to the European Parliament Bureau to enhance it.
On 19 February 2019, partners of this dialogue were consulted on the future implementation of article 17 TFEU. The Report coming out of this consultation exercise will be addressed by the Bureau of the European Parliament on Monday 15 April 2019.
In particular, we would like to raise three issues.
First, it appears that the Report is not based on a full consensus among the organisations that participated in the consultation. The two non-confessional organisations taking part in the consultation voiced their concerns, which appear not to have been properly reflected in the Report. The recommendations appear to endorse mostly the views of the churches present.
Second, and as a consequence, religious representatives are proposed to directly influence the legislative process. This report proposes to organise direct meetings between these representatives and Rapporteurs or Shadows on given files, with the institutionalised support of the Article 17 Secretariat and the Committee Secretariats. This would represent a severe violation of the principle of separation between religions and politics. At a time when independent media such as openDemocracy reveal that 50 million US dollars were transferred by religious extremists to European Christian groups over the last decade, in order to support campaigns against women’s and LGBTI rights, it would be irresponsible to open-up the legislative process to religious organisations. The debates on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention also shows that confessional arguments can be used to curb the prevention of violence against women and girls.
Third, the report suggests that national churches, due to “the wide reach of their ecclesial structures”, could discuss European issues with their membership and leverage policy making by reaching out to their national MEPs, with the support of the EP Liaison Offices in the Member States. As this proposal is far from being supported by all consulted organisations, the Bureau should not support such a proposal.
We have denounced the unbalanced treatment between, on one hand, confessional and, on the other hand, non-confessional organisations by the European Parliament for quite a long time now. Given the vast number of people who do not hold religious beliefs in Europe and the specific agenda of religious groups, it is completely unjustified to reinforce and institutionalise the influence of confessional actors in the EU legislative work.
Article 17 is not meant to facilitate lobby activities. Moreover, as certain religious organisations are exempt from the obligation to register as lobbyists, the proposed arrangements would constitute a highly undesirable and untransparent privileged lobby channel for religious organisations.
For these reasons, we urge the Bureau Members to reject this Report. In light of the serious impact on the everyday life of Europeans, especially those who are already parts of discriminated groups, we request that the question of the participation of religious organisations in European politics is addressed and democratically debated by the full house of the European Parliament. This would allow the next Parliament to hold a democratic debate and decide on this issue of great importance for the independence and transparency of our institution.
Virginie Rozière (S&D)
Sophie in ‘t Veld (ALDE)
Barbara Spinelli (GUE/NGL)
Christine Revault d’Allones Bonnefoy (S&D)
Marie-Pierre Vieu (GUE/NGL)
Ana Maria Gomes (S&D)
Malin Björk (GUE/NGL)
Liisa Jaakonsaari (S&D)
Petra Kammerevert (S&D)
Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA)
Alyn Smith (Greens/EFA)
Julie Ward (S&D)
Monika Vana (Greens/EFA)
Dietmar Köster (S&D)
Edouard Martin (S&D)
Tibor Szanyi (S&D)
Isabelle Thomas (S&D)