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26th Apr 2019

Lisbon Treaty strengthens role of religion says EU

  • A number of religious and pro-life groups in Ireland are concerned that the Lisbon Treaty could allow abortion in "through the backdoor" (Photo: EUobserver)

Securing a stronger consultative role for European religions in EU policy making is another good reason to support the Lisbon Treaty, say two of the EU's most senior officials.

Speaking after a meeting with European religious leaders on Monday (11 May), European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering said such discussions in the future could not be guaranteed without the full ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

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Mr Pottering said the annual inter-religious dialogue between European religious leaders and the EU institutions - formalised in 2005 - were carried out on the "basis of good will" rather than because of a legal obligation.

"If the Lisbon Treaty is not ratified, with the new leaderships in the commission and the parliament, they could abolish this dialogue because legally it's not binding," he said.

He added that it is the "responsibility of Ireland" to ensure the treaty comes into effect.

The Irish government is set to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty this autumn, following an initial rejection by a majority of Irish voters last June.

However, the document is also facing several legal challenges in Mr Pottering's home country of Germany and awaits presidential signatures in the Czech Republic and Poland.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who co-chaired the meeting with Mr Poettering, told journalists the Lisbon Treaty would also re-inforce dialogue between non-confessional organisations.

"One of the purposes of these meetings is to highlight how it is important in Europe to keep freedom of religion [and] also the freedom not to have a religion," he said.

The Church and Lisbon

"[The Lisbon Treaty] is the first time ever that our churches and our religious communities are included in the law of the European union," Mr Pottering said.

However, the EU's secularism, in particular politically unwillingness to include a reference to the Christian god in the Constitutional Treaty's preamble, was one reason given for conservative Christian groups' opposition to the Lisbon Treaty during the country's referendum on the document last June.

The Lisbon Treaty is a rewritten version of the Constitutional Treaty rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, containing many of the main proposals but doing away with reference to European symbols such as a European flag and anthem.

Also attending Monday's meeting was the Catholic archbishop for Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.

Mr Martin has increasingly voiced his support for the Lisbon treaty in recent months ahead of a second Irish referendum on the document this autumn.

"Ireland needs Europe but also Europe needs Ireland," he says. "Europe needs the diversity of its smaller nations and different cultures."

Mr Martin referred to the lack of understanding by Irish citizens ahead of the last year's referendum, adding that current debate was helping to provide "greater clarity ... on a number of issues that were of concern to the Irish electorate."

One issue of concern to Irish religious groups is the possibility that Ireland could be forced to accept abortion under European law if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified.

Abortion is not currently allowed under Irish legislation, a situation that has prompted three of its citizens to take legal cases to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Czech Republic, currently chairing the EU's six-month rotating presidency, is currently drafting three legal guarantees for the Irish government that would help ensure its sovereignty in the areas of taxation, defence and such social affairs in return for accepting the Treaty.

Doubts remain however over the genunine effectiveness of the three legal protocols that are likely to be introduced via an EU accession treaty, most probably that of Croatia.

A number of EU member states are also concerned that any Irish legal guarantees could result in the Lisbon ratification process being re-opened in their countries.

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