The 1st December marks the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. In addition to institutional reform, the Treaty introduces into EU primary law an Article of notable importance for the Churches. By means of Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the EU recognises the identity and specific contribution of Churches and engages on this basis an "open, transparent and regular" Dialogue with them.
Thanks to this Article, Churches and religious communities will be able to strengthen their Dialogue with the European Commission, Council and Parliament and so contribute more efficiently to reflecting on European policy.
Inspired by Catholic social teaching and strengthened by their background experience, Churches will be enabled to pursue a critical and constructive Dialogue with EU decision makers on the policies put forward by the EU.
Today, on the eve of a new decade, the same urgent challenges preoccupy both the EU and the Churches, namely: The promotion of the dignity of every Human being, Solidarity with the weakest in our societies, an economy which puts the human being at its heart, solidarity among generations and towards developing countries, climate change and preservation of Creation, the welcoming of migrants and intercultural dialogue.
The Churches in Europe therefore welcome the dialogue between the European Union and the Churches and religious communities as an instrument allowing them to partner the EU more effectively so that it becomes a Community of peoples and values, aware of its responsibility, united and welcoming.
In the recent years, a practical dialogue had already been established between the European Institutions and COMECE and its ecumenical partners. Thanks to this “practical dialogue”, the trust between European institutions and Churches has increased over the years. COMECE now wishes this dialogue to intensify and deepen, on the basis of Article 17. COMECE calls on Churches and Christians all over Europe to seize this dialogue opportunity, based on their expertise and their humanity, to make a contribution to the European project.
COMECE, together with its ecumenical partners from CEC (Conference of European Churches), will make soon specific proposals to the European Commission, Parliament and Council on how to develop this dialogue into regular institutional practice.
Article 17 (the former Article I-52 of the Constitutional Treaty) is part of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and reads as follows:
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.