EHF and the European Commission
The EHF is recognised by the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA) as representing humanists and secularists in the European community.
It is the BEPA that organises the dialogue with the churches and non-confessional organisations.
Under Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty (TFEU), the Union must maintain an "open, transparent and regular dialogue" with churches and non-confessional organisations.
This dialogue has been difficult to implement with the European Commission. The EHF had to fight for a long time (including a complaint submitted to the European Ombudsman) to be able to organise the same meetings that churches had been granted for years.
High Level Meeting with EC VP Frans Timmermans and Philosophical Organisations
2 June 2015
This sixth annual high-level meeting discussed the topic “Living together and disagreeing well”. The meeting took place within the framework of the ongoing dialogue with churches, religions, philosophical and non-confessional organisations based on Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Informal Meeting with EC Vice President Frans Timmermans
30 March 2015
This meeting was the opportunity for us to address several issues of concern : blasphemy laws within the EU, sexual and reproductive rights, EU LGBTI strategy, composition of the EU European Group of Ethics etc.
Read our recommendations here.
Dialogue Seminar on the rise of populism in Europe
Humanists : difficult dialogue with the European Commission - EHF complaint to EU Ombudsman
15 May 2013
Given the recent developments in Hungary, Greece and Italy and the fact that populism is rising in many European countries, EHF raised this issue at the EU level and asked for a strong and coordinate action from European institutions.
Meeting on conflicts of rights
4 June 2012
EHF met Jean-Claude Thébault, the head of BEPA, and Katharina von Schnurbein, the BEPA official in charge of Article 17 dialogue, along with the two officials from the Directorate-General of Justice most concerned with our subject, Pia Lindholm and Christine Tomboy.
Pierre-Arnaud Perrouty introduced the EHF, David Pollock spoke about the difficult problems of reconciling freedom of religion or belief with equality and non-discrimination, explaining the background of an increasingly secular Europe and the way that aggressive assertion of freedom of religion has serious effects on the lives of the non-religious population, on which he quoted examples. Read his full speech. Professor Isabelle Rorive from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, speaking as an independent expert, went into the detail of a number of legal cases.
Working Lunch for non-confessionals
On 26 June the EHF and other “non-confessional” organisations were invited to a working lunch with President Barroso and President Pöttering at the Berlaymonth building in Brussels. Following that lunch we wrote to one of the Commissioners present, Louis Michel, about the risks of allowing undue exceptions for religious believers from non-discrimination laws.
EHF President speaks at EU conference on Intercultural Dialogue
The entire conference is available on video on the European Commission website, including David Pollock’s talk and a response from him about two-thirds of the way through this link.
Address by President Barroso to EHF Colloquium on Human Rights
Meeting with President José Manuel Barroso
We raised issues concerning the dialogue with churches and non-confessional organisations, our worries about the situation in Poland and other matters.
Bergamo conference on promoting a European public space
EHF took part in the Bergamo conference on how to promote a European public space where citizens are better informed and engaged in EU policies and in the debate on the future of Europe
Meeting with President José Manuel Barroso
The meeting concentrated on the need to develop a society based on tolerance, democracy and solidarity, on freedom of conscience and on gender equality. The EHF sought impartiality of EU institutions, particularly in ethics committees and in the appointment of experts. President Barroso underlined the importance of developing a dialogue to bring together the European Union and its citizens. He pointed out that the values of the Union are also those of humanism.
Fighting for equal treatment for non-believers and non-confessional organisations
EHF Complaint to EU Ombudsman on discriminatory treatment by the European Commission
25 January 2013
On 18 October 2011, the EHF submitted a complaint to the European Ombudsman arguing that the European Commission was refusing to comply with the Article 17:3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) which requires the EU to conduct a “regular, open and transparent dialogue with churches, religious communities as well as philosophical and non-confessional organisations.”
In the decision closing his inquiry published on 25 January 2013, the EU ombudsman found an act of maladministration from the European Commission and urged it to clarify the rules for its dialogue with churches and non-confessional organisations.
EHF’s request for a fresh start under Article 17
With the Lisbon Treaty, the dialogue with the churches and non-confessional bodies is no longer discretionary but Treaty-bound. We asked President Barroso for a fresh and non-discriminatory start. We copied our letter to 22 sympathetic MEPs and to European representatives of the three main world religions that have been excluded from the annual meetings President Barroso and past-President Pottering have been holding with Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders.
EHF protests at biaised language in Equality Handbook
We protested at the tendency for the European Handbook on Equality Data to use the exclusive term ‘religion’ where it should have used ‘religion or belief’, including non-religious beliefs.
EHF protests at threats to secular nature of EU
The EHF sent a letter to BEPA to point out the extent to which the EU was aligning itself with the churches and religion in general. We quoted as instances our exclusion from the annual May meetings with the presidents of the Commission, Council and Parliament, two recent meetings of the French presidency with churchmen and with member state delegations representing Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and EU participation in a forthcoming large Christian rally in Brussels.
EHF complains about implementation of Article 16C
We wrote to President Barroso about the way the Commission is implementing Article 16C (now Article 17) on dialogue with the churches and non-confessional groups such as ourselves.
Letter to President of the EU Committee of the Regions protesting at exclusion of non-religious beliefs at EU Forum
On November 5 2008 , we wrote to President of the EU Committee of the Regions about the exclusively religious view of intercultural dialogue apparent in the programme for a Forum due to be held on “Intercultural dialogue at the heart of Europe’s cities and regions”.
EHF contributions to EC consultations
EU Guidelines on Freedom of expression, July 2013
European Research Area, Nov 2011
Proposal for an Anti-Discrimination Directive (beyond employment), Nov 2008
“Schools for the 21st Century”, Oct 2007
Year of Intercultural Dialogue, Oct 2006
The Future Shape of Europe, contribution to the Convention on the Future of Europe, March 2003
EHF seeks firm EU action on UNHRC resolution on defamation of religion
The EHF wrote on 12 March 2009 to President Barroso expressing alarm at a draft resolution from Pakistan, backed by other members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, calling for so-called “defamation of relgiion” to be made a criminal offence. We asked the EU to ensure that there was a more vigorous response from its member states than hitherto.
Letter to President Barroso: UN Human Rights Council
In the wake of numerous abuses by Islamic states in the UN Human Rights Council - well documented on the IHEU website - we wrote to President Barros suggesting that the democratic nations withdraw from the Council and set up a new international council genuinely concerned about Human Rights. His reply is also given at the link.
The European Dream
EHF published a booklet, The European Dream, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. A Press Conference was called on 26 March 2007 to launch the booklet and was addressed by Philippe Busquin, a former member of the European Commission.
The booklet reprinted the Brussels Declaration and Secular Vision for Europe. It includes an open letter to President Barroso in defence of secularism, and a major paper that presents a clear statement of the values and aspirations for a Europe in which democracy is participative as well as representative. It is a Europe in which our shared citizenship creates a true solidarity and cohesion across the continent, thereby contributing to the struggle against poverty and social exclusion. It is a Europe respectful of everyone’s freedom, where unfair discrimination on irrelevant grounds – sex, sexuality, age, race, disability, religion or belief – has no place. It offers a landmark of tolerance in a troubled world.
EHF Memorandum "The European Humanist Federation in the European Union"
On the occasion of our 15th anniversary we issued a lengthy memorandum that dealt in part with a range of issues relating to the European Union.
EHF welcomes the rejection of Dr Rocco Buttiglione as candidate for membership of the EU Commission
Useful links related to European Commission :
the European Group on Ethics in Science and New technologies which advises the European Commission on ethical questions relating to sciences and new technologies ;
‘A Soul for Europe’, Jacques Delors’ initiative to give a spiritual and ethical dimension to the European Union.