The European Humanist Federation deplores the fact that despite clear opposition from inside and outside the European Parliament, part of its leadership is still trying to push through the closed doors of the EP Bureau proposals that would grant religious and non-confessional organisations privileged access to key policymakers in the European Parliament over any other civil society organisation.
This call comes after the recent publication of the minutes of the EP Bureau meeting of 15 April in which it appears that instead of taking into account the strong opposition met by these proposals, EP Vice-President Mairead McGuiness is set to try and push them through the Bureau of the newly-elected European Parliament.
In February, Ms. McGuiness, who was in charge of the implementation of Article 17 by the European Parliament, held a consultation to evaluate Parliament’s work in the area. As the main non-confessional organisation in Europe, the EHF was invited to share its views in writing before taking part in a stakeholder meeting together with religious stakeholders on 19 February.
The resulting report was leaked a few days before the last meeting of the European Parliament Bureau that was held on 15 April. It was denounced by the EHF as well as a number of MEPs on the basis that is did not accurately reflect the debates that took place in that meeting. It rather was an endorsement of the requests made by the Catholic organisations and contained proposals that were clearly aimed at further institutionalizing the influence of religious organisations, and especially the Vatican, over Parliament’s legislative work. The report met strong opposition in the Bureau.
Indeed, beyond failing to reflect and address EHF criticism that the implementation of Article 17 has been characterized by a strong bias towards religious organisations, the report untruthfully claimed that there was large consensus on a number of proposals. In fact, both the EHF and Humanists International, the two only non-confessional organisations that were present, voiced strong opposition on a number of them.
Amongst the most worrisome proposals is the one put forward by the Vatican’s lobby in Brussels to provide representatives of the so-called Article 17 partners privileged access to rapporteurs and shadows rapporteurs of given files. Such access would be facilitated by the Article 17 secretariat that would give access to legislative tracking tools and act in cooperation with committee secretariats. The report also proposed to facilitate the access of the same organisations at national level to European Parliament liaison offices, thereby further undermining the impartiality of the institution.
The report opens up further the EU legislative process to religious groups and especially the very powerful lobby of the Vatican in Brussels. It provides them privileged access over any other expert organizations to policy-makers at the very early stage when legislation is being drafted.
Yet, the European Parliament has repeatedly stood up to protect the very rights these organisations endanger, encouraging Member States and the Commission to build a safer society for women, LGBTI people and minorities.
, commented Giulio Ercolessi, President of the European Humanist Federation.
The EHF urges the Bureau of the newly-elected European Parliament to reiterated the opposition expressed by the previous Bureau and resist the further institutionalization of religious organisations over Parliament’s legislative work.