An official complaint has been lodged by the European Humanist Federation (EHF) against the European Commission for refusing to comply with their obligation to hold discussions with non-religious groups. The EHF is the main umbrella organisation representing non-religious groups, including the British Humanist Association, at a European level.
Article 17:3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (introduced by the Lisbon Treaty) requires the EU to conduct a ‘regular, open and transparent dialogue’ with ‘philosophical and non-confessional organisations’ no less than with the churches and religious organisations. The Commission has for many years routinely conducted ‘dialogue seminars’ with the two conferences of European bishops.
In March the EHF proposed a dialogue seminar for the first time, seeking to discuss the problems arising from religious exemptions in EU directives against discrimination. The Commission refused to discuss the subject. Attempts over the last four months to obtain a shift in the Commission’s position, culminating in a letter to President Barroso himself, have produced no result.
‘For too long,’ said Mr Pollock, ‘we have suffered disdainful treatment from the Commission that stands in marked contrast to their receptive attitude to the churches. It took years of pressure while the Commission organised annual summit meetings with the churches before they created a parallel meeting for non-confessional organisations.
‘We did not want to make a public complaint but we were left with no other recourse. This is either incompetence by the Commission or, we fear, an attempt to protect religious privilege from scrutiny.’