MEPs’ consultation on policy

 

Sir, – I write regarding your article, “MEPs express ‘deep concerns’ at McGuinness proposal on church access” (Home News, May 16th).

Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty obliges EU institutions to consult with religious and non-confessional organisations on EU polices and issues. In the European Parliament I have responsibility for this dialogue.

The dialogue is also carried out by the European Commission under the auspices of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans.

All religious and non-confessional organisations already have access to the EU institutions, like other bodies that follow EU policies.

Article 17 provides for a structured, formal dialogue on EU policies. This is similar to the EU institutions’ consultation with social partners such as trade unions and employer organisations, also a Treaty obligation.

The report of my activities and recommendations that was presented to the Parliament’s Bureau, and which is the subject of your story, forms a normal part of the role of a vice-president – to report at the end of their mandate.

The report was carried out following regular suggestions from dialogue partner organisations on ways to improve the quality of the dialogue. In the European Commission’s own dialogue, Article 17 representatives are brought together with Commission officials working on specific legislative proposals to listen to their contributions. This is not something that the European Parliament currently does and it was one of the issues highlighted during the consultation process I facilitated.

Under my instruction, the Parliament’s Legal Service was involved in the process throughout to ensure that what we discussed and proposed would be fully in line with Treaty requirements.

The Parliament is an open and transparent house. Democracy provides that voices from across the spectrum can make their views known to MEPs. Listening to someone’s point of view does not mean that you have to agree with them. But providing a space for all views to be heard and respected is important, it promotes tolerance and inclusivity. It’s a cornerstone of democracy.

At a time when we have seen an unfortunate increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, I believe such a dialogue is more important than ever. The devastating attacks on religious freedom in Christchurch, New Zealand and Sri Lanka also merit this dialogue.

My report does not foresee an increase in lobbying strength arising from the implementation of any of the recommendations. It is about improving the quality of the dialogue and foresees both sets of partners — religious and non-confessional — continuing to participate fully in all Article 17 activities. – Yours, etc,

MAIREAD McGUINNESS MEP,

First Vice-President of the European Parliament,

European Parliament, Brussels.