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Church and State In the New Member Countries of the European Union

  • Balázs Schanda (a1)

In May 2004 eight former communist Central and Eastern European countries joined the European Union. Written constitutions in the region now contain guarantees on freedom of religion together with fundamental statements on Church-State relations. Since the fall of communism a net of bilateral agreements has been negotiated with the Holy See. Of the established members of the EU only Austria, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain had concordats whilst France and Luxembourg were partly bound by such treaties. Amongst the new member states only the predominantly Orthodox Cyorus has no contractual relationship with the Vatican. A pragmatic reason for this may be that the new members went through a very rapid leagal transition marked by considerable uncertainties after the fall of communism. The Catholic Church did not seek privileges with the agrements, but rather legal certainty. The stadards of religious with the agreements, but rather legal certainty. The standards of religious freedom in the new member states are generally good compared with the resrt of Europe. None of the new member states adopted a state church model, and none of them followed a rigid separation model either. Most new member states to be particularly valued by those who experienced forced secularism during communist rule.

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1 The complex issues raised by its possible accession are not the subject of this paper.

2 Constitution of Slovenia (1991), Article 41.

3 Ibid Article 7.

4 Constitution of Slovakia (1992), Article 24.

5 Czech Charter of Fundamental Rights, Article 2.1.

6 Ibid Article 15.

7 Ibid Article 16.

8 Constitution of Poland (1997), Preamble. A similar broad and all-embracing reference to God was discussed for possible inclusion in the Constitution of the European Union.

9 Constitution of Poland (1997), Article 25.

10 Constitution of Lithuania (1992), Article 26.

11 Ibid Article 27.

12 Constitution of Latvia (1992), Article 99.

13 The Law on the Rights and Obligations of a Citizen and a Person 1991. section 35.

14 The Constitution of Estonia (1992).

15 The Constitution of Malta, section 2.

16 Ibid section 40.

17 Constitution of Hungary, Article 60.

18 Agreement concluded on 8 July 2002.

19 Agreement concluded on 24 September 1998, ratified in 1999.

20 Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1998) 310329.

21 Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1999) 414418.

22 Agreement signed on 25 July 2002.

23 Acta Apostolicae Sedis 95 (2003) 102120.

24 Signed on 14 December 2001; ratified by Parliament on 28 January 2004, after the Constitutional Court raised no objection. The court stated that in the case of conflict state law was to prevail.

25 Lithuania: Agreement concerning the Juridical Aspects of the Relations between the Catholic Church and the State (Acta Apostolicae Sedis (2000) 783816); Agreement on the Co-operation in Education and Culture (Acta Apostolicae Sedis (2000) 783795); Agreement on the Pastoral Care of Catholics serving in the Army (Acta Apostolicae Sedis (2000) 809816).

26 Basic Agreement (Acta Apostolicae Sedis (2001) 136155). Separate agreements were signed on the army chaplaincy (2002) and on education (signed in 2003, ratified in 2004).

27 The first convention with Slovakia bears the title ‘basic agreement’.

28 These include the Agreement on the Pastoral Care in the Army and the Border Guard (Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1994) 574579); Agreement on Financial Issues (Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1998) 330340).

29 Despite the fact that Belgium and Ireland have strong Catholic majorities.

30 Since Vatican II only Columbia (1973), Lower Saxony (1973), Poland, and recently Portugal, have concluded agreements entitled ‘concordat’. Some authors refer to all international agreements signed by the Holy See as concordats: eg Köck, F H, Die völkerrechliche Stellung des Heiligen Stuhls (Berlin, 1975), 316. Others distinguish between concordats in the strict sense (being general, complex and solemn agreements) and concordats in the broad sense, embracing all conventions signed by the Holy See with states and international organisations: eg Agar, JTM de, Raccolta di concordati 1950–1999 (Città del Vaticano, 2000) 10. Other authors use the term concordat only for agreements so entitled, distinguishing them from other types of convention executed by the Holy See: eg Erdö, P, Egyházjog (Budapest, 1992), 63.

31 It remains open for the Czech Parliament to revisit the matter.

32 A minor difference may be that whereas the Hungarian government has the right to raise political objections in relation to a candidate for the office of bishop, in Lithuania the President receives prior notification as to the nominee, but has no right to raise objection. In Slovakia there is no such procedure. Agreements on the pastoral care of Catholics serving in the army (police, border guard) are very similar (Bolivia 1986, Brasilia 1989, Croatia 1996) since the relevant Apostolic Constitution Spirituali Militum Curae was promulgated in 1986.

33 For example that of Slovakia (2000) in relation to conscientious objection, army chaplaincy, education, and financial issues.

34 For example that of Hungary (1997) on the funding of new institutions of higher education, and the subsidy for the preservation of ecclesiastical cultural heritage.

35 Agar, JTM de, Studio Comparativo die Concordati tra la Santa Sede e gli Stati dell'Europa Centrale e Orientale, in šmid, M and Vasil', C (eds), International Bilateral Legal Relations between the Holy See and States of Central and Eastern Europe: Experiences and Perspectives (Vatican, 2003), 6188.

36 Whether this stipulation infringes freedom of movement in the labour market remains to be seen.

37 The Slovak agreement even contains an express prohibition on the government expressing any opinion.

38 Eg Christus Dominus 19–20.

39 Code of Canon Law (1983), Canon 377 §5.

40 Latvia (Agreement), Art 15; Lithuania (Agreement on Co-operation in Education and Culture) Art 6 §1.

41 Poland (Concordat) Art 12 §2.

42 Slovakia (Agreement on Education) Art II §4.

43 Lithuania (Agreement on Co-operation in Education and Culture) Art 3 §1.

44 Latvia (Agreement), Art 15.

45 Poland (Concordat) Art 12; Lithuania (Agreement on Co-operation in Education and Culture) Art 3 §2.

46 Slovakia (Basic Agreement) Art 13 §5, (Agreement on Education) Art III §1.

47 Hungary (Agreement on Financial Issues) Part I, Art 2.

48 Lithuania (Agreement on Co-operation in Education and Culture) Art 9 §8.

49 Slovakia (Basic Agreement) Art 13§2, (Agreement on Education) Art 1§8.

50 Latvia (Agreement) Art 19.

51 Poland (Concordat) Art 14§4.

52 Estonia (Exchange of Letters) §8.

53 Latvia (Agreement) Art 8.

54 Lithuania (Agreement Concerning Juridical Matters) Art 13.

55 Poland (Concordat) Art 10.

56 Slovakia (Basic Agreement) Art 10.

57 Constitution of Poland (1997), Art 25§5.

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Ecclesiastical Law Journal
  • ISSN: 0956-618X
  • EISSN: 1751-8539
  • URL: /core/journals/ecclesiastical-law-journal
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