A pious Europe? Why Europe should not define itself as Christian

The paper discusses Joseph Weiler’s proposition of including a reference to Europe’s Christian roots in the Constitution for Europe. By examining the common European heritage as well as comparing with existing European constitutions, it is argued that an explicit religious reference is misleading as well as counterproductive to the development of a common European identity.

ARENA Working Paper 10/2004 (pdf)

Agustín José Menéndez

Joseph Weiler's Un'Europa Cristiana argues that there should be an explicit reference to the Christian roots of European identity in the Preamble of an eventual European Constitution. Such a claim requires discussing the groundings of European identity, its relation with personal and collective identities, and the relationship between the process of political and economic integration and the national constitutional traditions. This paper finds such a discussion proper and timely, but disagrees with Weiler's conclusions. First, it is held that the positive constitutional law of the Union and its member states does not support an explicit reference to Christian values. It is argued that Weiler's interpretation of "constitutional tolerance" does not correspond to the actual contents of European constitutional law, and that a different understanding of the 'commonality' of the common constitutional traditions is required by positive law. Second, Weiler's argument is found wanting in politico-theoretical terms. A renewed secular or republican principle is found more respectful of the religious freedom of believers and non-belivers, at the same time that an explicit reference to Christian values is found counterproductive in terms of ensuring the civic integration of all residents in the Union.

This paper has later been published in European Law Review 30, 1 (2005), 133-148.

Tags: constitution building, constitutional change, European convention, European identity
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM - Last modified Apr. 26, 2011 9:25 AM