2018 Volume 2018 Issue 38 Pages 21-40
The transition from an economic community to a community of values is at the heart of the evolution of the European integration project. While recognizing that the Maastricht Treaty （1993） ushered in the start of a new phase of integration, and the Lisbon Treaty （2009） represents the de jure constitutionalization of a specific set of EU values, this article argues that that shift continues to remain incomplete.
As part of this evolution, the Lisbon Treaty also referred to “the religious organizations”, and religion in general as part of this community of values, for the first time while simultaneously ensuring that the principle of secularism remains firmly embedded as a key ingredient of a community of values. Thus, while the recognition of religion marked a significant moment, the fact that religious groups are deemed part of civil society, on an equal basis with all other organizations subject to the rule of law at the European level, continues to highlight the significance of secularism. Thus, this clearly means that developments do not represent any kind of return to the days of antiquity where religious organizations enjoyed a privileged status as they sought to build a community of faith. Simultaneously, the EU has also sought to stay away from hinting at any particular type of unified secular system, for example, French laïcité, multilaterarism, state church, etc.
Despite all these interesting and important developments, questions about how the EU has reacted to exogenous events such as Turkey and the Arab Spring and endogenous events tied to Poland and Hungary’s illiberal turn remain given that Article 2 （TEU） talks about the importance of ‘…freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities…’.
In order to herald the arrival of a consolidated community of values, it would appear that the gap between the legal text and the political and social reality needs to be bridged. The challenges ahead, not least when it comes to defending human rights or democracy, remain significant.