Welcome to the UCL European Institute, UCL's hub for research, collaboration and information on Europe and the European Union.
The age-old question of what holds our societies together re-emerges periodically, particularly in times of crisis. In a world ever more globalised and virtual, the answer is often cast in terms of "trust", with its pivotal role as regularly called upon as its health called into question. How has trust risen to this centrality, and is it all as straightforward as it seems?
Dr Uta Staiger
13 August 2014
Starts: Aug 13, 2014 12:00:00 AM
Juncker’s nomination was not a sudden, not an unexpected and not even a distinct event. Neither does it spell
an end to the European Council’s dominance in constitutional politics or
make EU reform less likely.
Dr Christine Reh
2 July 2014
Starts: Jul 1, 2014 12:00:00 AM
As a closer look at the European
Parliament Elections in Central and Eastern Europe suggests, it may be
non-voting, rather than populist protest voting, which could prove the
long-term threat to sustainability of the EU’s troubled democratic
Dr Sean Hanley
2 June 2014 More...
Starts: Jun 2, 2014 12:00:00 AM
Ronan McCrea on secularisation in Europe
19 June 2013
Contrary to popular belief, Muslim migration is making Europe more secular, not less.
"The European relationship between religion, law and politics is a strange creature. Religious influence over political life is weaker in Europe than in almost any other part of the world. To adapt the phrase first used by Alastair Campbell when he was spokesman for the British prime minister Tony Blair, politicians in Europe generally ‘don’t do God’. The EU’s Eurobarometer surveys of public opinion suggest that religion has a very limited impact on the political values and behaviour of European voters. Europe has no equivalent to the politically powerful religious right in America, nor to the theological debates in the political arena that one sees in many Islamic countries.
Recently, however, this long-standing distance between religion and politics has been threatened. Migration is one factor that has helped religion to return to centre stage in public life. While Muslim minorities have protested over questions of blasphemy and free speech, Catholic leaders have intervened in political debates about gay marriage and abortion, and conservatives have lamented that European societies are losing touch with their Christian past. The political scientist Eric Kaufmann has argued that religious believers have a demographic advantage in birth rates that will see Europe's secularisation reversed by the end of this century.
[However], what we see is a general process under which greater religious diversity is making it difficult for religion in Europe to retain the residual political and symbolic roles that it has had until now. These roles relied on religion being seen as a national cultural symbol, and on implicit understandings that churches would largely steer clear of politics and would not use their legally privileged status to restrict criticism or mockery of religion to too great a degree.
Such a system is proving unsustainable. There are now too many diverse cultural expectations about religion, its role in political life, and the degree to which it can be criticised or mocked. The more muscular religiosity of some migrant communities, among other factors, is provoking European governments to restrict religion firmly to the private sphere, and to render the public sphere a strictly secular one. Perhaps, as Giuseppe di Lampedusa wrote in his novel The Leopard (1958), ‘everything must change so that everything can remain the same."
Read the full article in Aeon magazine.
- Ronan McCrea is a barrister and a lecturer at the Faculty of Laws at University College London. His latest book is Religion and the Public Order of the European Union (2010).