Parliamentary question E-2524/03 by Maurizio Turco (NI) to the Commission and answer given by Mrs Diamantopoulou on behalf of the Commission
WRITTEN QUESTION E-2524/03
by Maurizio Turco (NI) to the Commission
(17 July 2003)
Subject: Violation of religious freedoms in Italy
On 15 July the Italian Chamber of Deputes adopted a law on the legal status of Catholic religious education teachers in educational establishments of all types and at all levels.
Under the new law Catholic RE teachers are given the same status as teachers of other subjects, will be employed on open-ended contracts and may be required to teach other subjects in the event of overstaffing.
Catholic RE teaching in state schools of all types and at all levels is covered by the agreement amending the Lateran Concordat and the additional protocol thereto, implemented by means of Law No 121 of 25 March 1985, and the agreement between the Italian Ministry for Education and the President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, implemented by means of Presidential Decree No 751 of 16 December 1985, as subsequently amended.
Under the new law, access to the teaching profession is conditional on passing a competition based on qualifications and tests. The qualifications required include the certification referred to in paragraph 5(a) of the additional Protocol, as referred to in Article 1(1), delivered by the diocesan ordinary with territorial jurisdiction.
The decision to recruit staff on open-ended contracts is taken by the regional director in consultation with the diocesan ordinary with territorial jurisdiction.
There are 20 000 RE teachers in Italy, and the adoption of this law means that approximately 14 000 of them will become teachers on open-ended contracts despite the fact that they teach an optional subject and then only on the basis of certification delivered on a discretionary basis by the bishop on the basis of rules that are not those of the Italian State but of another State. If a Catholic RE teacher's certification is withdrawn by the diocesan authorities, that teacher automatically becomes a teacher on an open-ended contract for another subject, irrespective of the grades and rights of other teachers.
Can the Commission state whether the Italian law on the legal status of Catholic religious education teachers in educational establishments of all types and at all levels and the Lateran Concordat on which it is based are in keeping with the principle of religious freedom as defined and recognised at international level?
Does it consider the arrangements described above to be in keeping with Directive 2000/78/EC(1) against discrimination at the workplace based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation?
(1) OJ L 303, 2.12.2000, p. 16.
Answer given by Mrs Diamantopoulou
on behalf of the Commission
(12 September 2003)
The Honourable Member asks whether the Italian law on the legal status of Catholic religious education teachers and the Lateran Concordat on which it is based are in keeping with the principle of religious freedom and whether the arrangements he describes are in keeping with Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.
The Commission refers to Article 149 of the EC Treaty, which provides that the Community shall contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action, while fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and the organisation of education systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity. The Commission therefore believes that, as long as other aspects of Community law are respected, the arrangements for appointing teachers are the responsibility of the Member States.
Consequently, the question posed by the Honourable Member concerning respect for religious freedom must be assessed at national level.
Insofar as Council Directive 2000/78/EC is concerned, and on the basis of the information available, the Commission sees no immediate conflict with arrangements which seek to protect the employment of teachers whose authorisation to teach Catholic religious education is withdrawn by the diocesan authorities.
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