The Politics of Religious Lobbies in the European Union

1 January 2010 – 30 June 2011

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Principal Investigator: Dr Lucian Leustean

ESRC Small Research Grant: £70,622

Summary of Findings


Religious lobbies? Lobbying for religion? Is ‘lobbying’ the right term to use in relation to religion? Reaching a consensus on the terminology concerning the role of churches in the European Union and their dialogue with European institutions is a contested issue. Most religious communities in contact with European institutions dissociate themselves from the process of traditional lobbying practiced by other groups, preferring instead to consider themselves in a different category. It is a key task of this project to analyse whether the activity of religious communities can be labelled as traditional lobbying in the European Union and to find the most appropriate term.

This project investigates the activities of religious communities in Brussels in the wider context of interest representation. There is an extensive literature on interest representation in the construction of the European Union and this project contextualises the dialogue of religious communities with European institutions within existing academic scholarship.

Project abstract

Political controversies on the ‘Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe’ and disputes over religious symbols in the public sphere show that religion has become more visible in the corridors of European institutions. Religious communities are part of the EU bureaucratic system, and their presence in Brussels has increased dramatically in the last decade. Sixty-seven groups have now officially entered into dialogue with the European Commission and many of them have opened offices in Brussels.

This project investigates the mechanisms and prospects of religious representation at EU decision-making level. Through a comparative analysis of religious communities in Brussels, the project addresses the following questions:

  1. How do (trans)national religious communities approach European institutions?
  2. What are the rationale and the mechanisms of religious interest representation?
  3. How are religious values transposed into political strategies?
  4. And, how has the construction of the European Union been influenced by religious communities?

The project challenges the predominant perception that religious communities have had little impact on the process of European integration. It investigates the role of religious communities in the construction of the European Union by focusing on relations between religious policy practitioners and EU technocrats from the Second World War until today.

It draws on qualitative and quantitative data; interviews with religious policy practitioners and EU technocrats; unpublished archival material; official declarations of religious and EU bodies; national legislation on religion; codes of conduct; and the European Values Survey and the European Social Survey.


The project will support a conference on ‘Does God Matter? Representing Religion in the European Union and the United States’ which will bring together academics and religious policy practitioners from both sides of the Atlantic. The conference has two aims:

  1. Firstly, it will investigate the ways in which various religious communities perceive the idea of a United Europe (from historical, sociological, political science and juridical perspectives).
  2. Secondly, it will examine the ways in which religious communities present their positions and influence political strategies in the European Union and the United States. 

A call for papers will be distributed soon and further details will be available on this website.


Dr Lucian Leustean welcomes enquires on this project. He can be contacted by email at l.leustean@aston.ac.uk or by post:

Dr Lucian Leustean, Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK.

ESRC details

This project is supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK’s leading research and training agency in social sciences.

ESRC Small Research Grant (RES-000-22-3821): £70,622 (Indexed Total Costs).


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