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Exploring the scope for a shared European pluralistic ethos; a comparative investigation of religious and secular ethically-derived requests for exemption from the law in an enlarging Europe

Final Report Summary - EUROETHOS (Exploring the scope for a shared European pluralistic ethos; a comparative investigation of religious and secular ethically-derived requests for exemption)

The EUROETHOS project aimed to explore the possible scope for a shared European ethos through the analysis of political and legal questions concerning issues of religious and secular ethics-based requests for exemption from the law. The study of such issues is considered a promising route to the suggestion of indications on how societies try to handle a plurality of values.

The project aimed to make an empirically grounded and knowledge-based contribution to such debate, through the comparative study of the role of acts of conscientious objection and requests for exemption from the law in some EU countries. Although some sectorial studies have explored some, or particular aspects, of these issues, no serious attempts have been made so far to address the question of conscientious objection and requests for exemption from the law in a systematic and comprehensive way. This project intended covering this gap through the creation of a database including references, bibliographies, and a table of cases listing a wide spectrum of those 'value issues' which have given rise to requests for exemption from the law. Moreover, the comparative analytical approach adopted aims to identify the similarities and dissimilarities in the treatment of those issues across the different considered countries, so as to provide material for a future direct, or, more probably, indirect EU intervention strategy dealing with questions of values, religions, and cultural diversity.

On this backdrop the project partners have compiled a database of instances of differential treatment (including requests for exemption from the law and conscientious objection) across eight countries (Italy, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey). Among these, two family of cases were selected revolving around issues of differential treatment in public health (e.g. objection to vaccinations, abortion, IVF, research on embryos, and euthanasia) and on the workplace (e.g. equal treatment of workers, wearing of religious symbols, concessions of holy / rest days) to carry out comparative case studies. These served as a basis for testing the research hypothesis concerning the pluralistic nature of a possible shared European ethos.

The end results of the project may be summarised as follows:
- The consortium has carried out a thorough review of the knowledge and existing studies on the topic of conscientious objection and requests for exemption from the law at a national, regional and European level.
- The consortium has created a unique database of cases concerning demands to be exempt from the law (including cases of conscientious objection) on religious and secular ethical grounds. This represents a novel contribution to the study of issues of European integration.
- The above mentioned results have produced also an increased knowledge of the history and politics of an EU Associate Candidate State (Turkey) and some Member States (Italy, Germany, France, Spain, United Kingdom, Slovakia and Czech Republic) in view of their cultural heritage. This is a fruitful basis on which to study further possibilities for European enlargement and integration.
- The comparative case studies constitute an important and empirically grounded contribution to the theoretical debate on pluralism and on the scope for a European ethos.
- The final, more speculative part of the project has contributed to the development of new knowledge about the possibility of grounding political integration on a pluralistic shared cultural substrate; and has generate normative guidelines above so as to interpret the results deriving from the comparative phase, with a view to foster the creation of a shared pluralistic European ethos as a basis on which to promote political integration.

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