Vienna, 4 February 2010 Press release

Press statement by Foreign Minister Spindelegger on the Italian appeal against the ECHR „crucifix ruling”

Vienna, 4 February 2010  – After the Italian Ambassador officially notified the Austrian Foreign Ministry today of the filing of Italy’s application for reference of the case Lautsi vs. Italy to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger issued the following press statement:

„The Chamber ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the case Lautsi vs. Italy of 3 November 2009 on the question of crucifixes in classrooms touches very sensitive legal, political, and socio-cultural issues in connection with religious freedom that are relevant for the whole of Europe. This has led to extensive debates and criticism in many countries, including Austria.

In its resolution of 19 November 2009, the Austrian National Council expressed great concern that the criteria applied in this not yet legally binding ruling may restrict and undermine the right to free practice of religion. Similar resolutions were also issued by several state parliaments in Austria. 

Tolerance, cultural diversity, and social peace are the basic pillars of our European system of values. They are also the underlying values of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms. Each individual state, however, must be given a certain margin of discretion to consider historically grown peculiarities. Our European set of values is decisively influenced by the Christian-Occidental tradition, in which religious symbols play a legitimate role.

Therefore, I welcome Italy’s application to refer this important legal question to the Grand Chamber of the European Court for Human Rights. I am confident that the Grand Chamber is aware of this complex situation and of Europe’s cultural, religious, and humanistic heritage. I believe it is important that the Chamber takes into account the year-long understanding of the law of the signatories to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms, according to which the presence of religious symbols in public spaces does not run counter to the freedom of religion. On the contrary, everyone is entitled to exercise their religion or ideology as individuals or collectively, in public or in private.“

Federal Ministry for European and
International Affairs Press Department
Tel.: +43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550, 3739
Fax: +43 (0) 50 1159-213