On September 16, a spin-off project of the Transatlantic Forum on Migration and Integration (TFMI), co-sponsored by GMF and the Robert Bosch Stiftung, was held in Paris. Organized in partnership with the French Defender of Rights and the Faculty of Law of Lille Catholic University, the symposium aimed to exchange information, raise transnational knowledge, and share good practices on the topic of religious discrimination around Europe, and eventually develop public policy against religious discrimination.
High-level experts on the topic, including researchers, academics, and legal policy advisers served as speakers for the conference. The symposium was attended by the staff of the French Defender of Rights and of other institutions in the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet), an organization dedicated to promoting equality and combating discrimination in the EU, as well as legal experts and lawyers specializing in freedom of religion.
The TFMI members involved in this project were Frédérique Ast (French Defender of Rights), Tufyal Choudhury (Open Society Institute, UK), Ayse Özbabacan (European City Network CLIP, Germany), Riem Spielhaus (Centre for European Islamic Thought, Denmark) and Néphéli Yatropoulos (French Defender of Rights, France).
The conference started with a comparative perspective on the right of reasonable accommodation in Europe and Quebec and was followed by presentations and discussions on legal cases of religious discrimination in France, Greece, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Spain. It became clear that some cases were similar in each country yet the jurisdiction varied to a great degree. Even if there is no consensus in Europe on religious issues, this conference showed that there is an area to build up convergence and common good practices. All participants agreed that the framing of the public debate concerning freedom of religion and the prohibition of religious discrimination around Europe is of great importance.
The outcomes of the conference may be used to draft good practices and guidelines and the discussion may also fuel the next Equinet publication focusing on the conflicts of fundamental rights and the limits of the freedom of religion. This spin-off project will also lead to a publication on the topic in French and English which will be funded by the Catholic University of Lille and will most likely be released in early 2012.
Established in 2008 by GMF and Robert Bosch Stiftung, TFMI serves as a leading platform for convening future decision-makers and as an international network for exchange on crucial immigration and integration issues. TFMI consists of 100 fellows from various sectors and more than 40 countries. Apart from the annual conference, TFMI has developed into a sustainable network that supports multiple networking activities and program formats throughout the year. In all parts of the world TFMI Fellows organize TFMI spin-off projects, including study tours, academic exchanges, and small conferences and seminars.