The European Court of Human Rights at the Grassroots Level: Exploring the Court’s Role in Governing Religious Pluralism on the Ground

5-7 July, 2017

ICON-S Annual Meeting on ‘Courts, Power, Public Law’, University of Copenhagen

From 5-7 July the University of Copenhagen hosted the ICON-S 2017 Annual Meeting, with the overarching theme ‘Courts, Power, Public Law’. This conference looked to explore the expanding role of courts that is arguably one of the most significant developments in late-20th and early-21st century government.

The Grassrootsmobilise team participated in this conference with a panel on ‘The European Court of Human Rights at the Grassroots Level: Exploring the Court’s Role in Governing Religious Pluralism on the Ground’. This panel spoke to the question of ‘to what extent do courts succeed in achieving their goals, and under what conditions?’.  The European Court of Human Rights is an arena where some of the most challenging questions around European religious pluralism are deliberated, and its case law has centrally contributed to European efforts to govern tensions between secular and religious worldviews. In light of scholarly debates questioning the direct effects of courts, this panel reflected research focused on developments that take place ‘in the shadow’ of the ECtHR. It engaged especially with the extent to which ECtHR decisions define the ‘political opportunity structures’ and the discursive frameworks within which citizens act. What do we learn about the relevance and mobilizing potential (or lack thereof) of the ECtHR’s case law when examining its uses (or lack thereof) in national/local level case law?

Margarita Markoviti discussed ‘Religious pluralism and Grassroots Mobilizations in Greece: The different uses of European Court of Human Rights religion-related jurisprudence in national and local courts’, examining the different ways in which European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decisions around religion provide the “political opportunity structures” and the discursive frameworks within which citizens in Greece mobilize.

Pasquale Annicchino’s presentation ‘A two speeds impact? Italy, religiously motivated claims and the European Court of Human Rights’, based on research conducted with Alberta Giorgi, assessed, through an analysis of national case studies and key-witnesses interviews, how and to which extent claims based on provisions of the Convention and decisions of the Court have contributed to mobilization and outcomes in national courts.

Mihai Popa, with his presentation entitled ‘Who cares about Strasbourg? The role of activists in foregrounding the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in religion-related litigations in Romania’, investigated in-depth two of the most prominent domestic litigations on matters related to religion in Romania in the last decade, highlighted the increasing attention paid to the Court by activists from the religious sector of civil society and pointed out that social mobilizations are key to understanding the ‘indirect effects’ of the ECtHR in present-day Romania, both within and outside the courts of law.

Ceren Ozgul looked at ‘“Genuine Belief” in the International and National Courts: The ECtHR and Grassroots Mobilization around Conscientious Objection to Military Service in Turkey’ and examined the relevance and mobilizing potential of the ECtHR’s case law on conscientious objection to military service as well as the obstacles it presents for grassroots actors in Turkey, following legal mobilization on conscientious objection to compulsory military service in Turkish national courts on two tracks: pacifist anti militarist action and religiously based conscientious objection.

The programme is available here and you can listen to the panel here:

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Religion and national identity on trial: the impact of the ECtHR on religious freedom at the grassroots level

9-10 June, 2017

Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Göttingen

Effie Fokas, Grassrootsmobilise Principal Investigator, was recently invited to the Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Institute of Advanced Study at Göttingen University, to participate in the workshop ‘Religious freedom and the varieties of religious establishment – National identities, public morals and cultural values’, held on the 9th and 10th of June.

The workshop was organized by the research group ‘Human Rights, Constitutional Politics and Religious Diversity’ at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg, and brought together scholars from various disciplines with distinctive regional expertise in order to jointly examine questions of religious freedom and its relationship with claims about issues of national identity, public morals or shared cultural values.

The workshop focused, in particular, on three inter-related questions:

  1. a) What is the role of religion in constituting national identity, public morals or cultural values across diverse polities?
  2. b) How do references to national identity or cultural-moral traditions constrain religious freedom and other fundamental rights?
  3. c) How do references to national identity or cultural-moral traditions affect aspirations of minority religious groups for accommodation and public recognition?

Effie Fokas’ presentation ‘Religion and national identity on trial: the impact of the ECtHR on religious freedom at the grassroots level’ was based on recent research from the Grassrootsmobilise project.

The programme is available here.

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The Kokkinakis Papers

27 May, 2017

Central European University, Budapest

On 27 May 2017 the international conference ‘The Kokkinakis Papers: Taking Stock of 25 years of ECHR Jurisprudence on Freedom of Religion or Belief‘, convened by Cole W. Durham, Malcolm Evans, Jeroen Temperman and Jeremy T. Gunn, took place at the Central European University in Budapest. This conference brought together the authors of a volume planned for the 25th anniversary of the Kokkinakis v. Greece judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. The aim of the conference and the planned volume is to explore the depths and developments of ECtHR jurisprudence, as well as the broader context and implications of this case law from a wide range of perspectives.

Effie Fokas presented her Grassrootsmobilise-based research on ‘Kokkinakis at the Grassroots Level’, considering the extent to which grassroots level actors know about the case of Kokkinakis and see in it an opportunity to further their own religion-related rights claims, the extent to which the case inspired social actors such as rights activists, cause lawyers or faith group members, to mobilise for their own religion-related rights, whether in court, in the halls of government, or in the streets, and whether Kokkinakis left a mark on the individual citizen with concerns to do with religious freedoms.


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Presentation on the Dynamics of State-Religion Relations and Citizen Mobilization in Present-day Romania

9 May, 2017

Institute for East European Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

Postdoctoral researcher Mihai Popa recently presented aspects of his research at the Freie Universität Berlin’s Institute for East European Studies, in a presentation entitled ‘Towards a Pro-Family Constitution: Dynamics of State-Religion Relations and Citizen Mobilization in Present-day Romania’.

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Grassrootsmobilise Presentations on Religious Minorities and the ECtHR at ASN World Convention

4 May, 2017

ASN World Convention, Harriman Institute, Columbia University, New York

Margarita Markoviti and Ceren Ozgul recently presented aspects of their research relating to religious minorities and the ECtHR at the Annual World Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN) which took place from 4-6 May 2017 at the International Affairs Building, Harriman Institute, Columbia University in New York. They participated in a panel on ‘Religious Minorities in the Post-Ottoman Space’ in the section on ‘Turkey, Greece & Cyprus’, with presentations on ‘The ECtHR as a venue for Greco-Turkish relations: The Treaty of Lausanne and the Muslim Minority in Western Thrace’ and ‘Religious Minorities without Legal Status: The Lausanne Treaty and the Right to Property Cases against Turkey in the ECtHR’ respectively.

Further information is available here.

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The political impact of the European Court of Human Rights – religious movements’ grassroots mobilizations

12 April, 2017

Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology (CIES), University Institute of Lisbon

Researcher Alberta Giorgi was recently invited to present her research on ‘The political impact of the European Court of Human Rights – religious movements’ grassroots mobilizations’ at the Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology of the University Institute of Lisbon. The presentation received much interest and was followed by a highly contructive discussion.


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Presentation on ‘The Limits of Religious Diversity in the Public Sphere’

14 March, 2017

Department of Sociology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

On Tuesday 14th March Margarita Markoviti, postdoctoral researcher for the Greek case study, was hosted by the Department of Sociology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, as part of their ISOR seminar series on ‘Research in Sociology of Religion’. Dr. Markoviti presented her recent research on ‘The Limits of Religious Diversity in the Public Sphere: Freedom of Religious Expression and Worship in the city of Athens’. She discussed her study of the freedom of religious expression and worship in a context of increasing religious pluralism, focusing on the Greek capital of Athens as an indicative case of a city in which the rising waves of immigration have, since the late 1990s and even more recently, challenged both the “prevailing” position of the Orthodox Church in the country and longstanding perceptions of the meaning and use of “public spaces”.

Further information is available here.

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Research Seminar on Religious Pluralism and Education in Greece

21 February, 2017

Hellenic Observatory, London School of Economics (LSE), London

On Tuesday, 21st February Principal Investigator Dr. Effie Fokas and the postdoctoral researcher for the Greek case study, Dr. Margarita Markoviti were hosted by the LSE’s Hellenic Observatory. Dr. Fokas presented the Grassrootsmobilise programme as a whole, while Dr. Markoviti discussed her research on religious pluralism and education in Greece, exploring the “radiating effects” of the European Court of Human Rights in a context of prevailing religion and increasing religious pluralism. The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session and much discussion.

The seminar details and podcast are available here.

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8th Grassrootsmobilise Meeting on the National Courts Study and Single ECtHR Case Study

10-11 February, 2017

Athens, Greece

The Grassrootsmobilise team’s 8th Research Meeting was held in Athens on the 10th and 11th February, 2017. The main aim of the meeting was to discuss the postdoctoral researchers’ recent reports on references to the ECtHR’s religion-related case law in national high courts, as well as their work exploring mobilisations before and after particular ECtHR cases against the respective countries (Vallianatos v. GreeceCosta and Pavan v. ItalySindicatul “Păstorul cel Bun” v. Romania, and Ercep v . Turkey). They were joined in Athens by Advisory Board Member Professor Lucy Vickers, who offered constructive feedback on these aspects of the research, and received further feedback in writing from Advisory Board Member Professor Matthias Koenig on the single ECtHR case studies. During the meeting the team also discussed their plans for publications arising from this research, as well as publications based on the research related to the legal status of religious minorities.


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International Workshop on ‘International Legal Mechanisms Ensuring European Unity and Sustainability’


28-30 November 2016

Carlos III University of Madrid, Spain

Margarita Markoviti, Grassrootsmobilise Researcher for the Greek case study, recently presented her research on ‘Grassroots Perceptions of Religious Freedoms in Education: The Margin of Appreciation in the ECtHR Decisions on Religious Freedom’ at the international workshop organised by the Carlos III University of Madrid on ‘International Legal Mechanisms Ensuring European Unity and Sustainability’, that took place from November 28th to 30th.

The conference programme is available here.

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