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Les cultes reconnus, partenaires sociaux de l’Etat

Law 489/2006 on Freedom of Religion and the General Status of Denominations confirms the will of the state to recognise the legitimacy of the social commitment made by recognised faiths and to support them in their capacity of "providers of social services" (art. 10.7) and "social partners" of the state. It opens up the possibility of establishing partnerships with recognised religions "in areas of common interest" (art. 9.5).
Several such partnerships have been established along the years. In October 2007, a new cooperation agreement on social inclusion was signed by the Romanian Patriarchate and the government : the Orthodox Church is committed to supporting the government’s social policies and contributing to their development ; for its part, the ministry undertakes to facilitate the spiritual care of people staying in its establishments or working in its divisions (e.g. hospital chaplains), including by developing spaces devoted to these activities.
Another cooperation agreement on social and spiritual welfare was signed on 24 July 2008 by the Romanian Patriarchate and the Ministry of Public Health. It develops the 1995 agreement to include a more pronounced social and educational dimension, by adding the important dimension of health education. Similarly, it provides the basis for direct collaboration between the state and the Orthodox Church in the area of social welfare and formalises the possibility for the Church to take part in various programmes initiated by the government in several areas (assistance for troubled families, for children from migrant families, for AIDS and tuberculosis patients in particular, development of social welfare in poorer zones etc.).
A draft law on a partnership between the state and religions in the area of social services was adopted by the Chamber of Deputies on 8 March 2011. This text formalises the possibility for all recognised religions to implement partnerships between the state or local authorities and faiths, but limits the possibility for public financing of such activities to 80% of projects. It also gives local authorities the greatest part of the responsibility for decisions on the implementation of these partnerships. The project has generated heated debate in civil society, with many observers accusing lawmakers of seeking once again to favour the Orthodox Church. The representatives of the Orthodox Church, however, have adopted a critical position in relation to this project. According to them, it limits the possibilities for public funding and, by giving local authorities power of discretion in regard to the project implementation and financing, entails an increased risk of political patronage and the use of these projects as electoral instruments. The President of Romania has refused to promulgate the law and has sent it back to Parliament. Its adoption is therefore still an ongoing process.

D 2 octobre 2012    AIuliana Conovici ALaurenţiu Tănase AManuela Gheorghe

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