Holy See–European Union relations

Bilateral relations
Holy See–European Union relations
Map indicating locations of European Union and Vatican City

European Union

Vatican City

Holy See–European Union relations is the relationship between the European Union (EU) and the Holy See (including the Holy See's sovereign territory known as the Vatican City State).[a]


While neither entity is a member of the European Union, the Holy See and Vatican City are intrinsically linked to the EU. Vatican City has an open border with Italy, and therefore with the entire Schengen Area of which Italy is part. In 2006, Vatican City indicated an interest in joining the Schengen Information System.[1] Both the Holy See and Vatican City use the euro as sole legal currency and Vatican euro coins are minted under an EU-approved agreement with Italy.[2] The EU gave Italy authority to negotiate a deal with the Holy See in 2000 which allowed the Holy See to mint a maximum of €670,000. After a review of the arrangements, a new agreement came into force in 2010, which allowed it to mint €1 million a year (plus up to an additional €300,000 on special occasions).[3]

According to the European Union's Copenhagen criteria for determining eligibility of states to join the EU, a candidate state must be a free market democracy. Given that the Holy See is not a state and Vatican City functions as an elective absolute monarchy with only one major economic actor (the state itself), neither meet the criteria.

Vatican City is not part of the European Union Customs Union or the EU's VAT area unlike some other small European states are. However Vatican City is exempt from duties and taxes and the small amount of goods exported from Vatican City are exempt from duty.[2]


The first representative from the Holy See, an Apostolic Nuncio, was accredited to the EU in 1970. The role of the EU's representative to the Holy See is accorded to the EU representative to the UN in Rome:[2] currently Ambassador Yves Gazzo. The first EU representative to the Holy See was Luis Ritto, accredited in 2006. This accreditation followed a visit by Commission President José Manuel Barroso who wished to create open full diplomatic relations between the two.[3]

Points of tension

Some of the more recent events in the relationship have been;

  • A disagreement over whether to include a reference to Europe's Christian heritage in the European Constitution[4]
  • The European Parliament refused to ratify Rocco Buttiglione as a European Commissioner because he backed the Catholic Church's view on homosexuality[5]
  • The European Union endorsed the Sandbaek Report, increasing funding for abortion[6]
  • The funding of embryonic stem cell research by the European Union[7]
  • The European Parliament passed a motion[8] calling for the compulsory recognition of same-sex unions across the European Union[9]


The Vatican City (the smallest state in the world[10]) is an ecclesiastical[10] or sacerdotal-monarchical[11] state, and as such does not have the democratic credentials to join the EU (Art. 49 TEU) and is unlikely to attain them given its unique status. Additionally its economy is also of a unique non-commercial nature. Overall, the mission of the Vatican City state, which is tied to the mission of the Holy See, has little to do with the objectives of the EU Treaty.[12] Thus EU membership is not discussed, even though the country is totally surrounded by an EU member state.[12]

See also


  1. ^ While the Holy See and the Vatican City State are not synonymous, under the Lateran Treaty Vatican City is under "full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction" of the Holy See and ultimate authority of each in terms of international relations have the same impact in terms of the topics discussed in this article


  1. ^ "Vatican seeks to join Schengen borderless zone". euobserver.com. 13 January 2006. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Holy See (Vatican), European External Action Service
  3. ^ a b Work with the Holy See, EU delegation in Rome
  4. ^ "BBC NEWS - Europe - Pope presses EU on constitution". 29 June 2003. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  5. ^ "BBC NEWS - Europe - EU row candidate stands down". 30 October 2004. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  6. ^ EU funds must not be used for abortions in developing countries, Commission of the Bishop's Conferences of the European Commission, Press Release, 13 February 2003
  7. ^ "Roman Catholic Church Outraged at EU Stem Cell Funding Decision - Christian News on Christian Today". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  8. ^ "Texts adopted - Wednesday, 14 June 2006 - Non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all - P6_TA(2006)0261". Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  9. ^ European Parliament calls for legal recognition of same-sex unions in all EU states Archived 19 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine, 27 June 2006, euro-fam
  10. ^ a b "Holy See (Vatican City)". CIA—The World Factbook. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Vatican City". Catholic-Pages.com. Archived from the original on 22 September 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  12. ^ a b "EU Enlargement and the Failure of Conditionality" (European Monographs #59), by Dimitry Kochenov, Kluwer Law International, 2008, p. 25

Further reading

  • Butler, Graham (2022). "The Legal Relations of the European Union with the Vatican City State and Holy See". European Foreign Affairs Review. 27 (2): 263–282.

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