The EU and the full-face veil: an obscure relation : full-face veil in the European Union as seen from the human rights perspective
This paper presents the approach of the European Union and the Council of Europe towards full-face veil as inferred from legal documents, judgements of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice as well as EU-funded academic studies on this topic. It is argued this approach is very much inconsistent and often follows incoherent lines of argumentation, which is mainly due to incomprehensive data on fully veiled women in Europe as well as the lack of precise definition of “European values”. The paper analyses the phenomenon of full-face veiling not only from the perspective of freedom of religion but also takes into account other, often competing human rights, such as the freedom of expression, right to health or rights of the child. Since both the EU and the Council of Europe perceive veil as a “religious symbol” a discussion of its symbolic meaning in Islam is also included in the paper, exploring multiple cultural and social aspects of this piece of garment which are often omitted in national or EU debates on this subject.