Will we witness a revival of religion in European policy?

Europeans regularly disparage the Bush administration in the US for its religious bent but some people see a revival of religion in European politics? Rocco Buttiglione - the man rejected by the European Parliament for his views on women and homosexuals says he will push for "Christian values" in Europe. And some politicians raise Europe's Christian traditions as an argument against Turkey joining the EU. The issue of Europe's spiritual identity was debated at a symposium in Vienna this week.

The idea that religion could play a role again in Europe's democratic politics is surprising to many. But Editor-in-Chief of Die Zeit Michael Naumann says he thinks that it may well be a trend in the future:

"The emergence of Evangelical movements in the United States coincides with profound social-economic changes. This could happen here too, in so far as if the welfare system were to collapse in Europe, what would people do? In the past we have had totalitarian movements, which picked up the unhappiness and discontent. This is not going to happen again but I think the churches might find it opportune."

But would the prominence of religious rhetoric seen in the US presidential campaign be desirable in the EU? Jozsef Szajer is Deputy-Chairman of the European Peoples Party in the EU Parliament:

"I wouldn't be too happy to see that kind of a strong dimension of religious involvement in politics as is the case in the United States."

Whatever the misgivings about the role of religion in democracies, Michael Naumann says Europe needs to acknowledge that Christianity has been a formative force:

"Europeans are of Christian heritage, whether they go to Church or not."

And there are dangers in not comprehending the Christian past of Europe according to Jozsef Szajer:

"Christianity was one of the sources of present European Unity. This is only a historical statement and if we don't say it then we falsify history. We want to be fair with the Buddhists and with followers of Islam but I think we can still be fair with them if we recognise our own identity and our own traditions as our own. Those who loose their identity loose their way in society."

But when it comes down to specific issues, does Christianity still have the say? Wasn't the fate of Mr Buttiglione a victory for secular values?

"The outrage about Mr Buttiglione was that he is just an old classic homophobic politician who hates gays. Europe has become more tolerant."

Turkey and the EU - will religion decide that? Jozsef Szajer denies it:

"Turkish society is also built on a very strong Islamic heritage and this is not irreconcilable. The problem is more of an economical nature."

Overall, does Europe - beyond having interesting discussions about it - have to agree that it has a common spiritual heritage?

"It does have a common identity and that identity can be described as the knowledge that we are all very different however we share a quest for commonality - a common and mutual belief in the benefits of an economic and legal integration. That has worked very well for all of us and if that is at the core of the identities next to the fact that we all do have a Christian heritage, whether we believe in God or not, it is enough."