European Union External Action

The EU and the Holy See

06/02/2021 - 10:00
EU relations with Country

The EU's relations with the Holy See

The EU and the Holy See are like-minded partners. They established diplomatic relations in 1970. The first EU Ambassador to the Holy See was accredited in June 2006; the first Nuncio was accredited in 1970 to the EU. The EU Ambassador to the Holy See is, as the Head of Delegation in Rome also EU Ambassador to the Republic of San Marino, the Order of Malta and the Rome based UN organisations.  Pope Francis is, as Bishop of Rome, the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church. He heads both the Holy See and the Vatican City State.  The Vatican City State, the smallest sovereign state in the world (0.4 km²), was founded by the 1929 Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and Italy.

Priorities: the EU’s priority is to further enhance relations with the Holy See as a like-minded partner.  

EU-Holy See relations and dialogue have considerably been strengthened since the establishment in 2015, of an annual “Structured Dialogue on foreign policy and global issues” at the levels of the EU High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission and of the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service. In addition, ad-hoc dialogues are held at Leaders’, ministerial (Commissioners) and Senior Officials’ levels on a wide array of policies including geopolitical issues, specific geographies (Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia…), sectoral policies in Brussels and Rome; in international organisations and world-wide among EU Delegations and Nunciatures.

The EU and the Holy See are, as like-minded partners, promoting shared objectives related in particular to peace and security, multilateralism with a strong United Nations at its core, Covid-19 recovery, human rights, migration, fighting poverty and corruption, an ethical digitalisation, climate change including the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals-2030.

The 50th Anniversary of EU – Holy See diplomatic relations in 2020 was marked by (virtual) Leaders’ dialogues between the President of the European Council Charles Michel and Pope Francis and between the three EU Presidents and Holy See Secretary of State (‘Prime Minister’) Cardinal Parolin. In the past, the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Parliament and several European Commissioners have paid official visits to the Vatican. Popes Francis and Saint John-Paul II delivered speeches at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, while Pope John-Paul II had visited the European Commission in 1985.

The EU Delegation in Rome analyses the developments and policies at the Holy See and promotes EU objectives, including by participating in events and ceremonies organised by the Holy See.  The Head of Delegation chairs the coordination on EU policies towards the Holy See with the accredited Member States.

The Vatican’s customs rules are based on a 1930 agreement with Italy, which exempts the Vatican from all Community duties and taxes. The small amount of goods originating in the Vatican and exported to Italy is exempted from duty and subject to a preferential arrangement.

A Monetary Agreement between the European Union and the Vatican City State is in force, allowing the Vatican to use the euro as legal tender and to issue, under conditions, a certain number of euro coins; the agreement also provides for the application of EU rules on combating counterfeiting, money laundering and terrorist financing.