NEWS

Four states push for reference to God in EU Constitution

PORTO CARRAS – Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and Spain were pushing for the reopening of a contentious debate to include a mention of God as part of the European Union’s draft constitution yesterday. Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said his country will renew efforts to include a stronger link to Christianity as part of Europe’s heritage when it takes over the EU’s rotating presidency July 1. Frattini said Europe should not «deny what is a fact of European history, the Christian tradition.» «A compromise might be this: to have a reference both to the lay character of the state and to Christian values,» he told reporters. «I don’t know that this will be the result, but I think an attempt in that direction can be made.» The four countries raised the issue at an EU leaders summit in northern Greece that gave a first review to the EU’s draft charter, which contains no specific reference to Europe’s Christian heritage. The draft was presented at the summit by ex-French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, chair of the 105-member constitutional panel that wrapped up work on the main parts of the draft last week. The constitution, a first for the European Union, is to streamline how the EU is run and makes decisions once it expands by 10 nations to 25 next year. Giscard d’Estaing warned leaders they should not reopen such touchy issues, warning that doing so would unravel the hard-fought compromise text negotiated by the Convention over the past 16 months. «I would appeal to you to ensure that you… not call the provisions into question,» he told leaders. The 77-year-old former French president, who is a practicing Catholic, noted yesterday the charter’s preamble includes a reference to the «cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe.» «The issue was if we should specify religion,» he said. «I was in favor but bowed to a decision of the majority.» «There was no consensus in favor of adding the word Christian,» he said. The omission of God and Christianity has stirred wide debate in European capitals. Poland’s European Minister Danuta Huebner said her country, which joins the EU next year, could not sell the charter to its citizens without a mention of God. «The expectations of 60 percent of Poles is that the preamble should reflect the role of Christianity,» Huebner said. «We all know we should not try to reopen… issues… but these issues are important for us.» The four countries have all said they will push for text saying Christian values lie at the basis of European civilization. Pope John Paul II has also issued repeated appeals, to no avail. The issue is expected to come up when EU leaders launch a last round of talks on the draft in October, with the aim of producing a final version by year-end. Meanwhile, the Convention resumes work in July to finish the final part of the blueprint. It will try to resolve whether to end national vetoes in foreign and defense policy and other areas.