Monday

27th Jun 2022

Slovak-Vatican abortion deal criticised by EU experts

Slovakia has been challenged by EU legal experts over an agreement with the Vatican, aimed at reducing the number of abortions in the country.

The Guardian reports that Bratislava has come under EU fire for signing a 2003 draft treaty with the Roman Catholic church, allowing doctors in catholic hospitals to refuse to carry out abortions.

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The EU’s Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights, a group of member state analysts created by the European Commission, has indicated Slovakia could be "violating its obligations" as an EU member, according to the UK paper.

The Slovak-Vatican "concordat" would enable health workers in hospitals founded by the catholic church to refer to "conscience" grounds in saying no to women demanding abortion or in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Slovakia is one of the most Roman catholic countries in central Europe, with the number of catholics reportedly standing at around 70 percent of the population.

The EU legal panel said that in principle "certain religious organisations" should have the right not to perform "certain activities where this would conflict with [their] ethos or belief."

However, the experts added "It is important the exercise of this right does not conflict with the rights of others, including the right of all women to receive certain medical services or counselling without any discrimination."

The legal panel's report said "There is a risk that the recognition of a right to exercise objection of conscience in the field of reproductive healthcare will make it in practice impossible or very difficult for women to receive advice or treatment...especially in rural areas."

The Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights was created by the European Commission in 2002 at the recommendation of the European Parliament.

It has one expert per member state, mainly academics and senior attorneys, and reports to EU institutions on the state of fundamental rights in the European Union.

EU-Vatican ties

The Guardian writes that the Vatican has signed similar agreements on abortion and IVF with Italy, Latvia and Portugal, but these have been more limited.

The Vatican has a record of active involvement in the EU debate on political and social issues.

The church’s so-called Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community campaigned for a reference to Christianity in the EU constitution, a bid which failed despite the backing of seven states including Slovakia, Poland and Italy.

Also, in 2004, the former cardinal and current Pope Joseph Ratzinger spoke out against Turkish EU membership, saying that Turkey is "in permanent contrast to Europe."

The close confidant of the late Pope John Paul II suggested Turkey "could try to set up a cultural continent with neighbouring Arab countries and become the leading figure of a culture with its own identity."

The Vatican also has its own Brussels-based "nuncio" (ambassador) to the European Union.

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