Monday

4th Jul 2022

Catholic high-level group could fuel EU 'God' debate

European bishops have commissioned a high-profile group of thinkers to draft a report on the EU's common values, in a move which could spur the debate on the need to include Christianity in a new EU treaty text.

The "group of wise men and women" held its first meeting on Monday (11 September) at the initiative of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The experts group - consisting only of Roman Catholics - notably includes three members of the previous European Commission - Mario Monti, Franz Fischler and Loyola de Palacio - as well as Jacques Santer, who led the EU executive from 1995-1999 and former European Parliament president Pat Cox.

Former Belgian ambassador to the EU, Philippe de Schoutheete, who also has a seat in the group, said the aim of the project is to raise awareness of European values among the public at a time when most people are "totally ignorant or unaware" that there is "something more" to the EU than the single market or agricultural policy.

"The EU process has clearly been based on a certain number of values, but in the course of the process they have been largely forgotten," he said.

A COMECE spokeswoman added that the initiative is also "indirectly" aimed at influencing a political declaration on the EU's values and ambitions which the bloc's leaders are planning to adopt on 25 March 2007 - the EU's 50th anniversary date.

The member states' EU birthday declaration is likely to spark fresh debate on Europe's Christian heritage as the basis of its common values - a debate which was recently re-opened by the German chancellor Angela Merkel who made a plea for including "God" in a new EU treaty text.

The text of the EU constitution, which was put on ice after French and Dutch voters rejected it last year, does not include a reference to Christianity, despite strong lobbying by COMECE during the drafting of the text in 2003-2004.

After visiting the Pope in August, Mrs Merkel said "I underlined my opinion that we need a European identity in the form of a constitutional treaty and I think it should be connected to Christianity and God, as Christianity has forged Europe in a decisive way."

Mr De Schoutheete said that the newly launched experts group is not a fresh Catholic attempt to get "God" into a new EU treaty text as such.

"We have no mandate to draft a constitution or a preamble of a constitution," he said.

The group will instead identify the values that drove the EU's founding fathers and which can be "linked to Christian faith" - such as peace, freedom, a rejection of extreme nationalism, solidarity, respect for diversity and subsidiarity (the idea that political decisions should be taken at the lowest possible level).

But COMECE's secretary general Noel Treanor said that apart from the work of the experts group, European bishops are themselves set to discuss their stance on "God" in a new EU treaty, now that Ms Merkel has re-opened the debate.

MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship

Two MEPs have withdrawn their nominations from the MEPs Awards over the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis's participation as a sponsor — currently involved in an alleged bribery scandal in Greece.

EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Interpreters at the European Parliament are fed up with remote interpretation, citing auditory health issues given the poor quality of the online sessions.

EU opens door to Ukraine in 'geopolitical' summit

EU leaders will also discuss eurozone issues with European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, as more and more leaders are worried about voters' distress at soaring inflation.

Opinion

The euro — who's next?

Bulgaria's target date for joining the eurozone, 1 January 2024, seems elusive. The collapse of Kiril Petkov's government, likely fresh elections, with populists trying to score cheap points against the 'diktat of the eurocrats', might well delay accession.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Ex-Frontex chief 'uninvited' from parliament committee
  2. Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK
  3. The human rights aspects of Grenoble's 'burkini' controversy
  4. Council must act on core of EU migration package
  5. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  6. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  7. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  8. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us