18th May 2021

Polish MEPs push for Papal plaque in Brussels

  • The late Pope championed European integration (Photo: EUobserver)

A Polish campaign to name the new wing of the European Parliament building in Brussels after the late Pope John Paul II is gathering momentum.

The proposal has reportedly won the backing of Hans-Gert Pöttering, a member of Germany's Christian Democrat party and the leader of the EPP-ED group, the largest faction in the European Parliament.

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"Mr Pöttering said he supports the proposal, but he would have to check exactly which space we could choose for such a dedication", the Polish MEP Boguslaw Sonik (EPP-ED) told EUobserver.

Conference of Presidents to decide

Mr Sonik gave birth to the idea in a letter to Josep Borrell, the president of the European Parliament, on 4 April.

But Mr Borrell's own thoughts on the subject are not clear.

"He repeated that the Pope was a great man and said he would pass on the proposal to the Conference of Presidents", Mr Sonik reported.

The conference is the parliament's highest authority and will ultimately decide whether or not to adopt the suggestion.

It is headed by Josep Borrell and composed of the ten leaders of the seven political groups.

The conference is expected to make up its mind in early May.

Polish MEPs to push

Mr Sonik indicated that most of the UEN group, as well as another Polish MEP Jozef Pinior (PES), are also on board the campaign.

"Basically, we are trying to get all the Polish MEPs to try and influence their representatives in the Conference of Presidents", he explained.

The new building, which is made up of two parts called D4 and D5, is currently being erected beside the Altiero Spinelli structure at 60 Rue Wiertz in Brussels.

D4 and D5 will open for business in 2007 and 2008, providing museum and library space as well as meeting rooms and offices for MEPs.

"As you walk through the doors of the parliament in Brussels you see the names of Spaak and Spinelli. I would like to see the same kind of thing for the Pope", Mr Sonik elaborated.

"Perhaps we could use the Pope's original name, Karol Wojtyla, to place emphasis on him as a person", he added.

The Belgian politician Paul-Henri Spaak and the Italian ideologue Altiero Spinelli helped build the EU in the 1950s and 1970s.

Political building

The late Pope is widely associated with the fall of Communism and the reunification of Europe in the 1980s and 1990s.

But the scheme could face flak from other MEPs, who frown upon John Paul II's views on contraception and gay rights, as well as his handling of Roman Catholic paedophilia scandals in the US.

"He had a highly controversial record and it could provoke serious divisions", Baroness Sarah Ludford (ALDE) warned.

"It's not appropriate to name a lay, political building after a religious figure. Why should the Roman Catholic church monopolise the naming of buildings?" she added.

Another ALDE MEP, Alexander Alvaro, remarked that, "The European Parliament is not the Holy See of Rome".

Meanwhile, other parliament sources said that D4 and D5 could theoretically end up housing Turkish-Muslim MEPs in the years to come.

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