Merkel drops plan for 'Christian values'

16th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

16 May 2007, Brussels (dpa) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had given up plans to enshrine Europe's "Christian values" in a new version of the EU constitution. "I would have liked to have a reference in the constitution, ... but there are not many chances left," Merkel, speaking in German, told reporters after an all-religion conference in Brussels. The German leader, who wants to use her country's term as EU president to revive the bloc's failed constitution, had pushed for making a reference t

16 May 2007

Brussels (dpa) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had given up plans to enshrine Europe's "Christian values" in a new version of the EU constitution.

"I would have liked to have a reference in the constitution, ... but there are not many chances left," Merkel, speaking in German, told reporters after an all-religion conference in Brussels.

The German leader, who wants to use her country's term as EU president to revive the bloc's failed constitution, had pushed for making a reference to Christianity in the planned treaty.

Any attempt to mention Christianity - or simply God - in the text are strictly opposed by secular France, liberal countries such as Sweden and Denmark and by Britain.

During the 2004-negotiations on the bloc's constitution, which was vetoed by French and Dutch voters in 2005, there were concerns that any religious reference could anger Europe's Muslims and Jews.

Merkel wants to see EU leaders rally behind her proposals on how to revive the constitutional process at a summit in June, shortly before Germany hands over the rotating EU presidency to Portugal.

The hope is that the treaty would enter into force in 2009, just before June elections to the European Parliament.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that the EU needed to "respect the freedom of religion not only in the EU but also in all countries that want to become a member of the EU and all other countries abroad."

The EU is split over how to handle the membership bid of Muslim Turkey which opened accession talks in 2005 but faced a partial freeze in negotiations last year over a row with EU member Cyprus.

If it does get through EU doors Turkey, with a population of 70 million, would be the first Muslim country to join the EU.

However, even if negotiations pick up pace over the coming months, Turkey's EU admission is not expected before 2020. Vowing to hold a regular dialogue of cultures in Europe, Barroso said that the EU intended to organize an all-religion conference once a year with the next taking place 2008 in Slovenia.

EU officials and 21 religious leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths in Europe also discussed how to promote the bloc's common values beyond Europe's borders.

In addition, the EU leaders called on religious communities to help shape common European values and vowed to make tolerance the basis for a dialogue between cultures.

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering said that the EU would make the protection of human dignity a basis for its policies. Planned rules on immigration would build on the principle of respect for human beings, he said.

"Every human being is unique and the protection of human dignity has to be the basis for our political work," Poettering said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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