EU constitution draft leaves out mention of God

 

The proposed EU constitution will contain no reference to God or Christianity but will refer in its preamble to "the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe". Denis Staunton reports.

The decision to omit any reference to God comes despite intense lobbying by churches, conservative politicians and Pope John Paul for the constitution to refer specifically to Europe's Christian tradition.

Members of the Convention on the Future of Europe received the draft preamble to the constitution last night after the convention's 12-member praesidium approved wording drawn up by its president, Mr Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

Ireland's member of the praesidium, Mr John Bruton, expressed disappointment that the text did not go further in acknowledging Europe's religious heritage. "My own view is that there should be a more explicit reference to the fact that many Europeans believe, whether they are Muslim, Christian or Jewish, in something greater than humanity on its own," he said.

Mr Bruton said he was pleased that the preamble contained a strong reference to the value of each person, which he described as "very much a Christian Democratic idea".

The text refers to the civilisations of Greece and Rome and the 18th-century European Enlightenment. "They have anchored in the life of society the perception of the central role of the human person, of his inviolable and inalienable rights and also respect for the law," it says.

The Catholic Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community last night welcomed the draft preamble, despite its omission of a specific reference to God.

"The praesidium proposes a preamble to the constitution which recognises in an inclusive way the contribution of Europe's religious heritage - of which Christianity is a major part - in determining the common values that underlie the process of European integration.

"A Europe which disavowed its past, which denied the fact of religion and which had no spiritual dimension would be greatly impoverished in facing up to the ambitious project which calls upon all its available energy: constructing a Europe for all," the group said in a statement.

The convention will meet tomorrow and on Saturday to discuss the latest draft of the entire constitution, which was published this week.

Mr Romano Prodi, the European Commission president, yesterday condemned the draft as lacking in vision and ambition and warned that it could paralyse the EU if it was to be approved in its present form.

"It does not solve the problems created by the Treaty of Nice, on the contrary, it is in some respect a step backwards," he said.

In Athens, Mr Prodi said he wanted to send a wake-up call to the convention, which has just three weeks to finalise the draft constitution before presenting it to EU leaders next month.

"We cannot let ourselves become victims or hostages of a text that fails to propose solutions, that threatens to paralyse Europe," he said.

The draft preamble published last night is likely to offend the EU's critics by retaining a commitment to "ever-closer union". The latest draft omits the word "federal", however, partly in an effort to win British approval.

The British Foreign Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, yesterday made clear London's satisfaction with the way the convention was heading. "[The constitution] will create a stable rule book setting out clearly the primacy of nation states," Mr Straw said.