Catholic bishops met on Monday to discuss "ethical values for European unification," refueling the debate over the "Christianization" of the EU constitution.
Following a private meeting with the Pope in August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that any EU constitution "should refer to our Christian values." Merkel will attempt to resurrect the terminating constitutional treaty when Berlin takes over the EU presidency in January 2007, and has made no secret of her wish to include a reference to Christian values in the text.
"I believe this treaty should be linked to Christianity and God because Christianity was decisive in the formation of Europe," she said.
On the same day that Merkel will host the 50th birthday party for the EU in Berlin, Catholic bishops from across the EU will draw up a report on Europe’s religious heritage to be presented at their European congress in Rome next March. The anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which led to the creation of what is now the EU, will be used by EU leaders to adopt a political declaration setting out Europe’s values and ambitions – a stop-gap measure designed to reaffirm support for the EU despite the failure of the constitution.
The church leaders hope their report "will give a new impulse to developing a civic sense of Europe as a community of values," according to a statement.
Germany is not the only country keen to see some reference to a Christian God in the EU’s constitution, but Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ireland all pushed hard for its conclusion during the first round of negotiations in 2004.
But opposition from the UK, France and Sweden kept religious statements out of the constitutional treaty text.
Instead, the constitution said that the EU drew "inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe" – a vague reference that was not considered strong enough for many Catholic countries.
And with plans still underway to allow predominantly Muslim Turkey to join the EU, it may become even more difficult to include an explicit reference to Christianity.