Ekklesia, 17 May 2004 — Mr Ahern was in Malta on a three-hour working visit to discuss EU issues, particularly the EU constitution, as part of a tour of new member states in preparation for the next Intergovernmental Conference in mid-June.
On its publication last year, churches welcomed the draft EU constitution. However, some Christian groups are lobbying hard to have the mention of Europe’s Christian heritage inserted. Some have even said they will oppose the constitution completely unless God gets a name check.
In March Church representatives praised the European Union’s support for dialogue with religious communities at a meeting in Dublin with the Taoiseach, at which they also discussed reference to Christianity in the constitution.
In April, there were suggestions that a move to include reference to Christianity in the preamble was gaining support.
Addressing a joint press conference in the courtyard of Auberge de Castille, in Valletta after a meeting with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, Mr Ahern said that the proposed reference to Christian heritage in the constitution was a difficult issue. It had not been possible to reach a compromise when the issue was discussed last December and it had proved a difficult issue to agree on.
“The Maltese Prime Minister’s views are not far away from my views on this matter. But, to be frank, I do not at this stage see a possibility of a compromise on this issue,” he said.
Dr Gonzi said that Malta wanted the 25 member states to come to an agreement on the constitution as it would consider this to be a historic achievement for the EU.
“Although it may appear to be ambitious to achieve this target, we believe it would be an extremely positive step forward and a message to Europe and the whole world at a time when, unfortunately, there is a certain amount of discontent or regional upheaval in other parts of the world,” Dr Gonzi said.
“I believe that for Europe to put this message forward in a positive way would be an extremely good thing.”
The situation in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and the further enlargement of the EU, were among the issues discussed at the meeting between the two Prime Ministers.
Mr Ahern, who also met President Eddie Fenech Adami, said Europe’s constitution was at the centre of discussion in view of the Council’s deadline to conclude the issue by the next IGC.
The key objective and a priority of the Presidency in the weeks ahead was to achieve an agreement on the new constitutional treaty.
“The agreement can only be reached on the basis of compromise and mutual respect. We are determined to do our utmost to give the people that constitution,” he said.
He said his message to his colleagues was that they must seek to arrive at a consensus. The issue had been discussed extensively in the Convention on the Future of Europe, where there had been agreement over the need for consensus.
If one or more member states failed to ratify – and it would not be the first time that this happened – the Council would have to consider the situation at that stage, he said.
For additional information on the background of this story, read an article by Religioscope’s Editor, “God and the EU Charter”, published in the Fall 2003 issue of “Religion in the News”.
© 2004 Ekklesia. Posted on Religioscope with permission. An initiative of the Anvil Trust, Ekklesia is a not-for-profit think-tank which works to promote theological ideas in the public square. Website:
Image source: European Community 2004.