Thursday, May 20, 2004

God stays on the agenda

Sources: Trybuna, AFP and others

During the run-up to the December summit, "Nice or die" slogans were appearing in Poland, reflecting the determination of opposition parties to keep to the voting rights agreed at Nice. This staunch opposition to the new voting arrangements does much to explain why Lesek Miller refused to accept the deal offered in Brussels, and caused the summit to break up.

Now, a new slogan is appearing: "Preamble or death". No, this is not a threat to punish those who have not read the first part of the constitution; rather it supports the Polish Episcopate demand that a reference to the Christian heritage of Europe is entered in the constitution preamble.

In an attempt to defuse the situation, a group of Polish intellectuals has proposed that the reference be made in a separate declaration officially appended to the text of the constitution, but that has failed to satisfy the Bishops, even though the suggestion has been well received in Brussels.

Moreover, the Poles have been joined formally by Italy in writing to the Irish presidency concerning the inclusion of an official reference to Christianity. Support is expected from "perhaps more than a dozen" other countries. One of those is almost certainly Malta, and Spain also reported to be supporting the initiative.

The Irish government, now representing both the EU and its own largely Catholic country, is in the embarrassing position of having to turn God away from the constitution. But the issue simply refuses to go away. Despite his rough treatment there, Ahern must now wish he was back in Hungary.

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