Parliamentary question by Maurizio Turco (NI) to the Commission and answer given by Mr Prodi on behalf of the Commission

Parliamentary questions
by Maurizio Turco (NI) to the Commission
(24 June 2003)

Subject: Speech of the Commission President on religion and the European Constitution (Alessano, Lecce, Italy, 13 June 2003)

On 13 June 2003, at a meeting in Alessano (Lecce) organised by the Don Tonino Bello foundation, the President of the European Commission spoke on the above subject of religion and the European Constitution. Mr Prodi said: '(...) Religion is one of the fundamental values of Europe and (...) the history of Europe and the history of Christianity are indissolubly linked. Consequently, I regard the Preamble to the draft European Constitution as wholly inadequate. To ignore 1500 years of civilisation is to create a vacuum in our consciousness, in our identity as Europeans. It would be better if there were no text at all rather than the text as it now stands. Better complete silence about our entire past than a lie. Others, more sanguine than us, will have the job of sorting this out at some later date. This is not by any means meant to reignite the antagonism between clericalism and anti-clericalism and between Christianity and other religions. Such antagonism has already caused more than enough harm in European countries. Nor do I mean to suggest that our minds are closed to opposing points of view in the European project we are trying to develop. We can refer to Christianity while at the same time rediscovering the roots that bind Europe to the Jewish people and declaring our desire for a dialogue with Islam. As believers we can refer to religion and as citizens to classical Greece and the traditions of humanism. (...) In order to enrich and stimulate the debate I have appointed two groups of eminent figures, one to examine the spiritual and cultural dimension of Europe and the other the question of intercultural dialogue within the European Union and in the Mediterranean region.'

Can the Commission:

- state whether Mr Prodi was speaking in his personal capacity or on behalf of the Commission and, in the latter case, whether the Commission shares the position of its President?

- state whether it shares its President's position regarding the Preamble to the European Constitution?

- supply the names of the members of the working groups referred to by Mr Prodi, explain their missions and objectives, state whether they receive any remuneration or reimbursement of expenses (and if so how much), provide information on their experience and background, and specify when their work began, when it will be completed and what use will be made of it?

Réponse donnée par M. Prodi
au nom de la Commission
(18 juillet 2003)

Comme la Commission a eu l’occasion de le rappeler à diverses reprises en réponse à des questions écrites ou orales de membres du Parlement, ses membres sont des hommes et des femmes politiques qui remplissent une fonction politique et qui, dans le respect des obligations que leur impose leur fonction, conservent la liberté d’exprimer, en toute indépendance et sous leur seule responsabilité, leur opinion personnelle.

L’Honorable Parlementaire conviendra que la question des valeurs religieuses représente pour chaque citoyen un thème à la fois éminemment sensible et personnel.

La Commission ne considère dès lors pas inapproprié que ses membres puissent s’exprimer à titre personnel sur un point particulier lors d'une manifestation publique à laquelle ils seraient invités, dans le respect des obligations que leur impose leur fonction.

En ce qui concerne la question posée au troisième tiret, la Commission invite l’Honorable Parlementaire à consulter la page Web du Président Prodi aux adresses suivantes: "Dialogue interculturel dans le bassin méditerranéen" et "Groupe de réflexion sur la dimension spirituelle et culturelle de l'Europe".

À ce propos, la Commission informe l’Honorable Parlementaire que les membres des groupes précités ne reçoivent aucune rémunération, mais que la Commission prend en charge les frais qu'entraîne leur participation aux réunions selon la procédure habituelle.