European Parliament criticises ban on “Christmas”


European Union


Helena Dalli. Photo EPA, Julien Warnand

Members of the European Parliament almost unanimously criticised EU Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli, while debating her controversial language guidelines that have since been pulled.

The centre-right European People’s Party requested the debate. The party leader Manfred Weber praised Europe’s Christian roots. “Freedom of religion, or not to believe, is a fundamental right we all enjoy. Faith is a fact of life, and it is being squeezed out of the public sphere”, Weber said, according to Malta Today.

The European Commission presented a handbook with “Guidelines on Inclusive Communication” in late October. In it, the EC suggested the use of certain expressions. According to the paper, it would thus be preferable to use the terms “holiday period” than “Christmas period”. Likewise, in a meeting, the words “Ladies and Gentlemen” should be avoided in favour of a neutral formula: “Dear colleagues”.

Following an international outcry, which included fierce criticism from the Vatican, Dalli withdrew the document, saying it needed more work.

Many of Dalli’s critics started or ended their speeches in the European Parliament by sarcastically wishing their colleagues a “merry Christmas”, while some based their criticism on Europe’s Christian values, writes the Times of Malta. “The stars on the EU flag represent the crown of the Virgin Mary and the blue represents the colour of her mantle,” former EP president Antonio Tajani, who is part of the EPP, said.

Bert-Jan Ruissen, who is leader of the Dutch Reformed SGP party, said that "churches across Europe are preparing for Christmas, while the European officers were trying to remove Christmas from their vocabulary."

Other MEP’s said that the document imposed rules typical of totalitarian and communist regimes. Exactly that was said by the Pope as well.


However, not everyone was so critical about the document. “This is a bogus debate,” said Spanish centre-left MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar. “These guidelines are not even an official document. It’s not a legitimate file”, he pointed out.

Some MEP’s were critical of their colleagues for making a fuss about the guidelines. “We are facing considerable challenges, and you decide to make a mountain out of a molehill,” said Swedish Green MEP, Alice Kuhnke, according to the EU Observer.

Maltese Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer criticised the Commission for repealing the guidelines, saying the so-called European way had been turned into a privilege. “The conservative forces embarked on this disinformation campaign during Christmas, when there is nothing about Christmas in the document you presented.”

Dalli was not present for Wednesday’s debate. Instead, the debate was chaired by her colleague, Commissioner for the European way of Life, Margaritis Schinas.



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