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 Friday, 27 December, 2002, 18:39 GMT
Polish cardinal enters EU abortion debate
Polish church
Poland's church want to retain strict abortion laws
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland has said the EU must allow his country to set its own regulations on abortion.

We should very much assist this idea [European integration] but nonetheless have a critical stance as to the manner and the methods

Cardinal Glemp
Cardinal Jozef Glemp said recognition of the "separateness" of Poland's position on the issue could be made in the accession treaty for now, but should ultimately be included in the EU's constitution.

His remarks, reported by Poland's PAP news agency, come after more than a week of debate over the issue among politicians and church leaders.

They appear to contradict Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, who said on Monday that there was no need for a special clause stating Poland's policy towards family planning in the accession treaty.

Malta example

The debate was triggered by a senior official of the governing SLD party, Marek Dyduch, who said in a newspaper interview last week that the party would work to liberalise Poland's abortion law would begin after next year's referendum on EU entry.

In response, Polish Archbishop and Episcopal representative in the European Communities Henryk Muszynski said on Monday that the Church would demand a clause on abortion in the accession treaty.

One of the other nine countries set to join the EU in 2004, Malta, negotiated a clause safeguarding its ban on abortion during the talks on its membership application, concluded at the Copenhagen summit earlier this month.

Ireland also has such a safeguard, in the form of Protocol No 17 to the Treaty of Rome, which says community law cannot override the Irish Constitution's prohibition of abortion.

Strict laws

Although the EU has no binding laws on abortion, the European Parliament adopted a resolution this year, urging member states as well as candidate countries to legalise it.

Poland adopted strict anti-abortion laws in the early 1990s reversing the policy of the Communist years.

Abortion is allowed to save a woman's life, or to preserve her physical or mental health.

The government, hoping for the Catholic Church's support during the EU campaign, is expected to tread carefully on the abortion issue over the next few months correspondents say.

No agitation

The referendum, currently expected in June, is thought likely to be hard fought.

Farmers are already deeply unhappy at the prospect of joining the EU with fewer subsidies than their western competitors.

Cardinal Glemp said the church should favour the idea of European integration in principle, but keep an open mind about its "technical manifestation", the EU.

"We should very much assist this idea, but nonetheless have a critical stance as to the manner and the methods," he said.

He said priests should not directly agitate for Poles to vote in the referendum.

See also:

22 Aug 02 | Europe
02 Jun 02 | Europe
03 Oct 01 | Europe
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