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Thursday, 6 February, 2003, 20:46 GMT
God missing from EU constitution
Valery Giscard D'Estaing
Giscard unveiled the new draft
Officials in Brussels have omitted the word God from the European Union's future constitution.

The president of the convention on the future of Europe, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, unveiled the constitution's first 15 draft articles on Thursday.

CONVENTION REPRESENTATIVES
National governments and parliaments
European Commission
European parliament
13 candidate countries
Non-governmental organisations and academia
Among them are statements of respect for member countries' national identity and for human rights, as well as commitments to social justice and the environment.

But none of the chapters mentions any deity, or any explicitly religious or Christian values supposed to underpin the European project.

Some countries - particularly Poland, a future EU member - had argued for such a mention.

The Vatican and smaller denominations, including Jewish, Muslim and Protestant organisations, have also advocated its inclusion.

But others - including France, a strictly secular state - have strongly opposed it.

Last month the European Convention - which brings together 105 representatives of the 15 EU governments, legislatures and institutions - held a stormy debate on how the charter should deal with religion.

Feathers ruffled

Correspondents say the issue could still re-surface in a preamble to the document, which is expected to be completed by the summer.

A lot of representatives are wondering whether the people who drew up this document have been going to a different convention

Peter Hain
UK representative
The draft states that among its main objectives are peace, "the well-being of peoples", competitiveness and the "discovery of space".

It distinguishes between areas of the "exclusive competency" of the EU - such as customs union, monetary policy and conservation of marine resources - and "shared competency" - the internal market, agriculture and fisheries and the environment.

But the BBC's Chris Morris says that while Mr Giscard D'Estaing has sought to boost democracy and to simplify the workings of the EU, he has ruffled more than a few feathers along the way.

One UK representative at the convention, Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, said the draft did not reflect a consensus of people on the convention.

"A lot of representatives are wondering whether the people who drew up this document have been going to a different convention," PA news agency quoted him as saying.


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