21 June 2004

Statement on the EU Constitution

Colin Ride, Europe Secretary: The Methodist Church in Britain welcomes the adoption of the EU Constitution by the Inter-Governmental Conference. There is now an opportunity for an informed, rational, knowledgeable yet passionate debate about the place and relationship Britain has within European society. The debate needs to be based on accurate information and insight.

The Methodist Church will do all it can to encourage discussion amongst church members and in church and local communities so that when the referendum is held we will be in a position to vote not out of prejudice, xenophobic or uninformed comment but from a position of informed views and seriously considered perspectives.

There are many aspects to the Constitution that should be of particular interest to Christians in general and to Methodists in particular with our historic commitment to social justice and holistic living: 

    The Constitution states the Union is based on common values and objectives.

    There is a commitment to protect human rights and human dignity.

    The Charter of Fundamental Rights brings legally binding standards.

The EU commits itself to peace and security. European history is littered with conflict, culminating in the two devastating wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. This needs to be taken much further with a greater emphasis on conflict resolution and less on the improvement of military capabilities.

Among other aspects the Constitution defines the competences of the EU institutions and member states. The European Parliament and its powers and rights are strengthened and many legal procedures are clarified. These include a strengthened role for the Parliament in the areas of asylum and migration.

There is no explicit reference to Christianity in the Constitution's pre-amble yet there is a recognition of the major contribution of religious and humanistic traditions in the shaping of European life and institutions. Article I-51 commits the Union to maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with churches and religious communities. In the developing multi-faith Europe this is a significant commitment. The Union respects Churches and other faith communities under national law.

Much of the current emphasis in Britain has been on economic issues and the need as emphasised by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, for much greater flexibility and competitiveness in economic matters throughout the Union. The Constitution does not attempt to tie countries to particular economic models. The debate on the Constitution does not impinge on any future decision about the adoption or rejection of the Euro.

Each Government has until the end of 2006 to ratify the Constitution. The Methodist Church wishes to encourage the involvement of all its members in the democratic process of deciding whether or not Britain should adopt the Constitution. We wish to encourage active citizenship in the shaping of the future of Europe. In doing so we will decide our fundamental relationship, commitment and outlook on this European project designed to bring greater stability, co-operation and harmony to the hugely diverse countries and communities that make up Europe.

We will need to bring all our theological, social and spiritual insights to bear in order to arrive at our best judgements about the Constitution and its place within British society.

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