Statement on the EU Constitution

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

The Methodist Church will do all it can to encourage discussionamongst church members and in church and local communities so thatwhen the referendum is held we will be in a position to vote notout of prejudice, xenophobic or uninformed comment but from aposition of informed views and seriously consideredperspectives.

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

    The Constitution states the Union is based oncommon values and objectives.

    There is a commitment to protect human rightsand human dignity.

    The Charter of Fundamental Rights bringslegally binding standards.

The EU commits itself to peace and security. European history islittered with conflict, culminating in the two devastating wars of1914-18 and 1939-45. This needs to be taken much further with agreater emphasis on conflict resolution and less on the improvementof military capabilities.

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

There is no explicit reference to Christianity in theConstitution's pre-amble yet there is a recognition of the majorcontribution of religious and humanistic traditions in the shapingof European life and institutions. Article I-51 commits the Unionto maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with churchesand religious communities. In the developing multi-faith Europethis is a significant commitment. The Union respects Churches andother faith communities under national law.

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

Each Government has until the end of 2006 to ratify theConstitution. The Methodist Church wishes to encourage theinvolvement of all its members in the democratic process ofdeciding whether or not Britain should adopt the Constitution. Wewish to encourage active citizenship in the shaping of the futureof Europe. In doing so we will decide our fundamental relationship,commitment and outlook on this European project designed to bringgreater stability, co-operation and harmony to the hugely diversecountries and communities that make up Europe.

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