Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Communists and Catholics in the EU Commission

Recently, the European Parliament refused to give a vote of no-confidence to the new European Commission headed by José Manuel Barroso, head of the Commission (see). The biggest problem was over the Italian candidate for the position of the European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Rocco Buttiglione, Namely, during the hearing in the European Parliament, responding to questions concerning his position in relation to homosexuality, Buttiglione maintained that privately he thinks of homosexuality as being a sin, however, that that would in no way influence the way in which he will exercise his function of EU Commissioner. Adding to this statement Buttiglione’s record on promoting conservative legislation in Italy, EU Parliament, flatly rejected Barroso’s proposal. Buttiglione was to be replaced by another Italian ex-minister of foreign affairs of the Berlusconi government.
This decision of the European Parliament provoked an outcry among the Catholic Community in Europe. One of the most provocative remarks was: Catholics cannot be members of the Commission while the ex-Communists can.

Are there the ex-Communists in the Commission? Here we will concentrate only on the most prominent members of the Commission. First we have the Polish Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Hübner (
cv, and photos) Second, the Estonian Commissioner for Administrative Affairs and Anti-Fraud Siim Kallas (cv, photos). Third, the Hungarian Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, László Kovács (cv, photos). A quick glance at their CVs demonstrates that all three candidates are extremely shy as far as their Communist Past is concerned. They do not deny such past completely, but put an emphasis on other aspects of their professional career.

An article on the web page of the BRITISH HELSINKI HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP, despite some inconsistencies presents a thorough analysis of the three abovementioned Commissioner’s careers. (

Whereas Buttiglione’s appointment provoked an earthquake in the European media, the appointment of the above mentioned ex-Communist Commissioners went by smoothly. Is one to draw a conclusion that a conservative religious politician is an unsuitable figure for the EU Commissioner, while the possibly morally corrupt, career-at-all-cost, flip-flopping personalities are not? Of course not all the members of the Communist establishment of Eastern Europe are morally corrupt, however, it is rather strange that Hübner, Kallas and Kovács try to hide such embarrassing aspects of their past.

There is, nevertheless, an important difference before the case of Buttiglione and the appointment of the three ex-Communist Commissioners. The fact that three Commissioner’s past belonging to the Communist Party remains a part of their, so to speak, private sphere, however abhorrent one might consider (Lustrations Laws of Some Eastern European Countires now members of the EU do not think so by the way). None of the three Commissioners public agenda has trace of advocating a Communist utopia or dictatorship of the proletariat. Buttiglione, is different in this sense, his radical Catholicism, once made public, although intended as part of the private sphere of his personality, became in some sense his political agenda, however shy and implicit (to remind Buttiglione’s political, intellectual and legislative record in Italy is less shy with regards to promotion of radical Catholic, at times “discriminatory”, values).

Are radical Catholic values unacceptable in the EU public sphere? Obviously for the EU Parliament they were. This question however raises several interesting questions concerning the nature of the EU polity.

Is Europe a secular “state”, formally speaking? Is being a radical Catholic incompatible with performing an EU public function? Are religious arguments to be included into the public sphere in the EU? Is being an ex-Communist incompatible with a public function, such as that of the EU Commissioner? Should the EU have Czech type Lustration laws?

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