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Italy Calls On EU To Withdraw Schools Diary That Leaves Out Christmas

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Italy calls on EU to withdraw schools diary that leaves out Christmas

Foreign minister labels omission an 'indecency' and demands the withdrawal of 3 million copies already distributed

John Hooper in Rome
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 23 December 2010 18.30 GMT

Italy has demanded that the European Commission recall millions of diaries that are being distributed to schoolchildren throughout the EU because they do not mention Christmas but they do give the dates of other religions' festivals, such as Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, and Sikh, Hindu and Chinese feast days.

Silvio Berlusconi's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, called the omission "an indecency". In a message on his Facebook page, he said: "In addition to offending all the world's Christians, it contradicts the fundamental principle of the freedom and dignity of all religious denominations, which is a basis of the European Union."

A Commission spokeswoman said it had "realised the absence of some important European religious holidays, in particular Christmas". She added: "The Commission understands the sensitivity of the issue and regrets this incident. This oversight will be rectified in future editions of the diary."

But she gave no indication that Brussels would accede to Frattini's demand to recall the diaries, which, according to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, was contained in a letter to the commission's president, Jose Manuel Barroso. The newspaper said Poland, another country with a large Catholic population, had also protested to Brussels about the omission.

Some 3 million copies of the latest edition of the Europe Diary have been sent to schools. The commission's spokeswoman said its main purpose was "inform young Europeans as consumers and citizens on issues like rights, choices as consumers [and] climate change".

It was "an educational tool, not a calendar of events", and the reference to religious events "only appears in the footnotes, together with references to other special days in relation to European culture and history".

The commission began sending out the diaries seven years ago. Christmas or no Christmas, it will be reluctant to recall and pulp the latest edition: the spokeswoman said it had cost €5.5m (£4.6m).

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/23/italy-eu-schools-diary-frattini
 

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