Italy wants cross ruling cancelled
Support from 'many' European countries, Frattini says26 January, 18:31
(ANSA) - Strasbourg, January 26 - Italy is determined to get a recent European ruling against crosses in Italian classrooms cancelled, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Tuesday.
November's ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) sparked a storm in this heavily Catholic country and strong criticism from the centre-right government.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with French judge Jean-Paul Costa, who chairs the ECHR, Frattini said he hoped Italy's appeal would be declared admissible.
"We are going to the court to defend a very deep sentiment of the Italian people, a fundamental principle which affects the identity of our country".
Frattini said it was even more important to safeguard Italy's "Christian identity" after Italy and other Catholic countries failed to have a reference to Europe's Christian roots included in the European Union's Constitution.
Italy and several other Catholic countries fought a long and hard battle for the insertion of such a reference but in the end the Lisbon Treaty, drafted in 2004, contained only a generic reference to ''religious'' influences as having shaped the continent's values.
"We lost that battle, for the moment, but now we must defend that identity".
Italy had garnered support from "many European countries" for its appeal, he said, without naming them.
However, he said they had agreed to speak up against the ruling and cited an "important" declaration adopted by the Polish parliament.
Before his meeting with Costa, Frattini addressed the parliamentary assembly of the 47-member Council of Europe, which the court represents. He reiterated to the assembly the Italian government's view that Europe needs to do more to uphold its Christian heritage.
Frattini noted that the Lisbon Treaty protected religious minorities like Muslims but did not cite Europe's ''Christian roots''.
This, he said, was a form of ''reverse racism'' in which Europe was ''mute on religious feelings''.
If Italy's appeal against the cross verdict is admitted, the Council's ruling panel will have six months to decide what action the Italian government should take to avoid future suits.
The Strasbourg court, which is not an EU body, ruled on November 3 in favour of a petition filed nine years ago by a Finnish-born mother of two who argued crosses in classrooms infringed on pupils' religious freedom.
The Italian government said last week its appeal was ready. Cabinet Secretary Gianni Letta said the appeal would be supported by ''an abundance of documentation and arguments''.
He too said it had been ''easy'' to garner the support of ''several other European countries'' in Italy's favour.
The head of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, hailed the appeal, saying ''the sentence goes against European history and religious sentiment''.