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Italian EU nominee criticizes single moms
by Francesca Di Meglio
OCTOBER 17, 2004 - Rocco Buttiglione is many things: An ambitious politician, Italy's European affairs minister, a conservative Catholic, a father of four, a dear friend and counselor to Pope John Paul II, a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's political party, an author, a professor of political science - and an unlikely nominee for the European Union's new commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security. Last week Buttiglione, who already caused controversy when he referred to homosexuality as a "sin," stirred the pot some more by suggesting that single mothers weren't good people. It's all Europe has been talking about. Not only does this latest row beg the question, "Should Buttiglione become an EU commissioner?" but it also puts the spotlight on Europe's evolving definition of family.
"The children who have only got one mother and no father are the offspring of a not so good mother," Buttiglione reportedly told a conference in northern Italy, which set off a wave of debate. "And those who have only got a father are not real children, because a man on his own can make a robot but no children." Buttiglione, who has been called the EU's "philosopher-commissioner," says his comments were taken out of context by the media. Berlusconi and EU Commission Chief Jose Manuel Durao Barroso support Buttiglione.
This alleged attack against single parents put Buttiglione's nomination for an EU commissioner post in jeopardy. EU commissioners are nominated by member governments in consultation with the incoming president, and they are appointed for a five-year term but can be dismissed by the European Parliament, according to BBC.com. Each commissioner is responsible for a policy area and must act in the general European interest.
Buttiglione's nomination has been a contested one. Since his public comments, the Civil Liberties Committee voted 27 to 26 against his appointment and 28 to 25 against his re-appointment to another post. But as BBC.com points out the European Parliament can only endorse or reject the entire 25-member commission when it votes on October 27. The commissioners take their posts on November 1.
In interviews with the EU, Buttiglione has tried to tone down his usually hard-line stance on social issues, specifically those relating to the rights of homosexuals. Arcigay, an Italian gay-rights group, has said that Buttiglione is "a prophet for a new medieval era" on issues of sexual and family morality, reports Channelnewsasia.com.
The pending appointment of Buttiglione will have political ramifications across Europe. As the EU struggles to define its place in the world, it also must determine who it represents. With so many cultures and languages and religions and needs in Europe, that will be no easy task.
This dilemma reminds me of another union struggling with its place in the world and trying to figure out who it represents in 2004: The United States. The brouhaha over whether presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry should have mentioned Vice President Dick Cheney's gay daughter in the final presidential debate last week certainly parallels the Buttiglione controversy.
Just where do we - the general public - fit into all of this? Our job is to be responsible when we elect officials. Make sure that they are sensitive to the needs of the ever changing family, aware of the delicate economy and looking out for our best interests. This way, when they are in charge of appointing someone to a post that directly affects our lives, we can be sure that they'll make the right decision. Voting - in Europe or the United States - is our number one responsibility.
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