The EU has been accused of trying to ‘cancel Christmas‘ after telling staff to avoid the word in favour of ‘holiday period’ because it could be offensive to non-Christians.
Eurocrats published the rule months ago as part of a guide on ‘inclusive communication’, details of which leaked this week leading to a furious backlash.
Politicians from Italy – where the story first emerged – accused the EU of waging a war on ‘common sense’ while the Vatican accused Brussels of trying to ‘cancel’ Europe’s Christian roots.
Brussels has now been forced to backtrack – withdrawing what it called a ‘draft document’ after a ‘number of concerns’ were raised.
The EU has been forced to backtrack after issuing ‘inclusive communication’ guidelines that suggested staff say ‘holiday period’ instead of Christmas (pictured, Christmas lights in Rome)
Other suggestions contained within the book – which was first issued in October – including replacing Christian names such as Mary and John with ‘international’ names such as Malika and Julio when using them in generic examples.
EU Commission staff were also told to avoid using the phrase ‘colonise Mars’ and instead say ‘send humans to Mars’ because of its links to Imperalism, and to replace gendered terms like ‘man-made fabrics’ with ‘synthetic fabrics’.
‘Ladies and gentlemen’ was also discounted as a generic greeting in favour of the gender-neutral ‘colleagues’, while the term ‘Ms’ was to be ‘universally’ used to refer to women instead of ‘Miss or Mrs’.
Helena Dalli, the EU’s equality commissioner, issued the guide (pictured) back in October but its contents only just became public
Staff were also told ‘avoid assuming that everyone is Christian’ and that ‘not everyone celebrates the Christian holidays, and not all Christians celebrate them on the same dates,’ Italian newspaper Il Giornale reported.
Instead of saying ‘Christmas time can be stressful’, staff were told to say ‘Holiday times can be stressful’.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, accused the EU of trying to ‘cancel our roots’ by ignoring – rather than respecting – Europe’s Christian heritage.
‘We know that Europe owes its existence and its identity to many influences, but we certainly cannot forget that one of the main influences, if not the main one, was Christianity itself,’ he told Vatican News.
Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s right-wing League party and former deputy Prime Minister, accused the EU of ‘folly’ by publishing the rules.
‘Mary, the mother. John, the father. Long live the holy Christmas … I hope that in Europe, no one will be offended,’ he tweeted.
Antonio Tajani, a former European Commissioner and ally of Silvio Berlusconi, also tweeted his criticism – suggesting the EU was waging war on ‘common sense’.
Brussels subsequently announced it was withdrawing the book, saying ‘the guidelines clearly require more work’.
Backlash to the guidelines was led by Italy and the Vatican, with the Holy See’s secretary of state accusing the EU of trying to ‘cancel’ Europe’s Christian roots (file image)
Helena Dalli, the EU’s equality commissioner who put together the guide as part of an equality agenda championed by Ursula von der Leyen, claimed it was a ‘draft document’ that would be revised after ‘a number of concerns were raised’.
‘We are looking into these concerns with the view of addressing them in an updated version of the guidelines,’ she added.
It is not the first time the EU has issued guidance to staff on ‘inclusive’ language.
Back in 2018, staff at the European Parliament were issued with a similar guide that advised against using gendered language such as ‘manpower’ and ‘mankind’.
The new guidelines, aimed at EU translators, also recommended against frequent references to ‘man’ or ‘woman’ in official texts.
Words such as ‘chairman’ should be replaced by ‘chairperson’, and ‘policeman’ or ‘policewoman’ substituted for ‘police officer’, the guide said.
It also recommended the word ‘stewardess’ by avoided in preference of ‘flight attendant’, and ‘principal’ by used instead of ‘headmaster’ or ‘headmistress’.