LONDON // The European Union was condemned yesterday for producing 3.2 million copies of a children's diary for 2011 that ignores all Christian holidays.
The diary, which cost 5 million euros (Dh24.6m) to produce and is distributed to pupils at 21,000 secondary schools throughout the EU, does contain the dates of Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Chinese and Sikh religious holidays.
Christian groups in France, Poland and Italy have all lodged complaints with the executive body of the EU, the European Commission, which annually produces the diary. There is no mention in it of Christmas, Easter or any other Christian holiday.
The Dutch deputy foreign minister, Ben Knapen, yesterday demanded an explanation from the European Union for what he described as "an absurd omission".
Martin Kastler, a German member of the European Parliament, blamed "aggressive atheism in the apparatus of the European Union-Commission".
He said: "It is impudent to say that it was merely a mistake, however big. I demand that the responsible officials be called to account immediately."
John Dalli, the EU's consumer commissioner, has apologised for the blunder but was unable to explain the reason for it.
He said the diaries, which contain information on the EU as well as warnings on the dangers of the internet and climate change, will be corrected for 2012. In the interim, a correction is being sent to all schools that received the Europa Diary.
A spokesman for the Brussels-based commission said yesterday that the omission of Christian holidays represented "a rather gross error" and had been caused by insufficient "editorial policing" of the diary.
However, a more detailed apology is understood to have been sent to the French government and the French Catholic Bishop Conference, which first raised the omissions with the commission.
Johanna Tousel, spokeswoman for the European Catholic Commission, described the mistake as "just incredible".
"Christmas and Easter are important feasts for hundreds of millions of Christians and Europeans. If the Commission does not mark Christmas as a feast in its diaries, then it should be working as normal on December 25," Ms Tousel said.
Last week, Laurent Wauqueiz, France's minister for Europe, told journalists that the commission should answer the question: "Are we ashamed of our Christian identity? Are we ashamed that the Europe of church towers was the base of our European identity?"
André Rouvoet, leader of the Christian Union in Holland, said that the Christian culture still constituted the main tradition in Europe.
"You would expect the European Commission to help defend this tradition and seek to pass it on to our youth," he said.
"This is an incredible blunder. It makes you wonder what kind of agenda the European Commission has set itself."