Dutch MPs protest Vatican international voting rights over AIDS
November 18, 2000
Agence France Presse

THE HAGUE -- A group of Dutch politicians launched a campaign on Saturday against the Vatican City being represented as a state in the UN because it can block vital decisions on women's rights and AIDS.

Three European Parliament deputies called on the Netherlands and other European Union member-states to break diplomatic relations with the Vatican City.

"There is a misconception that the Vatican does not have voting rights in the United Nations," they said. "That is true of the Generaly Assembly but not of conferences."

The deputies say the Vatican does not represent any people, and should not be able to force the UN into policy concessions on on women and youth.

"The consequences of these concessions are especially visible in poor countries where hundreds of millions of women die as a result of illegal abortions, and millions are contaminated by the AIDS virus," said Euro-deputies Lousewies van der Laan, Elly Plooij van Goorsel, and Joke Swiebel.

The three point particularly to Vatican attempts to prevent use of condoms in Africa in direct contradiction to European Union-supported programmes.

The Vatican City State, seat of the Roman Catholic Church, was created in 1929 under the terms of a treaty with the Italian Fascist government of Benito Mussolini.

"The Catholic Church is the only religion that is represented as a state in world politics, and this is unjust," said the deputies' joint statement, published in the newspaper Trouw.

"We wish the Catholic Church to have the same role as other religions, but no longer to be at the table where decisions are taken," they urged.

The deputies belong to three parties -- centrist, liberal and Social Democrat -- serving in the Dutch coalition government.

About a third of the Dutch population is Roman Catholic. Dutch Catholic bishops have only just reaffirmed their opposition to use of condoms in the fight against AIDS, causing anger in Dutch Catholic lay circles.

The Vatican City is the world's smallest fully independent nation-state, occupying 109 acres (44 hectares) in the centre of Rome, with a population of 1,000, mostly priests and nuns.

A long-running dispute between the Italian state and successive popes was resolved in 1929 by the Lateran treaties that recognised the Vatican City's sovereignty and granted Roman Catholicism special status in Italy.

The Vatican is a monarchical-sacerdotal state whose head of state is the head of the Catholic church. The pope is elected for life by a college of cardinals. The pope appoints the head of government, known as the secretary of state, and his cabinet, known as the pontifical commission.

The Holy See maintains permanent observers at the United Nations in New York and Geneva and at UNESCO.