The idea of eliminating the word Christmas so as not to “offend” anybody who does not believe in God and the Messiah is arguably the daftest proposal ever presented by a Maltese Commissioner. Helena Dalli even suggested avoiding using Christian names such as Joseph and Mary. All this was supposedly done in the name of equality. One might argue that the proposal was ditched but let us not forget that the decision did not stem from genuine remorse, but the result of the public outrage. In other words, had the proposal not been leaked by the press anything could have happened.

The idea is absurd on various counts. The celebration of any kind of religious event is not offensive as long as this does not impinge on any other right. Clearly, wishing other people happy Christmas poses no threat. If, however, for argument’s sake such policy is applied, even the Commissioner would probably fall foul of her own proposal as she is named after St Helen – an Empress and mother of Constantine the Great which ranks as an import figure in the history of Christianity having discovered the True Cross!

It is amply clear that Commissioner Dalli failed to make the distinction between equality and uniformity. Everybody has the right to express themselves including their religious and cultural beliefs. On the contrary what she was proposing was to exclude if not discriminate by eliminating Christmas from the European Union’s vocabulary. What is truly offensive, is the proposal to replace the word Christmas by holiday – yes, just like they used to do in Communist States and Nazi Germany. It would be more than welcome for any guru who was behind this proposal to explain how the commemorations of being persecuted by Herod and having to give birth in a manger should be equated to a holiday. Similarly, treating the crucifixion of Christ as a holiday is abhorrent and reprehensible.

Unfortunately, at a time when Malta’s reputation is already in tatters, this controversy only served to put us once again under the spotlight for the wrong reasons. The incident is also a stark reminder that whereas in Malta politicians get away with gaffes like this, in Brussels it is a completely different story. Politico Europe, quoted an unnamed European Commission official who did not mince words in her regard. “Commissioner Dalli compensates her total lack of weight in the College [of Commissioners] by pulling out of her hat ‘inclusive guidelines’ which deconstruct the most elementary rules,” the staffer said. “We are going crazy. With Dalli, we are experiencing surrealism.”

Meanwhile, this useless controversy has provided fertile ground for Eurosceptics and extremists whose ultimate objective is the fragmentation of the EU itself. These are the kind of fears Labour had tried to instil in the electorate prior to EU accession. Ironically, this is all happening under the watch of a prominent former Labour politician.