New EU Presidency to Avoid Burqa Issue

June 30, 2009

Author: Robert Wielaard


Wire Service: AP

Sweden assumes the presidency of the European Union pushing for adoption of common rules on immigration but tiptoeing around the discussion about banning burqas and other Islamic garments.

The 27-nation EU must not dictate an Islamic dress code, Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask said Tuesday, adding that "the European Union is a union of freedom."

The influx of Muslim immigrants has stirred debate in European countries about the wearing of headscarves and full-body robes in public places.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy two weeks ago told lawmakers that the all-covering burqa would not be welcome in France.

Ask said Sweden will not raise that debate to an EU level, because it has "enough to do" in its six-month stint in charge of the presidency, starting Wednesday.

"I don't think it is a question for the European Union," she told reporters in Stockholm. "I think we leave that for local politicians."