[WATCH] Dalli Christmas guidelines ‘about not being an arsehole in the workplace’ – Left spokesperson

European Left party spokesperson calls out ‘right-wing snowflakes’ over hysteria on Brussels staff guidelines on how to address diverse population

European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli
European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli

A spokesperson for the European Left parties in the European Parliament, excoriated right-wing ‘cancel Christmas’ critics, saying Helena Dalli’s internal guidelines for the European Commission were about “basic rules of politeness”.

Daithi Lundy, head of communications for the European Left, accused centrist and right-wing critics of whipping up fake news in a bid to get the European Commission’s guidelines for staff, repealed.

“It’s been pretty interesting to see the centre and far right work its way up into hysterics. It’s a clear example of fake news of course,” Lundy said of European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli’s 32-page guidelines for staff in Brussels.

“It makes its all the more more disappointing that the Commission caved in to these right-wing snowflakes who can’t bring themselves around basic rules politeness and decency in public service institutions, that are paid for by a very diverse population of taxpayers and working people that they are supposed to represent.

“The document seemed fair and balance, it is basically about not being an arsehole in the workplace. It’s not about Christmas being cancelled. That’s completely invented.”

Helena Dalli was forced to repeal the 32-page internal guidelines for EC staff after Italian far-right politicians raised a ruckus over the report in Il Giornale, claiming the guidelines ban the use of ‘Christmas’ and the name ‘Maria’.

The document proposed language that removes stereotypes from official communication to avoid discrimination, urging officials to “avoid assuming that everyone is Christian”, and using a generic reference to December holidays instead of “Christmastime” when interlocutors might not be Christian worshippers.

The backlash was also prominent in Malta, with senior Nationalist MPs like deputy leader Robert Arrigo saluting the repeal of the guidelines during a party fundraiser: “I want to say Happy Christmas to everybody with force... keep saying it, to challenge the one who wanted to take away ‘Christmas’ from us.”

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi shared the Il Giornale cutting, blaming the outrage on “Helena Dalli from Malta’s Labour”.

“For Helena Dalli you cannot use the word ‘Christmas’ and if your name is Maria you cannot use it,” Azzopardi wrote on his Facebook wall, calling the Maltese European Commissioner “pathetic”.

Document proposals

In a section dealing with cultures and religions, the guidelines urged officials to ‘avoid assuming that everyone is Christian’, and rather than use ‘Christmastime’ as a generic reference to December holidays, the guidelines suggest using the word holiday time and qualifying it to the individual celebrations.

So, rather than say ‘Christmas time can be stressful’, the guidelines suggest: ‘Holiday times can be stressful… for those celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah’ and so on.

The context for this is somebody in an official capacity communicating to an audience or individual, who does not necessarily celebrate Christmas, or does so at a different time.

In examples and stories, the guidelines emphasise the need to have a diversity of names rather than choosing names that are typically from one religion. And this is where the false claim that the name Maria is banned was born.

The guidelines give an example of a typical example to avoid: ‘Maria and John are an international couple’. They suggest instead: ‘Malika and Julio are an international couple’.

The guidelines do not say that Maria cannot be used but urge officials to be aware of the variety of names from different cultures when used in publications, where examples or stories are required.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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