The European Parliament’s biggest political party has expressed its support for the introduction of an EU-wide ban on Islamic face veils.
The European People’s Party (EPP) adopted the measure as an official policy at its annual congress in Malta earlier this week, claiming the ban should be introduced “both for reasons of security and because seeing one another’s faces is an integral part of human interaction in Europe”.
The EPP, a centre-right liberal conservative group which Jean-Claude Juncker represents, holds 216 seats in the 751 member European Parliament.
The group is affiliated with major governing parties including Angela Merkel’s EDU, the French Republicans and Spain’s People’s Party.
The group’s leader Manfred Weber told German media “We want a total ban of face covering in the EU.”
Mr Weber is a member of Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance in Germany.
Britain’s Conservative party was once a member of the EPP, but left to form the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists in 2009, claiming the EPP was no longer eurosceptic enough.
The EPP’s resolution, while not binding, does give a strong indication of the direction of its membership.
According to a source within the party, the hope is for the proposal to be discussed at EU level, but there is general acceptance within the group that such a ban would not be within current EU competencies.
Face covering bans have been introduced in a number of European countries in recent years.
A face covering ban was introduced across France in 2010, followed swiftly by parts of Switzerland.
While some bans have been justified on the basis of secularism, others have been on the basis of security.