Given the lack of consensus among the Science and Research Ministers at a meeting today, discussion on the matter has been postponed until after Ireland assumes the rotating EU presidency on Jan. 1.
Both the proposal of the European Commission and a compromise put forward by the Italian EU presidency and the Portuguese government were rejected.
Upon hearing the news, Monsignor Noel Treanor, secretary-general of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community, said: "We regret that the Council of Ministers today failed to agree on ethical restrictions for EU funding of stem cell research."
"We are deeply concerned that this might result in the European Commission taking decisions on such funding in a context of legal and ethical uncertainty," the episcopal representative added.
"Ethical concerns about research that involves the destruction of human embryos are based on both religious and secular convictions, as well as historical and scientific precedent," he said in a press statement.
"It should be emphasized that the question facing the Council of Ministers today was not whether such research should be legally permitted in the EU," the monsignor said. "This is and should remain a matter for member states to decide."
"The question was whether such research should be funded from the European Community budget, and thus from the contributions of all member states," Monsignor Treanor explained.
"This decision is not ethically neutral," he continued. "To accept that EU funds may be used for human embryonic stem-cell research, and particularly for the procurement of embryonic stem cells, would be to confer legitimacy on the techniques used to procure those stem cells, namely the destruction of human embryos."
"Wherever one stands in this debate," he added, "its fundamental importance for our understanding of the human person and society is inescapable."