MEPs loth to ask US congress on Irish No funding
12.11.08 @ 09:28
BRUSSELS - MEPs will in December ask US members of congress whether the Irish No campaign on the Lisbon treaty received US funds, but the question will be put in a low-profile way to avoid embarrassment.
"There is no prospect of me asking a formal question in the context of the meetings, but there will be an opportunity to raise the matter informally," British Conservative MEP and the chairman of the European Parliament's US delegation, Jonathan Evans, told EUobserver on Tuesday (11 November).
"I'm not going to ignore concerns that were raised but I'm not going to elevate it to the same importance as the main agenda items ... what would I ask anyway? If the CIA gave funding to the No camp?"
European Parliament leaders - the conference of presidents - in September discussed the US connections of Irish businessman Declan Ganley, who helped orchestrate the No vote against the Lisbon treaty in June.
Mr Ganley's company, Rivada Networks, makes communications equipment for the US government.
The leader of the Green group in the parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, said in plenary at the time that there "possibly exists a link between the financiers of the No campaign in Ireland and the Pentagon, as well as the CIA," which would show "there are forces in the US willing to pay people to destabilise a strong and autonomous Europe."
Mr Ganley has denied receiving foreign funding for the Lisbon referendum campaign. The European Parliament's "interference" in the Irish electoral process causes "grave concern for the state of democracy in Europe," he said in September.
The European Parliament delegation will meet with about 20 congressmen in Miami between 6 and 8 December.
The formal agenda for the six sessions includes questions on the financial crisis, climate change, the US elections, visa waivers, the security of containerised trade, Iran and Russia. The event will generate a three-page report indicating any potential follow-ups.
Mr Evans said the conference of presidents did not give him official instructions to ask the Ganley question, but the office of parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering gave him to understand it is treating the matter seriously.
"I don't think the president views the Ganley issue lightly," the British MEP said.
He explained that initial contacts with congress did not bode well for a Ganley query and implied the whole affair may end up hurting the European Parliament's reputation.
"Those in the US have expressed incredulity that this might become a formal issue at a delegation meeting. The Congress secretariat asked: 'Are you Europeans serious?' Someone else asked: 'Is it now the European Parliament's position that the CIA organised the referendum in Ireland?'"
"We're not going to have our agenda sidelined by this issue," Mr Evans said. "Expecting a congressional inquiry into this matter may be unrealistic."