A damaging blow to democracy
05.03.08 @ 09:30
I am largely disillusioned with democracy - especially on a European level - so I believed that nothing could really shock me any more. But recently I was proven wrong by the European Parliament.
On 20 February the parliament approved the Lisbon Treaty – in itself an unsurprising move.
I had not expected a critical stance on the fact that they are about to ratify a document that is more or less the same as the EU Constitution, which was already rejected by the French and the Dutch voters.
But these are all minor democratic flaws compared with what happened that day in Strasbourg.
The basis of the debate was the so called "Corbett-de Vigo Report on the Lisbon Treaty", and there were amendments to this report, which had to be voted on before the whole treaty was put to a vote.
One of these amendments - Amendment No. 32 - asked that the European Parliament "undertake to respect the outcome of the referendum in Ireland."
In other words: Should the European Parliament respect the result of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which is likely to be held in June 2008?
This amendment was rejected by 499 MEPs. Only 129 voted in favour of this motion and 33 abstained.
As the whole procedure was a roll-call vote, it is easy how individual MEPs voted on this amendment. What strikes me most is the fact, that even an Irish MEP - Proinsias de Rossa - voted not to respect the referendum held by his fellow Irishmen.
This is in effect to tell the Irish people that the European Parliament does not care what they say on the Lisbon Treaty - a further step in the decline of a democratic culture in the European Union, if it ever existed at all.
After the final vote on the Lisbon Treaty the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, delivered a text-book example of hypocrisy. He said after the self-congratulating applause by the parliamentarians:
"A vast majority of you have voted in favour of the Lisbon Treaty. This is an expression of the free will of the peoples you represent. I'd like to congratulate you on this convincing result. This European Parliament represents the people of Europe, this treaty gives the European Union the ability to function properly and this treaty gives it more democracy. And we defend the common values of Europe and" – referring to a few protesting MEPs - "we shall never allow loud noise to override sensible arguments."
In the context of the incident this quote to me sounds like pure sarcasm.
In their quest to ratify this treaty at any cost, a majority of MEPs lost any respect for democracy and the people they ought to represent.
They are using their mandate which was given to them by democratic means to seriously damage democracy.
The author is the coordinator of the European Referendum Campaign