Saturday

28th May 2022

Opinion

A damaging blow to democracy

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • "MEPs are damaging democracy" (Photo: EUobserver)

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

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Letter

Right of Reply: Hungarian government

The government in Budapest responds to EUobserver opinion piece "Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?"

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?

As the world continues to seek productive ways to provide assistance to the beleaguered citizens of Ukraine, the Hungarian government is now using the humanitarian crisis to further its own authoritarian ambitions.

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us