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When the European Union Fears the European Peoples

Translated Tuesday 12 February 2008, by Steve McGiffen

by Francis Wurtz, member of the European Parliament and President of the United European Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL)

Among European leaders and elected representatives, since the beginning of the ratification period of the new treaty – known as the Lisbon Treaty – fear of the people has turned to panic.

For example, only one of the twenty-seven member states, Ireland, is obliged by its own constitution to organise a referendum. Since this is the case, everyone is coming to its "aid", in order to convince the Irish of the immense benefits which would result from their "yes", or to warn them against the unfathomable evils which would follow the success of a "no".

Most of the European Parliament’s political groups are offering to "their" Irishmen and -women all of the support they could desire – human, material, financial – in order to avoid the emergence of a new black sheep. Irish parties have begged the European Commission to refrain from visiting or from making any untimely announcement in the coming period, for fear that a spark will set the powder alight.

When the citizens take the floor, the European Union begins to behave as if walking on eggs.

In Spain – where a referendum took place in 2005 – the government has explained that there is no need to repeat the vote – because the Lisbon Treaty is almost identical to the former Constitutional Treaty!

In France, Nicolas Sarkozy has ruled out any popular consultation, but for the opposite reason: the new text is only an assemblage of "mini"-adjustments to the existing treaties, a thousand miles away from the Constitutional Treaty!

The arguments are opposite, but lead always to the same conclusion: that those most concerned should be shoved aside.

The latest illustration of the enormous manoeuvres of this "coalition of censors" comes to us from the Portuguese capital. The Socialist Party, which is in power, had in 2005 promised ratification by referendum. But, in the new European context, and under direct pressure from his peers, the Portuguese premier – the same prmier as in 2005 – along with the parliamentary majority, has recently, on the 9th January, gone back on this promise – in order not to hand the argument to the supporters of a referendum in other European countries!

This nervousness in the face of any expression of the popular will is clearly directly related to the huge gap opening up between the aspirations of Europeans for a better life and the regressive politics given impetus at the level of the 27.

That is why it is crucial never to separate the fight for a referendum from the effort to inform people of the content of the treaties as it will affect people’s lives. And whatever the outcome of the former, the latter must be pursued and enlarged. The citizens must know that in the European treaties are obstacles to real social change, if the traps laid by demagogues are to be frustrated and each party brought face-to-face with his or her responsibilities.

This is the price of the breakthroughs of the future. When our adversaries are on the defensive, it’s a sign that we are on the right path.

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