Friday, 2 October 2009

Commission out of control

Is there any more democratically corrupt an idea than a governing institution - which stands to gain considerable extra powers depending on the outcome of a referendum result - splashing millions of pounds of public money trying to influence the result in their favour?

Public bodies using vast sums of taxpayers' money not available to campaigners on the other side of a referendum debate is not just unfair but, more seriously, incompatible with how governing institutions should behave in modern liberal democracy.

Yet this is the situation right now in respect of recent European Commission interventions in the Irish referendum debate on the Lisbon Treaty.

Commission circus

First we had Catherine Day, secretary-general of the European Commission and, if EU-fanatical voices are to be believed, effectively head of the EU’s civil service.

According to the Irish Times, at the beginning of September she "spent the past week in Ireland undertaking a series of media appearances and public-speaking engagements to support the Yes campaign."

Just imagine the outrage if the head of Britain's civil service during a general election campaign spent a week publicly campaigning for victory by one or other political party while still in post.

Leaving aside the political consideration, who paid for Ms Day's trip?

Then along came European Commission President Jose 'dimension of Empire' Barroso, hot footing it to Ireland brandishing the taxpayers' cheque book.

Visiting Limerick last week he pledged just under £13.5m (€14.8m) to 'help former Dell workers find new jobs'.

"I am very glad that the Commission can demonstrate concretely the Union's solidarity with Limerick [...] in this manner," puffed Mr Barroso. Neglecting to mention that the EU had already approved a far more substantial £50m (€55m) grant given to Dell by the Polish government, towards expanding the computer company's operations in Lodz - the place to which the Irish jobs were exported.

Then, as we highlighted here last week, we saw Transport Commissioner (and Commission Vice President) Antonio Tajani joining an invective-strewn 'Yes to Lisbon' flying tour of Ireland organised by Michael O'Leary, chief executive of Ryanair.

Capping it all, yesterday the European Commission paid what has subsequently been confirmed as £139,000 (€150,000) to insert in all Irish Sunday newspapers over 1 million copies of a 16-page pamphlet 'explaining' the Lisbon Treaty.

The pamphlet says "Today, members of the EU enjoy a wealth of benefits: a free market with a currency that makes trade easier and more efficient, the creation of millions of jobs, improved workers' rights, free movement of people and a cleaner environment.

Then claims, even more controversially, "These are major goals. The Lisbon Treaty is designed to give the EU the tools to achieve them", before launching into a rollecoaster ride of serious inaccuracies and major omissions.

This latest wad of public cash spent by the Commission on securing for itself more power was on top of a £1.4m (€1.6m) contract the Commission signed earlier this year with public relations firm Edelman, to conduct a "PR blitz ... aimed at the three groups who voted en masse against the Lisbon first time around."

Action 'illegal'

Reacting to the news of the Commission pamphlet in last Sunday's newspapers, former Green Party MEP and chairwoman of the anti-Lisbon People’s Movement, Patricia McKenna, has sent a legal letter warning the commission she would take out an injunction against any newspapers carrying the guide to Lisbon.

“This clearly breaches Irish law as set down by Supreme Court in the McKenna judgment in 1995 where taxpayers’ money cannot be used to promote one side in a referendum. This guide is advocacy,” she said.

According to Bruno Waterfield in the Daily Telegraph, even the legal services of both the commission and the Council of Ministers expressed reservations the publication of the "citizens summary" of the Lisbon Treaty.

Waterfield quotes an EU official saying: “The lawyers asked if it was right for the commission to produce a summary of Lisbon, before it was ratified and when there was not one for the Constitution."

In addition to Irish law, McKenna also questioned if the commission breached EU law, given that the institution has no treaty-given role advocating the ratification of EU treaties in member countries.

Rules sacrificed

Yet somehow the European Commission is getting away with interfering, using large sums of public money, to its own potential benefit.

The truth is, the EU elite are so desperate to barge their self-aggrandising Lisbon Treaty past this only permitted public verdict that the rules are being flung out of the window.

Vote NO

That the Commission sees its antics during the Irish referendum as acceptable says everything we need to know about the dangerous, pre-Enlightenment era attitude to democracy and the rule of law at the heart of the EU.

Please, Ireland. Today, only you have the power. This is not just a vote about the EU and Ireland, but about Europe and democracy.

For the sake of democracy in Europe. Please stop these people, by voting 'No'.

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