A copy of a press release I’ve issued today
An MEP has attacked a debate taking place today and tomorrow in Brussels as “a charade” and “defiance of democracy”.
Styled an “Agora” (a Greek word meaning market-place or forum for discussion), the event in the European parliament brings together so-called “actors from civil society” to debate the Lisbon Treaty, which critics are calling the Renamed EU Constitution. But most of the 160 or so participant organisations listed on the Agora web-site www.europarl.europa.eu/agora, strongly pro-EU organisations, and most are in receipt of European funding.
With names like Euronet, Europe Etudiant, European Citizens’ Initiative and European Youth Forum, the bias is evident in their very names. MEP Roger Helmer (Conservative, East Midlands) says that this “debate” amounts to little more than the European Institutions talking to themselves. They are paying pseudo-independent bodies to tell them what they want to hear. He likens the debate to a Soviet Show Trial, in which the action is carefully staged, the participants hand-picked and the outcome determined before the event.
The EU has a track record of similar events. In November 2004, the EU Economic and Social Committee hosted a similar debate on the European Constitution, which was later voted down in French and Dutch referenda in 2005. At that event, every participating organisation was receiving EU funding. In effect, taxpayers’ money was used to create the appearance of a debate, but only one point of view was heard, and predictably the debate endorsed the project.
However in this week’s event, one euro-critical organisation has slipped in under the radar — The Freedom Association, of which MEP Helmer is the Honorary Chairman. He and TFA Campaign Director Simon Richards will be attending the event. Speaking in Brussels today, Helmer said “I expect to be the lone voice speaking up for the millions of citizens in the UK, and across the EU, who have profound misgivings about the European project. Polls show that three quarters of citizens across Europe want a referendum on this Renamed Constitution. If the EU wants a debate, it should call referenda in members states as it originally proposed with the Constitution”.
He attacked the “deceit and cynicism” of European leaders in bringing back the Constitution with minor cosmetic changes and insisting that it no longer needed public assent. The EU claims to be “a Union of values based on democracy”. In fact, says Helmer, it is treating voters with contempt.
And he added a stark warning: “If the EU presses ahead with further integration without democratic legitimacy, if it bulldozes this Treaty through in the teeth of public opposition, riding roughshod over the identities, hopes and aspirations of voters, it will sow the seeds of its own destruction. The EU cannot survive without the full-hearted assent of the citizens”.
Notes for Editors:
Roger Helmer MEP is a Conservative MEP for the East Midlands in the UK. He is Honorary Chairman of The Freedom Association.
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The Freedom Association, established over thirty years ago, is a British-based membership organisation which campaigns on issues of personal liberty. More details on www.tfa.net. It also sponsors the Better Off Out campaign. See www.betteroffout.co.uk