Today (April 9th) the Bureau of the European parliament will hear my appeal against the penalty imposed by the President, Hans-Gert Poettering MEP, as a consequence of our demonstration for a Referendum in Strasbourg in December. My appeal is based on two grounds: the events themselves, and the nature of the disciplinary procedure. The following text is taken directly from my appeal submission to the Bureau.
1 The events of Dec 12th
I dispute that the events that took place were “Exceptionally Serious” (Rule 147 para 1), or that they were “recurrent or permanent” (Rule 147 para 2). The events complained of could be regarded as a robust exchange of views. It is true that MEPs have the option of making their case for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in the course of regular debates in the parliament, which I and many colleagues have done repeatedly. Yet we have had no proper response: the EU institutions continue in their determination to disregard the democratic will of the French and Dutch peoples, expressed in referenda in 2005, and to disregard the will of electorates in other nations, including the UK, which have been repeatedly demonstrated in opinion surveys and local polls. I consider that I have the right, and the duty, to press the strongly-held views of those I represent, until I get a response. We now have a response, in the form of this proposed penalty, which demonstrates that the parliament is unable to tolerate dissent, and disregards the democratic will of the people.
The disruption on Dec 12th was very largely the result of the over-reaction of the President of the parliament himself. I and the dozens of colleagues who demonstrated on the 12th had intended to mount a silent and dignified protest against the Lisbon Treaty, on the occasion of the formal signing of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It was the decision of the President to instruct the Ushers (to their obvious embarrassment) to confiscate the banners and placards which led to the disturbance. In fact it is commonplace for members to display banners or placards in the parliament without this sort of provocative over-reaction. In January many members displayed placards calling for the release of Ingrid Betancourt in Columbia. On March 27th, I and other colleagues displayed the flag of Tibet, as a protest against Chinese policy in that country. In neither case was there any call for the removal of flags and posters, still less any attempt to confiscate them. The President’s behaviour on Dec 12th was exceptional and provocative, and led directly to the shouting and disturbance.
2 The disciplinary Procedure
The parliament’s disciplinary procedure is a travesty of due process, and provides prima facie grounds for a further appeal to the ECJ if this current appeal fails.
One man — the President of the Parliament — is witness, prosecutor, judge and jury. He is also (presumably) Chairman of the Appeals Committee — the Bureau of the parliament. This is wholly unacceptable. The President is also a deeply unreliable witness. One of the MEPs originally indicted, Andreas Molzer, was in fact in Frankfurt at the time in question, not in Strasbourg at all. It is clear, therefore, that the President’s evidence is not to be relied on. It seems he was proceeding on the basis of his personal prejudice against those he regards as troublemakers, and not on the basis of accurate observation.
The process is partial and discriminatory. On a conservative estimate, some sixty to eighty MEPs participated in the demonstration. But only thirteen (after the exclusion of Mr. Molzer) were indicted. One prominent participant, Nigel Farage, rose afterwards on a point of order to demand to know why he had been overlooked, and concluded his question (in a reference to a well-known cinema epic) with the words “I am Spartacus!”. It appears that ten members have received penalties, which range from a reprimand to a five-day fine. There appears to be no evidential basis either for the selection of those who were indicted, nor for the discriminatory nature of the penalties imposed.