Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Letter from Limburg

Limburg isn't really part of the Netherlands. It's 3 miles to the German border (and 8 miles to the Belgian border), and France is just a short drive away. We even insulting refer to the Dutch/Dutch (we are burgundians) as "hollanders". We therefore view the affairs of our neighbouring countries with more interest than most, and are even prone to regard the affairs of our northern protestant compatriots in "Den Haag" as being somewhat alien to us. It's therefore with almost a sense of pleasure that I can report that the colleagues are perhaps not going to have such as easy time of it.

What part of "No" didn't they understand?

Dutch Prime Minister J.P. (Harry Potter) Balkenender of the Netherlands is trying to "do a Gordon Brown" - push through the Lisbon word jumble without a referendum and then rush through ratification as quickly as possible. (In a strange twist, it seems the opposition parties shot themselves in both feet when they called for a referendum and said they would let themselves be bound by the verdict. Under the Dutch constitution, a referendum can apparently only be non-binding. To make it binding would require a change to the constitution, and thus the opponents of a referendum were handed a winning trump card.)

Hopefully, things will not go quite as easily for Balkenende as they appear to be going for Brown; leading opposition party SP are determined not to be "hassled" into agreement and are insisting that the text should be throughly reviewed and evaluated. Grass roots SP sentiment is however somewhat more direct: we voted 'No' last time. The text is the same (and even the flag and anthem we objected to are back in an appendix), so our 'No' still stands. We don't need a referendum, 'No' is 'No'.

And All's Not Well in France

Meanwhile, two lawyers in France are taking the French government to court in a civil action.

They maintain (www.29mai.eu) that:

"The case against the decision of the French President not to organise a further Referendum, must be placed before the Court of Human Rights by 4th February, Namely, The Violation of the right of the people to free elections, which is guaranteed in Article 3 Protocol 1 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms."

Most of the coverage is in French, but there is some good English coverage on a Dutch web site (www.vrijspreker.nl) which I cannot resist quoting:

"The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms constitutes in its article 3 of Protocol 1 'the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature'. This convention is independant from the European Union but the EU must respect it (article 6 of the Treaty on European Union):

'Article 3 . Right to free elections

The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature. '

The right to free election was not respected for the adoption of the treaty of Lisbon in two ways :

1°) The treaty was written by the intergovernmental conference. As its names says, this conference is formed with representatives of governments. Since the treaty of Lisbon is a law, it should have be written by a legislative body. In order to choose its representatives to this intergovernmental conference, European countries should have therefore organized elections before the convocation of the intergovernmental conference. By not doing so, European countries break the right to free elections as stated in article 3 of protocol 1.

2°) The treaty is not readable -no official consolidated version exists even now- and the refusal of a referendum for its ratification aims to prevent citizens to give freely their opinion about it. These are aggravating circumstances of the first point because it makes impossible for people to give their opinion about the treaty of Lisbon. Citizens were never consulted about it because the Chiefs of States know that it would be rejected by several countries (all if we believe the French President Nicolas Sarkozy). The rejection of the French and Dutch voters were disregarded. The fact to intentionally avoid the free expression of people about the treaty of Lisbon is a violation of the article 3 of the protocol 1. "

I guess it has little or no chance of success, but wouldn't it be a wonderful piece of irony if the EU were finally forced to obey its own rules; hoist by its own petard.

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