A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Monday, 16 May 2011

EU Authoritarianism: Part I

It's hard to study totalitarian regimes and not be slightly alarmed by the direction the European Union is taking. It's suitable that that video starts with a picture of Martin Schulz, the leader of the Socialists in the European Parliament, as he is a fine example of what I'm talking about. He, as one of the most fanatical supporters of European unification, once accused a Dutch MEP of behaving 'like a fascist' for asking for Barroso to publish the details of his £750,000 travel expenses claims, and accused Eurosceptics who called for a public vote on the Lisbon Treaty of behaving like Nazis in the Weimar Republic. His comments on both occasions met with smug, nodded approval by the rows of federalist MEPs arrayed behind him, some of whom have came up with fanatical quotes of their own.

A former French Prime Minister once declared that 'a true Europe cannot want a referendum (on the European Constitution).' Michael Heseltine once likened the prospect of a referendum to 'mob rule.' Jean Monnet, one of the 'fathers of Europe,' once explicitly stated that 'Europe's nations should be guided towards the super-state without their people understanding what is happening.' Jacques Chirac thinks that opposing the EU is 'not well brought-up behaviour...infantile...dangerous,' and that the eastern European countries who took the US line over the invasion of Iraq rather than that of Europe (i.e. France and Germany) were 'very rude.' Margot Wallstrom showed her amazing grasp of PR skills by visiting the former Jewish ghetto of Terezin and would have - had she not had the good sense to omit the drafted line - told Europeans that opposition to the EU would lead to a second Holocaust, and the Commission as a whole said that voting 'Yes' to the Constitution - handing power over national governments to an unelected executive official, such as Wallstrom - was a tribute to the Second World War. The EU also ended the Cold War, apparently.

Who's more dangerous, do you think? Eurosceptics who may be eccentric, but otherwise are normal people - a majority in most European countries, in fact - or dedicated fanatics who think that anyone who opposes them is a Nazi? Or employed by the CIA? The answer, when power is taken into account, is undoubtedly the federalists.

Does anyone else remember the Geoffrey Bloom scandal, that brief interruption of the European Parliament's irrelevant ramblings that caused such a stir in the British media? The one where he repeated 'Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer' at Schulz and was expelled for it? It's available on video here. Pay close attention to how he was evicted from the parliament: a democratic vote of the members. Such a measure is allowed as per the Parliament's rules of conduct. In this instance, its use was not too extreme. Geoffrey Bloom had unintentionally caused a riot, even by Brussels standards. But how else could that measure be applied? If federalists are a majority in the European Parliament - and they are, overwhelmingly so - then what is to stop them from banning Eurosceptic members from attending debates? Nothing. They've even tried it before, in an attempt to prevent a 'fractured parliament, split into many small groups.' That particular attempt only failed because the Greens, the Liberal Democrats, and the far left opposed it. If it had been Eurosceptics on their own, they would now be banned.

The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, is not neutral. There is a video of him nodding when Nigel Farage said that he was 'tempted to sit down' after a sarcastic round of applause, available to watch here. The previous incumbent, as mentioned in the video above, banned an Austrian far-right MEP (an actual one) due to 'disturbances' in the European Parliament, and ordered banners that called for a referendum to be confiscated by the ushers. The Austrian MEP, Andreas Molzer, was actually in Frankfurt on the day.

It's a scary thought, that there exist elements within a supranational parliament that want to ban 'fractures' and 'small groups' - i.e. opposition and other parties. It's even scarier to think that these people are the majority in that parliament, and could easily succeed in doing exactly that if they ever feel the need to do so. Thankfully, the parliament itself is powerless. It is unable to propose or repeal legislation. The real decisions are made by the Commission, who are unelected and so do not have this problem.

An unelected executive is, of course, anathema in any western democracy. But the EU has one. None of the twenty-seven people who propose and repeal legislation make their laws with the support of a popular vote. They cannot be voted into office, and they cannot be voted out of it. They meet in secret, and are powerful enough for a former Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, ask them to formally change their name to 'European Government' to reflect what they do. Other than the fact that they are, essentially, dictators (what else would you call a government where no executive officials are elected?), and that they are fanatical believers in the European Union - more Europe at all costs - there's nothing totalitarian about them. So I'm going to completely ignore them, and come onto some of the organisations that they control, which are a lot more sinister.

Europol, the Orwellian name for the European Police Office, is a non-executive police force and a support service for national police, and, on paper, doesn't actually sound that sinister. It cannot arrest suspects or carry out investigations in a member state's jurisidiction. However, there is one aspect of this police force that doesn't seem at all consistent with its stated role: its officers, whilst in any other EU member state except their own, have diplomatic immunity. They can commit any crime whilst on foreign soil and be untouchable by that nation's judicial service. The European Court of Justice, the highest court in the European Union, also has limited jurisdiction over them, with its powers restricted to some interpretation of the now defunct Europol Convention, now replaced with this. Although Europol has enjoyed extraordinary success against human trafficking and organised crime, in its current role it does not need diplomatic immunity.

And then there's Eurogendfor, the European Union's 'crisis management' force, consisting of nine hundred soldiers and two thousand three hundred reinforcements ready to be deployed to an emergency zone, drawn from the elite forces and paramilitaries of many EU countries, some of them former dictatorships. Based in northern Italy, there were some rumours that it was to be deployed to Greece. It was initially proposed by the former French Defence Minister after riots in France, and sets out its mission here. I should remind you that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the supremacy of which over national law was set out by the Lisbon Treaty, says that:

'Article 2 – Right to life
1. Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.
2. Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:
a. in defence of any person from unlawful violence;
b. in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
c. in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.'

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