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Rally - central London
Rally photos - click here
Saturday 9th April at the Conway Hall, London saw the coming together of hundreds of political activists from across Europe and the party-political divide to launch a new campaign called 'Europeans for Diversity - No to the EU Constitution'.
The rally called for a Europe of democratic nation states that trade, enjoy cultural exchange and inter-governmental co-operation.
It was co-hosted by the Democracy Movement, the Campaign Against Euro Federalism (CAEF) and TEAM, the body that brings together groups from across Europe who oppose the creation of a centralised, Brussels-based government.
Keynote speaker was Marta Andreasen - the courageous former EU chief accounting officer who was sacked by Neil Kinnock for exposing EU fraud. Tony Benn opened proceedings.
the basis of my experience I believe we are at great risk if we vote
for a constitution that increases the powers of institutions which have
proved up until now to be totally unaccountable and non-transparent.
European citizens deserve better, and if we let go of this opportunity
to express our dissent, there will not be another opportunity again’
She was the keynote speaker at the Europeans for Diversity - No to the EU Constitution rally, organised jointly by the DM, TEAM (Europe-wide EU –sceptical alliance) and the trade union based Campaign against Euro Federalism.
In her speech to the 250 attendees, Mrs Andreasen said that her sacking by Neil Kinnock (then the self-proclaimed ‘anti-fraud Tsar’ of the Commission) for trying to make European taxpayers aware of the massive levels of fraud and waste taking place, ‘demonstrated the level of accountability, transparency and integrity that can be expected from the EU institutions’. As Marta Andreasen pointed out, she was sacked by Baron Kinnock on grounds of ‘disloyalty’ to the EU while officials involved in the Eurostat (the body responsible for official EU figures) scandal have not been suspended, let alone dismissed. ‘This fraud consisted in the discovery of slush funds belonging to the European Commission that were being channelled to unofficial bank accounts and used for unauthorised purposes. Nobody was held responsible. The Commissioners claimed ignorance.’
She drew attention to the fact that the EU Constitution will confirm, under Protocol 7, immunities from legal proceedings for all officials, even after they have left office. Yet, Mrs Andreasen is now unemployed and having to fund her own legal action against the Commission for wrongful dismissal. She said she had been judged and removed from office by commissioners ‘who have been managing the EU funds on a system that they knew was open to fraud.’
In response to a question from the audience, Mrs Andreasen said that she believed she had been sacked, together with other courageous officials who have tried to draw attention to the fraud issue, in order to send out ‘a message’ to anybody else thinking of going public. She drew attention to the fact that the current chief accountant had stated that he was ‘not responsible for the amounts stated in the EU accounts nor responsible for the correctness of the payments made in the EU budget’. The Constitution, she predicted, would make the situation worse than it is already in relation to fraud.
The opening speaker of the event was veteran Labour politician and activist Tony Benn who reminded those attending of the struggles that had been waged by generations of pro-democracy campaigners, the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the trade union movement, among others, to ensure that ordinary citizens could hold their rulers to account. The Constitution, by further centralising power in the hands of institutions that were not properly accountable and transparent, would exacerbate the number of laws being imposed on Europeans from highly diverse countries that had no democratic mandate within those countries. Tony Benn also made the point that there were many things that needed correcting with the UK constitution, the unelected second chamber and the way in which the prime minister could use Crown powers to by-pass parliament. These more local democratic deficits would not, however, be aided by further emasculating the Westminster Parliament.
Doug Nicholls from Trade Unionists Against the EU Constitution was the next speaker and he focused attention on the way in which Brussels would be empowered to impose the privatisation of services without any democratic mandate within the member countries under article III-147/8. He also, in the light of the problems at Rover, said it was worth recalling that under the Constitution it would be illegal for national governments to publicly subsidise local industries in trouble.
Anthony Coughlan, Irish National Platform, and Jens-Peter Bonde MEP from the Danish June Movement gave an in-depth analysis of the Constitution’s contents. They demolished the attempt by the British government to claim that the Constitution did not involve a significant transition in the legal status of the Union or transfer of new powers. Dr Coughlan drew attention to the fact that the treaty that would create the Constitution was entitled a treaty ‘of’ and not, as at present, ‘on European Union’. This was not merely a semantical point. For the first time, the legal supremacy of EU law was being incorporated and confirmed in the treaty (article I-6). Article I-1 explicitly collapsed the community and inter-governmental and collective pillars into one another and would make the document an independent source of authority for the Union. National constitutions would become legally subordinate, both speakers contended.
Margit Gennser, chairman of Citizens Against the Euro in Sweden and a former conservative member of the Swedish parliament, spoke about the way in which both the main parties in her country were trying to prevent a referendum on the Constitution. This was because Sweden voted two years ago to reject the single currency. However, opinion polls showed massive public demand for a popular vote on the document and there remained a chance that the combined weight of left wing opposition, together with a minority of conservative MPs prepared to defy their party, might force a referendum. At present the ‘no’ side was ahead in the polls.
The all-party nature of the rally was demonstrated by the presence of Conservative MP Bill Cash, who focused on the way in which the economy was reeling from the torrent of regulations that national parliaments had no power to block once the EU had been given competence in that area. He also focused on the way immigration and asylum policy in member states was being increasingly influenced by Brussels. Roger Helmer, Conservative MEP for the East Midlands addressed the issue of the threat to civil liberties, together with Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance. They both said that the EU was determined as part of its aim of creating a single system of government to end Habeas Corpus and harmonise legal systems across the Union.
Dr Gabb drew attention to the way in which Europol would gain new operational powers if there was a ‘yes’ vote and how its officers were, like Commission officials, immune from prosecution if they broke the laws of member countries. Like Tony Benn, he also made the point that defeating the authoritarian EU state was only part of the battle for civil liberties in Britain. As the planned introduction of ID cards demonstrated, there were alarmingly illiberal tendencies within the British state.
Cllr Steve Radford, standing for election in Liverpool West Derby for the Liberal Party, where he has been runner up in the past two elections, spoke of the Liberal tradition of free trade. He said that the Common Agricultural Policy not only pushed up prices for domestic consumers but also created economic hardship in Third World countries locked out of agricultural markets.
Green Party activists, Cllr Mark Hill from York and Steve Dawe from Ashford, expressed their perspective’s concerns about the Constitution: the centralisation of power, the imposition of free market policies in some areas, and the threat to civil liberties as well. The rally was reminded that it had been the Commission that had decided to authorise the importation of GM maize from America.
Neil Herron from the North-East No Campaign spoke about the great victory that had been achieved in November against the attempt to regionalise Britain, a key EU strategic aim that the UK government was trying to action.
In the afternoon session, Brian Denny (Trade Unionists Against the EU Constitution), Ulla Klotzer (Finnish peace activist) and Roger Cole (Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance) switched the focus on to the way in which the Constitution would lead to a common foreign and defence policy. Troops from the embryonic EU army were already in the Congo and the former Yugoslavia.
This development would create serious tensions within Europe as 25 politically diverse countries with very different traditions, such as neutrality in some cases, as well as ambivalent attitudes to America, could not possibly be tied into common positions without great tensions emerging. There was speculation as to whether eventually a common EU army might be used internally. Brian Denny referred to the creation of the EU ‘Gendarmarie’, a new para-military force.
Thomas Rupp from Germany (European No Camapign), Lave Broch (Danish People’s Movement), joined Jens Peter Bonde, Margit Gennser and Neil Herron for a final session discussing how to further the goal of a Europe of diversity and to defeat the Constitution.
Attention focused on the forthcoming referendum. A ‘no’ vote, especially if it was close, might not see the Constitution ditched as most people seem to assume. Jens Peter thought that as usual the contest in his country would be extremely close. A ‘yes’ vote, would definitely mean, however, that Britain would face a referendum next year.
complete programme of speakers is shown below. Click on the names to
read the text of speeches made, where they are available.
session - the Left case against the EU Constitution
Trade Unionist case against the EU Constitution
Green case against the EU Constitution
session - The EU Constitution: an overview
Liberal case against the EU Constitution
session: The EU threat to civil liberties
session - The Militarisation of the EU
threat to Irish neutrality
case against Regionalisation
problem of EU corruption
Conservative case against the EU Constitution
session - panel discussion on campaigning
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