Monthly Archives: December 2008

Embarrassing European Union

Ireland and a few other European countries decided to ask their citizens in referendum to ratify (or not) the EU Lisbon Treaty. Other countries simply voted in parliament.

In June 2008 the majority of Irish said “no” to this treaty, while the rest of Europe voted yes. The single “no” vote meant, in theory, that the treaty was not accepted (officially all 27 EU member states had to vote “yes” for the treaty to be approved).

So… what to do when the vote is not what you want it to be? Just make people vote again, and see if you get the result you want this time! That’s exactly what the European Union proposed Ireland to do, and it seems Ireland has agreed to this “solution”.

With “solutions” like this, who needs rules at all? If the rule was that all 27 members states are required to vote yes, then the treaty was dead the minute Ireland said “no”. Maybe EU leaders were too optimistic thinking all 27 would say “yes”, but once they set that rule in the beginning, they ought to stand by it, or else resign from their positions. They have lost all credibility.

If we are going to have Ireland repeat their vote, just because some people want them to say “yes”, why don’t we have a repeat vote in Spain, for instance? Some people are not happy with Spain’s “yes” vote, and might like a repeat vote until Spain says “no”. If we don’t get what we want on the second try, we can go for a third attempt. Why not? Once we accept a second vote in one country (Ireland), why deny others the same second opportunity?

The European Union is embarrassing.

What members of parliament of all 27 EU member states should do, first thing in the morning when they go back to work tomorrow, is to establish a single electoral constituency in Europe, for all Europe-wide matters. A referendum about the Lisbon Treaty should be voted simultaneously in all 27 member states, on the same day, and there should be a single EU-wide result, not 27 individual results. The aggregated “yes” votes should be compared with the aggregated “no” votes, and there you’d have the answer of Europeans to the Lisbon Treaty.

The same system should be used for European Parliament elections. As a European citizen, I want to be able to choose from all people and parties running for a parliamentary seat, regardless of whether they are from my own country or any of the other 26 member states. I want them to campaign Europe-wide, and I want to choose among all of them, rather than being restricted to picking among politicians from my own country.

Granted, we’d probably see the number of members of parliament from a given country decrease and others increase. The government of the less-represented country may not be so happy about this, but that’s only because they oppose nature. If people are really free to choose among candidates from all over Europe, the resulting parliament would be a mere representation of the wishes of all Europeans, including those from the underrepresented country, because it means they chose to vote for people from other countries.

A few roadblocks may be on the way to implement such a system (language barriers, opposition from smaller countries, others…), but precisely the single Europe-wide electoral constituency may very well be the first necessary step to achieve integration of Europe’s resources and strengths, to get us all working together, and to erode (with time) the hard edges that cause friction in internal European relations. Unless, of course, this is not what we (Europe) want.

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Terrorism culture on the streets of the Basque Country

The latest assassination by ETA in Azpeitia has drawn the attention of politicians and the general public again on the fact that ETA (through its other name, ANV) rules that and several other city halls. It’s been suggested that ANV (ETA) must be removed from those city halls, and that is indeed necessary because it should not have been allowed in the first place (let us keep in mind that the socialist party (PSOE) allowed ANV to run in the latest municipal elections in some city halls, but not in others).

It’s important to point out that city halls and national governments in the last several years have their share of blame for failing to take all necessary action (in many cases for failing to do anything at all) to erode the means of support of terrorism, which is very much alive in many towns throughout the Basque Country.

The unfortunate scene of the latest assassination by ETA is a small town which streets have been witness to multiple acts of street terrorism and criminality. Just around any corner you can find signs in support of ETA assassins, threats to Spanish state institutions, and to public personalities, signs claiming other territories for the Basque Country, signs in support of imprisoned criminals, announcements of fundraisers for imprisoned killers, and many other indications of a culture of normalisation and justification of criminal activity and of attacks on basic norms of social life and respect for others.

In that town, as in many others, pro-ETA bars and pubs are well known in town. Those bars are social centers for organizing support for ETA criminals and killers, collecting funds in support of terrorism. Some local schools teach children the need to hate Spain, further contributing to turning small towns in the Basque Country into breeding grounds for criminals and assassins.

New generations have grown in that pro-ETA environment, and the increased number of seats that ETA’s political party (ANV) has gained in the city hall is the result of the education that people are increasingly receiving, in their homes, schools and streets.

The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) was in office in that city hall for years, coexisting with national governments of PSOE and PP. None of the three political forces was able to free the people of Azpeitia from the pro-ETA propaganda flooding its streets. Some of PP’s policies did minimize or even eliminate street terrorism, but none of the three parties in power closed down those centers of terrorist organization (pro-ETA bars). None removed the signs supporting terrorism and attacking freedom of opinion from the streets. None removed names of ETA killers from dedications in some towns (there are streets named after ETA killers). None of those parties took the necessary action to control education, to avoid the terrorist influence and presence in schools.

The elimination of ETA requires both action from justice against crimes, but it also requires action from government to guarantee security and freedom for the people. The latter is outrageously lacking in Spain. ETA propaganda and financing remains unpunished in many streets of the Basque Country, and to a large extent this is what keeps ETA alive, and what keeps the basque society unconsciously threatened.

It’s a given that ANV-ETA will not help to remove its own propaganda from the streets of the town they rule, but it is appalling that the PNV did not remove it when it had the chance, and that neither PP nor PSOE took action from the central government to protect its citizens.