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Red card to Eurosceptics who shouted down the Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter represents our European values and we have to fight for it

, by Arielle Rouby

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

The solemn declaration of the Charter of Fundamental Rights came on the eve of the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, which carries a cross-reference to the full text of the Charter, laying out the range of civil, political economic and social rights of all EU residents. The ceremony unfortunately became the playground for a number of Eurosceptic parliamentarians.

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After the double no to the Constitutional Treaty and the period of reflection, the Heads of State and Government eventually managed to sign on 13 December a new EU treaty. It includes crucial institutional reforms which are indispensable for the good and smooth running of the EU-27. Although the Lisbon Treaty is far from being perfect for any federalists, it seems more than essential for us to reaffirm our attachment to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was shouted down by the extreme right and extreme left Members during last week’s session of the European Parliament.

In order to express its support to fundamental rights, the European Parliament adopted the EU-Charter with an overwhelming majority on 28 November. It was originally planned to organise a ceremony, in which the presidents of the EP, Council and Commission would solemnly proclaim and sign the Charter. This proclamation had the aim to raise the profile of the document among the general public and to express the strong attachment of the European law-makers to the basic rights of citizens. Unfortunately, at the end of this ceremony, which took place one day before the signature of the Reform Treaty did not mark the history of the European integration by its solemnity or its European spirit but on the contrary ... it will go down in history as the manifestation of strong euroscepticism...

Eurosceptic MEPs ruin the signature of the Charter of Fundamental Rights

Indeed, the solemn declaration and signature of the Charter of Fundamental Rights was heavily disturbed by the yelling of extreme right MEPs (the British, Polish, Czech and Italian) and some extreme left wing parliamentarians. About 70-80 Members of the European Parliament jeered and booed the Portuguese Prime Minister José Socrates, who currently holds the EU presidency, in a noisy protest against the Reform Treaty.

the Charter represents the “raison d’être” of European integration

Members from the extreme left and extreme right were wearing the same black t-shirts and holding placards calling for a popular consultation on the treaty. The referendum request was a way to protest against the Lisbon Treaty but also against the Charter. These Eurosceptic MEPs used as a pretext the request for a referendum to undermine the solemn ceremony. Thus it was the European extremists and the Eurosceptics who mobilised all the attention of the media and not the contents of the Charter, which represents the “raison d’être” of our European integration.

The artificial side of their claim must be underlined: more than direct democracy, they call for a national consultation that they consider favourable to their rejection of the EU. Practically nearly none of these MEPs call for a European referendum. It is thus interesting to highlight that the federalist organisations (such as the Young European Federalists and the Union of the European Federalists) and pro-Europeans required for its part this pan-European referendum. Therefore it can be interpreted that the argument of the national referendum is here used as a weapon against the EU.

Big emotions after this failed ceremony

Beyond this lamentable ceremony, where the European anthem, the Ode to Joy was less audible than the Eurosceptics’ protests and jeers, one can also only notice that the federalist ideas are put aside. The general impression for all pro-European participants of this official proclamation of the charter was a shock.

This action is an additional proof of the growing minority of the Eurosceptics, who not only fight against institutional reforms in protesting against the Lisbon Treaty but also protest against fundamental rights – what a shame! It is really time to ring the alarm bell.

We have to draw the conclusion that our presence, that of the federalists in the broad sense, is more than needed, even at the heart of the political life of the EU. We federalist shone by our absence at the time of the signature of the Charter. We have to wake-up and mobilise ourselves - a boulevard is open and for the moment only Eurosceptics take it.

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Image: Inside of European Parliament in Strasbourg by cerezo on Flickr

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