Daily Archives: July 1, 2008

EU Constitution author says referendums can be ignored

“Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly.”

– Valery Giscard D’Estaing, former French president who wrote the EU constitution

“This time it’s Ireland; the next time it will be somebody else.”

Telegraph | Jun 26, 2008

By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels

Future referendums will be ignored whether they are held in Ireland or elsewhere, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the architect of the European Union Constitution said.

The former President of France drafted the old Constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters three years ago before being resurrected as the Lisbon EU Treaty, itself shunned by the Irish two weeks ago.

Mr Giscard d’Estaing told the Irish Times that Ireland’s referendum rejection would not kill the Treaty, despite a legal requirement of unanimity from all the EU’s 27 member states.

“We are evolving towards majority voting because if we stay with unanimity, we will do nothing,” he said.

“It is impossible to function by unanimity with 27 members. This time it’s Ireland; the next time it will be somebody else.”

“Ireland is one per cent of the EU”.

Mr Giscard d’Estaing also admitted that, unlike his original Constitutional Treaty, the Lisbon EU Treaty had been carefully crafted to confuse the public.

“What was done in the [Lisbon] Treaty, and deliberately, was to mix everything up. If you look for the passages on institutions, they’re in different places, on different pages,” he said.

“Someone who wanted to understand how the thing worked could with the Constitutional Treaty, but not with this one.”

France and Germany are putting pressure on Ireland to hold a second referendum which would allow the Lisbon Treaty to come into force before European elections on June 4 2009.

Mr Giscard d’Estaing believes “there is no alternative” to a second Irish vote, a view shared by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President.

Mr Sarkozy, who takes over the EU’s rotating presidency next week, will use a Brussels summit on October 15 to force Ireland to find a way out of Europe’s Treaty difficulties.

“Everyone agrees it has to be sorted out by the time of European elections,” he said at the weekend.

Václav Klaus, the Czech President has continued to insist that the Lisbon Treaty “cannot come into force” after the Irish vote.

“The EU cannot ignore its own rules. The Lisbon Treaty has been roundly and democratically rejected by Ireland, and it therefore cannot come into force,” he told El Pais newspaper.

“Any attempt to ignore this fact and make recourse to pressure and political manipulation to move the treaty forward would have disastrous consequences.”

Mark François, Conservative spokesman on Europe, also insisted that it was time that European politicians started to respect the Irish No vote.

“The Irish people gave an emphatic No to the Treaty of Lisbon on a record turnout and it would be good for politicians of all countries to respect this democratic decision,” he said.

“The point is particularly clear to us here in Britain as the Irish were fortunate to be given a referendum which we were denied by our Government.”

An opinion poll for the newspaper Libération has shown 44 per cent of the French want Ireland to vote again and 26 per cent want the ratification process to continue without Ireland.

But a quarter of those polled want to abandon the Treaty and 52 per cent think the Irish No vote is going to dominate Mr Sarkozy’s EU presidency.

Mugabe: “Only God can remove me from power”

Zimbabweans in despair over Mugabe ‘election victory’

Total Catholic | Jun 30, 2008

Zimbabweans are in widespread despair after the country’s ruler Robert Mugabe was sworn in as president for a sixth term, a Catholic Church official has said.

In rural areas of the country, the June 27 runoff election, in which Mugabe was the only candidate, “was masterminded by thugs” loyal to the ruling party, said Alouis Chaumba, who heads the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe. Mugabe was sworn in on June 29.

“People know if they disobey they will be beaten up,” Mr Chaumba said. “The level of brutality in the rural areas has reached unimaginable proportions.”

While many people in Zimbabwe’s cities did not turn up at the polling stations, people in rural areas “were warned that they had to go and vote,” he said.

“They were not allowed into the booths on their own but were made to tell the electoral officers that they were unable to read or write and then were given folded ballots (for Mugabe) to hand in,” he said.

“A blanket of fear engulfs the countryside,” said Mr Chaumba, who visited numerous villages on Sunday. “Where there is no rule of law, anything can happen.”

In high-density hostels in Harare, the capital, people were told they would be evicted if they did not vote, he said.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who withdrew from the runoff election because of the violence, won the most votes in the first round of presidential voting in March but not enough for an outright victory.

Human rights groups said opposition supporters have been the targets of brutal state-sponsored violence since March, leaving more than 80 dead and 200,000 displaced.

Zimbabwe’s electoral commission reported more than 2 million votes cast for Mugabe, and 233,000 for Tsvangirai, whose name was still on the ballot although he withdrew from the election on June 22.

The government reported the turnout at about 42 per cent, with about 131,000 spolied ballots.

Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, said he hopes governments in the African Union “have the courage of their convictions to speak out against Mugabe” at the June 30-July 1 summit of the 53-nation bloc in Egypt. Mugabe is attending the meeting.

Zimbabwe’s Jesuits said Mugabe’s campaign claim that “only God can remove me from power” is outrageous.

“In making such an outrageous claim, Mugabe, who likes to be known as ‘a devout Catholic’ goes completely against the teaching of the Catholic Church and the Church’s positive attitude toward democracy,” the Jesuits said.

Subway shooting victim’s killers granted anonymity at inquest

De Menezes police granted anonymity

Press Association | Jun 28, 2008

All 44 police officers who applied for anonymity at the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes will have their identity kept secret using a screen and code-names.

The applications were approved by Coroner Sir Michael Wright QC at a pre-inquest hearing into the Brazilian’s death at Southwark Coroners Court.

The officers will be given pseudonyms or code-names and those called to give evidence in person will do so from behind a screen.

But the coroner gave some members of the de Menezes family special permission to see the anonymous witnesses give evidence.

Many officers due to give written or oral evidence did not apply for anonymity, including Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, the commander responsible for the operation that ultimately led to Mr de Menezes death.

The Brazilian was shot dead at Stockwell tube station, London, by counter-terrorist police who mistook him for suicide bomber Hussain Osman on July 22, 2005.

Giving his reasons for the decision, the coroner said many of the officers continued to take part in covert anti-terrorism and serious organised crime operations. He said this meant there was a genuine fear that officers and their families could be put at risk if they gave evidence without anonymity.

It would also jeopardise their ability to take part in future operations. The coroner said this would cause a reduction of resources at a time of high demand for such operations.

A spokesman for the Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign said such “blanket anonymity” hinders public scrutiny of public officials. The family are unhappy no individual officer has taken responsibility for the 27-year-old’s death despite the prosecution of the Metropolitan Police last year.

The force was convicted at the Old Bailey of a catastrophic series of errors over the shooting and fined £175,000 with a legal costs bill of almost £1 million.