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⁂ EU Commission plans massive interference in second Irish Lisbon Treaty referendum

According to the Irish Times news report below, a meeting is taking place in Brussels today between the entire EU Commission and Mr Martin Territt, Head of the EU Commission Representation in Ireland, to discuss how the Commission can influence Irish opinion in the lead-in to Ireland’s re-run of the Lisbon referendum next October. It is seemingly planned to spend some €2 million on advertisements for this purpose

The article is by Jamie Smyth, who is Irish Times’s EU correspondent.

A few weeks ago the Irish Times carried an advertisement from the EU Commission Representation in Ireland seeking tenders for an advertising campaign in this country to “inform” people better about the EU. Accompanying press reports stated that this advertising campaign is to be specially targeted at women and young people over the next few months, as these are groups which predominantly voted No to Lisbon in Ireland’s referendum last June, according to opinion polls.

It is well-known that the EU Commission is itself a highly self-interested party as regards the Lisbon Treaty, for the Treaty, which is a revamped version of the 2004 EU Constitution that was rejected by the French and Dutch peoples in referendums, would greatly increase the Commission’s powers and functions and would provide it with many new areas of policy for which it would have the exclusive right of initiative as regards proposing European laws – something that must surely outrage any genuine democrat.

In late 2007 ago, in the lead-in to last year’s Lisbon referendum, former Irish Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna and the undersigned complained to Ireland’s statutory Broadcasting Complaints Commission about the EU Commission Office in Dublin spending ¤360,000 on a series of political advertisements on Irish community and local radio stations even though such broadcast advertiments are unlawful in this country, as they are in the UK and various other EU countries.

These EU Commission-sponsored advertisements ostensibly aimed to tell people about the existence of various sources of information on the EU, something that one could not reasonably object to – but they also contained highly loaded and tendentious statements about how much money Ireland had received from the EU over the years, how EU laws had made phone calls and airplane flights cheaper, how the EU had conferred various other benefits on Ireland etc.

These adverts could certainly influence people’s attitutes when it came to voting – that being the criterion Ireland’s Broadcasting Complaints Commission uses in deciding whether a broadcast advertisement is “political” or not.

The Broadcasting Complaints Commission upheld our complaint and ruled that the EU Commission’s advertisements were indeed political and as such were effectively encouraging Irish broadcasters to breach the statutory ban on political advertising in this country.

If this complaint had not been made and upheld, one can be confident that the EU Commission Office in Ireland would have gone on to repeat these politically potent advertisements on national radio and TV here

It is quite outrageous from a democratic point of view that the EU Commission and its representative in Dublin, Mr Martin Territt, should be planning to spend large sums of EU taxpayers’ money on seeking to influence Irish voters to reverse their vote of last June on the Lisbon Treaty in order, inter alia, to increase significantly the power of the EU Commission itself.

We appeal to you to draw this outrageously undemocratic behaviour of the Brussels Commission to the attention of your friends, your colleagues and people you know so that they may raise their voices in protest against it.

Yours faithfully,

Anthony Coughlan

Irish Times, Saturday 14 March 2009, page 11Commission to seek ways to help State on Lisbon campaign

Jamie Smyth in Brussels
The European Commission will hold a special meeting next week to determine how it can help the Government campaign to secure a Yes vote in the second Lisbon referendum.

All 27 EU commissioners will meet the head of the commission’s Irish representation office, Martin Territt, in Brussels on Wednesday to consider a range of initiatives that will better inform the Irish about Europe and the treaty.

They will discuss the launch of a new publicity campaign designed to inform the Irish public about the merits of EU membership. They are also expected to agree on a high-profile series of visits to the Republic by EU commissioners and commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

‘One of the lessons the commission and the European Parliament learnt from the first referendum on the Lisbon Treaty was that the pro-Lisbon voices were too often absent from the public debate,’ said a senior commission source, who added that the EU’s most visible institution – the EU’s executive – could not be absent from the debate this time.

The three main EU institutions – the commission, parliamentand council – all took a back seat during the first referendum campaign on the Lisbon Treaty on the advice of the Government, which was concerned their input could hurt the Yes campaign. But there is a growing appreciation in Brussels that a deeply unpopular Govenmrnt will need all the help it can get to persuade the public to change their vote.

The commission is unlikely to propose getting directly involved in the referedum campaign itself, which will remain the primary responsibility of the Government. But it will propose providing information to the public to ensure they understand how Europe plays a role in their everyday life and to clarify points of the treaty that are disputed. A new EU-funded ¤l.8 million publicity campaign in Ireland is due to begin shortly.

Mr Territt is expected to update commissioners on the potential strengh of the No campaign, and particularly the rise of Libertas. He is likely to discuss the changed economic context and how that could affect a second referendum.

EU competition commisisoner Neelie Kroes is likely to be the first member of the EU executive to travel the Republic. EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana is also considering travelling to Ireland next month to talk about European security policy.


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