The Irish Catholic newspaper in an article quoting the new President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek misrepresents a number of critical aspects of the Lisbon Treaty. The article, quotes Mr Buzek as saying “it is not possible for the EU to change any member – state’s abortion law […]”, yet this is precisely what happened when Slovakia attempted to protect the conscience rights of medical personnel in respect to abortion and other life issues
In 2004 the European Commission obtained an opinion from a Network of so-called fundamental rights “experts”, it had appointed, concerning a Concordat then under negotiation between the Holy See and Slovakia which would have guaranteed freedom of conscience to all medical practitioners to decline, without sanction, to participate in abortions, euthanasia, cloning, IVF etc. The Legal Opinion came to the astonishing conclusion that there is a presumed ‘right to abortion’, which obliges a State to guarantee access to abortion where national law provides that it is legal and where such access meets obstacles, these must be removed. The opinion rejected a right to conscientious objection for medical practitioners in respect of abortion. The interference of the Commission in the internal affairs of the Slovakia caused a national crisis which resulted in the fall of the Government and the Concordat was not ratified.
The article also quotes Mr Buzek as saying that “the Lisbon Treaty cannot affect our laws in other so called ‘socio-ethical’ areas for example family law”,
Once again this is misleading, Article 9 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights : Right to marry and right to found a family says:
“The right to marry and the right to found a family shall be guaranteed in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of these rights”.
Firstly this article has been subdivided into two separate rights and expressed in a way that implies that the founding of a family need not be contingent on marriage.
Secondly according to the legal preamble to the Charter, this Article is based on Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) -
men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right– but as is clearly evident the Article in the Charter excludes the first part of the ECHR article which limits marriage to men and women of marriageable age. The legal preamble also explains that the wording has been modernised to cover cases where national legislation recognises arrangements other than marriage for founding a family. According to the explanation, the Article does not prohibit same sex marriage.
The article also refers to the so called guarantees given to Ireland with regard to abortion and family law. The Lisbon Treaty has not been altered in any way, it is he same Treaty the Irish people rejected last year, not one comma has been changed. There are certainly promises of future guarantees, but currently there are no guarantees. We are told that the so called guarantees will be part of a later accession treaty but this is completely unacceptable. The minimum requirement in this regard is that guarantees of this nature should become actual protocols to the Lisbon Treaty and without them the Treaty should once again be rejected.
Officially the EU has no competence in the area of family which is the prerogative of the Member States. Indirectly, however, EU policies - especially as articulated in resolutions of the European Parliament and some co-decision procedures - impact negatively upon critical national issues, and slowly erode, as “soft law measures, on many areas of national sovereignty, including the traditional family by what has been described as “competence creep”.
Competence creep can happen in a number of ways - through EU directives such as those on equality and non-discrimination, the free movement of services and in other critical areas such as, sex education and protection of minors, to name a few.
One critical issue is the future interpretation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, when and if, it comes into effect through ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. The history of previous approaches to sensitive questions by the European Commission such as the Slovakian Concordat causes grave concern as to how the Charter may be interpreted.
The mandate of the previously mentioned network of experts ended in 2006 but a similar group - which includes many of the same individuals - has reappeared under the name of FRALEX (Fundamental Rights Agency Legal Experts). FRALEX has been appointed as the exclusive provider of so-called expertise on fundamental rights to the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) based in Vienna. This places FRALEX, in an exclusive and very powerful monopoly position - to feed its ideology into the law-making process of the EU and, indirectly, of the Member States.
The FRA is also empowered, to provide advice to the EU institutions, not only when it is specifically asked to do so, but also on its own initiative. In this way, it is possible for FRA to set the agenda for the political institutions of the EU (i.e., the Commission, the Council, and the Parliament) by issuing reports in which in which ‘concern’ over specific human rights issues is expressed, and recommendations are given.
One of the first actions of FRALEX consisted of a direct attack on the traditional family based on marriage by supporting the rights of same-sex pairings, when it came to the astonishing conclusion that EU Member States had a legal duty to recognise same-sex ‘marriage’.
To sum up, irrespective of the view that the EU has no competence in critical areas such as the abortion issue and the traditional family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, the EU has found ways through competence creep to change national laws, in particular through equality and non discrimination legislation and in the area of the free movement of services. It has also done this through the so called ‘network of experts’ which, in its original form in 2004 concluded that there is a presumed right to abortion, and now as the newly constituted FRALEX, says that EU Member States have a legal duty to recognise same-sex ‘marriage’
I completely concur with the comments made by Fr Brendan Purcell in the same article and share his misgivings.
Bearing in mind the foregoing the Irish people should once again reject the Lisbon Treaty and vote NO to protect life and family values.