30th November 2010: This was a speech I made this morning during a debate in the EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee on Croatia's EU accession referendum.
"The referendum on accession must be free, fair and final. The debate must be conducted with full participation and media coverage for both sides of the debate. I do not want to prejudge the Croatian media but our experience in the UK in 1975 was that there was complete media support for EEC membership and a deluge of propaganda in favour of (continued) membership.
I am aware that the Croatian Government will be implementing the Communication Strategy aimed at 'informing' the Croatian public. The word 'inform' implies that opposition to membership (of the EU) is based on ignorance. It might just be that opponents of membership value Croatia's independence (70 to 80% of legislation in member states is passed by the EU); that they are socially conservative and are opposed to the EU's social liberalism; or that they are used to an interventionist and protectionist economy and are opposed to economic liberalism.
The draft declaration refers to the need for both the Commission and the European Parliament to explain the benefits (but not perhaps the detriments) of EU membership. In my view, we should leave the debate to the Croats without outside interference. However, if I notice the Commission and the Parliament interfering, I shall not hesitate to go to Zagreb to take part.
What I suspect is being planned is an extremely expensive campaign (I shall not use the ugly word 'propaganda') for a 'Yes' vote in the referendum. I suspect it will be a debate between 'Yes' campaigners and other 'Yes' campaigners.
However, let us suppose that supporters of Croatian independence win the debate and the referendum result is a 'No' vote. I would expect that a second and even third referendum would be held, until the 'right' decision is taken. That is what happened in Denmark over the Maastricht Treaty and more recently in Ireland over the Lisbon Treaty."