23rd April 2013: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the amendment of a regulation* regarding the financing of European political parties.
"We are told in the Report that: "European political parties contribute to the setting of opinion and expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union".
"I am not sure what setting means - perhaps it is formation or articulation of opinion. However, the rest is unambiguous: European political parties are established to express the will of citizens. Presumably each citizen of the Union has his or her own will and people with similar opinions (or wills) come together to form a party that expresses their joint opinion. There is nothing much wrong with that.
"However, the definition does not end there. We are told that European political parties will become the driving force of integration at a European level. This sounds rather prescriptive. It seems to be an admission that parties that are opposed to European integration or advocate withdrawal from, or the dismantling of, the European Union, will simply not be registered.
"It is one thing to pass a law governing the establishment and financing of European political parties; it is quite another to tell them what they can think and say. So-called European citizens are allowed to have opinions and a collective will in the form of a political party provided that they have approved opinions.
"In a subsequent paragraph, it is said that the Commission proposal will reduce the possibility of discrimination between parties. I don't think so; it will facilitate it.
"Amendment 4 refers to objective criteria to be used in the authorisation process. The words might have an objective meaning but they have a highly subjective purpose. The authors of this measure know exactly which parties they wish to allow and to finance and which parties or types of parties they wish to disallow and withhold money from.
"I am not in favour of European political parties or of state or EU funding. However, money allocated for one purpose must not be used for a different purpose. I shall therefore, support Amendment 1, somewhat reluctantly, though not the proposal as a whole.
"Members of this Parliament have, and one MEP not a million miles from this Committee has, boasted of using EU money to employ somebody to work for his national political party."
* The regulation being amended is 966/2012. A regulation is an EU law that becomes law in each member state without having to be passed by the Parliaments of member states.
23rd April 2013: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the improvement of of the arrangements for the holding of European elections in 2014.
"The Rapporteur (MrAndrew Duff) might be right to suppose that turnout would improve if parties contested European elections on the basis of alternative European programmes. However, that is an assumption for which there is no evidence. Furthermore, voters cannot be instructed on the criteria on which they vote. Furthermore, parties cannot be instructed as to their programmes or the issues on which they contest elections. If they were to be instructed, that would be a rather sinister development.
"We are told that names and emblems of European political parties would appear on ballot papers. Would the emblems of the constituent parties appear too? Would the emblems of parties that are not constituent parts of European political parties appear too?
"We are told that member states would be encouraged to provide party election broadcasts to European political parties. I presume that these would come out of the ration of broadcasts granted to each constituent party. If broadcasts for European political parties were additional, that would be unfair to national parties that are not part of a European party.
"The internal logic and foreseeable consequence of all the confusion is that in order to avoid the confusion, European elections will eventually be restricted to European parties. That would allow the European Political Class in the Parliament and supporters of the EU project to veto their opposition. I suspect that that is the long term aim of all of this."
19th March 2013: This afternoon at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons contributed to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the question of whether there should be a single 'seat' (or location) of the European Parliament instead of moving from Brussels to Strasbourg for a week every month.
"I think that the issue of cost must be paramount. When the Strasbourg Parliament was out of commission (in 2008) for six months before I was elected, it was estimated that an enormous amount had been unexpectedly saved (1.7 million Euros). Having a single seat for the Parliament would save a multiple of that sum, year after year.
"The issue of efficiency has been mentioned. I am aware that I have been in one of my offices in either Strasbourg or Brussels and reached out for a document or a volume, only to find that I had left it in the other office.
"I do not have to re-state my opposition to the EU as a whole. It is largely irrelevant and it would not help this proposal.
"Even if I were fully in favour of the European Union and its Parliament, I would still favour a single seat. I am fully in favour of our Westminster Parliament but I would think it absurd for the Parliament to change its location around the country just because I and many others live a long way from London.
"We have heard of the need to pay the price of democracy but democracy does not require a mobile Parliament."
19th March 2013: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the proposed EU Regulation on European Political Parties.
"I must, first of all, apologise for my inappropriate behaviour yesterday - the inappropriate behaviour of turning up for a scheduled AFCO meeting but not forcing enough other members to turn up for the meeting to be quorate!*
"We have been told (by Mr. Trzaskowski) that we should not debate again the amendments that we have already discussed. I should therefore like to talk about the amendment that has not even been tabled but was implicit in the whole proposal and should have been stated explicitly.
"Compromise Amendment A, as well as the original wording, defines a European political party as, "a political alliance that pursues political objectives". I think that an amendment should have been tabled to add the words, "approved by the Political Class" to follow the word, "objectives", so that the text would read as follows:
"A European political party is a political alliance that pursues political objectives approved by the Political Class".
"That is what this measure is all about and it should have been stated honestly."
* The seven of us who had bothered to turn up for the scheduled meeting were said by the Rapporteur, who could not attend, to have acted inappropriately by being present to decide whether or not to postpone the vote. We did vote to postpone the vote and I supported that postponement.
18th March 2013: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on whether to postpone the votes on the regulation governing the establishment and registration of European political parties.
Andrew told his fellow MEPs on the committee:
"I believe that there should be a deferral of the vote. There seemed to be some confusion in the mind of the Rapporteur about the meaning and effect of what I shall call the belief discrimination clauses* of the proposed measure. She seemed to say one thing at first** but something quite different when she spoke later*** in response to my criticism of what she had said earlier."
* The clauses that I call the belief discrimination clauses are those that insist that parties should subscribe to (the Eutrocrats' interpretation of) the so-called values on which the European Union are founded.
** She said that the line (at which parties would be refused registration) would be those that wanted to abolish the European Union, as distinct from parties that simply wanted to withhold or regain powers from it and nationalist parties like the NPD parties.
*** She later said that she did not want to stop parties being registered, despite the fact that the proposed legislation lays down procedures for doing just that.
18th February 2013: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate held in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on European Political Parties.
"Amendment 1 states that the European Union is required to function on the basis of representative democracy as stated in Article 10 of the Treaty on European Union. Article 10, paragraph 3, says that every citizen shall have a right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. This right is not qualified by a requirement that the citizen should hold values that are approved of by the Political Class.
"Decisions about which parties should be recognised and funded and which should have recognition and funds withheld from them are quasi-judicial decisions.We have heard this afternoon that the final decision would be taken by the European Parliament comprising party politicians. The idea that one bunch of party politicians should decide whether another bunch of party politicians should be deprived of their rights is utterly reprehensible.
"Compromise Amendment I requires there to be gender equality in the composition of electoral lists. This sound very fair and I would have no objection to gender equality being the result of candidate selection - for it to happen without design. However, if you insist on it as a selection criterion you are covertly saying that other much more important criteria such as political opinion or Parliamentary competence must be disregarded.
"Compromise Amendment D (and the original wording) states that a party can be considered responsible for (and thereby deregistered) for the works or actions of its members. How many members: the majority; a few; perhaps only one?
"There was an attempt in 2003 to ban a party in Germany on the basis of incriminating statements and actions of several of its members. The Constitutional Court rejected the application when it emerged that the members concerned were all agents of the security services. What is to prevent agents provocateurs from causing a party to be de-registered."
18th February 2013: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to yet another debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the application of Protocol 30 to the Czech Republic's ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights to that country (as well as to the United Kingdom and Poland).
"It has been established that Protocol 30 was not an 'opt-out'. However, we have not established what it is. We have been told by the Court of Justice and by the Advocate-General that it is not an 'opt-out' and by the Advocate General that it is simply an explanation, though that was not I believe confirmed by the Court of Justice. However, if it really is just an explanation, why is there so much opposition to it?
"We shall be voting on the application of something, the nature of which we do not understand!
"If Protocol 30 is not an 'opt-out' and it seems not to be, what was it intended to be? It seems, more and more clearly, that the drafters of the Protocol knew that it was worthless and was intended to mislead the electorates and legislators initially in Poland and the United Kingdom. If that is true, it must not be concealed or treated as if it were unimportant. It is supremely important that people have been deliberately misled.
"I do not want to intrude into Czech internal politics; that is their business. However, there is no reason to deprive the Czechs of a choice on Protocol 30, whatever it might mean."
21st January 2013: At the European Parliament in Brussels this afternoon, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on tabled amendments to proposed legislation on the establishment of European Political Parties.
"Amendment 3 says that initially AFCO and later the European Parliament, both comprising politicians representing parties, should decide whether other parties subscribe to vague and subjective values. This is a judicial decision and should be taken by a judicial body, a court of law. It has been suggested that a panel of three wise men (or more politically correct, three wise persons) should take the decision. However, judicial decisions must be taken by a court on the basis of a body of substantive law and precise legal procedure.
"Amendment 9 proposes that there should be gender balance in the selection of candidates. I am sure that there are many people who would like to see more women elected to legislative bodies, although the European Parliament (with a third of its members female) is rather better than most legislatures in this respect. However, to place gender (or other demographic characteristics) as a constraint that overrides all of the many very important criteria on which candidates are chosen - such as stance on a political or ideological point - is an unwarranted imposition. A party that has the important function of candidate selection taken out of its hands is not a free organisation but is a creature of the state.
"Amendment 22 seems to suggest that a party cannot only be refused funding because of political heresy but can even be refused the right to exist and call itself a political party - so much for freedom of association. Most totalitarian and autocratic regimes do not forbid the creation of political parties. They forbid their creation without permission. That is exactly what the EU is doing."
21st January 2013: At the European parliament in Brussels this afternoon, Andrew Brons contributed to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on European Statistics on Demography.
He told his fellow MEPs on the Committee:
"I shall not repeat the various witticisms about statistics. They have become rather tired through over use. However, there is some truth to be found in them.
"Statistics, by their nature, involve constructing categories which can be compared with categories that have been constructed separately. We can then explore the extent of any correlation.
"Statistics that have been harvested carefully easily earn a reputation for objectivity. Indeed the Explanatory Memorandum says that they must conform to standards of impartiality. However, the choice of categories or classes of data are highly subjective and presuppose the desired conclusion. There are many examples of this among the amendments that have been tabled They will be chosen with a particular conclusion in mind.
"The explanatory memorandum refers to the need for high quality statistics to help to formulate operational objectives. There is no doubt that the categories will be chosen that provide that help most effectively.
"Statistical information is like an objective answer to a subjective question and is no more valuable."
19th December 2012: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on Multi-Tier Governance*.
"The report attempts a definition of multi-tier governance in the following words:
"Multi-tier governance reflects a kind of governance of the European Union characterised by multiple but different speeds of integration pace".
"It is the dilemma of all states having legislative power but sometimes fewer than all states being subject to the legislation. This applies particularly to the Euro-zone.
"The President of the European Parliament recently attempted to deal with this dilemma. He was reported in the Financial Times, I think on 7th December, to have suggested that the existing Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (presided over by a British MEP) should lose its resposnsibility for the European Central Bank, the proposed Banking Union and other matters relating to the Euro and governance for members of the Zone. He suggested that these responsibilities should be transferred to a new Committee comprising MEPs from member states, other than the United Kingdom.
"I have seen no reference to this proposal elsewhere. Was this simply the expression of Mr. Schulz's personal opinion or does his proposal have wider provenance?
"My first reaction to Mr. Schulz's proposal was an objection to the exclusion of my country's representatives. My more considered position was that this might be the first step towards the unravelling of the Project. However, that might be false optimism my part!
* This occurs when different EU laws apply to different collections of states e.g. laws that apply to the Eurozone but not to the non-Eurozone countries