12th October 2011: This week Andrew Brons is in Brussels for a Mini-Plenary Session and meeting of his committees. Yesterday afternoon he spoke at the EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee, discussing the remaining stages for the accession of Croatia to the European Union. This what is the MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber told his colleagues on the Croatia Delegation. "My understanding is that the official referendum campaign will last one month - thirty days from the signing of the Treaty. However, one representative of the Croatian Government said this morning that the Government was, "already preparing the public for the referendum," and another said, "We have intensified our information campaigns". It seems that, whilst the No Campaign will have a bare thirty days, the Yes Campaign will have lasted for several months. There has been some concern expressed by some members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee that there might be some free debate on the merits or otherwise of the EU during the General Election (due to take place on 4th December). Perish the thought that free debate should take place during a general election campaign! I should have thought that free debate on such an important issue during a general election campaign was rather a good thing, especially during the period before the referendum. I understand from the Croatian Ambassador to the EU, during the preparatory meeting, that the law relating to this referendum will be a general law relating to the holding of referendums* generally. There are a number of questions that arise. I believe that there are no limits of money that can be spent by the protagonists. Is there a limit on the amount of public money that can be spent on 'information', which might otherwise be termed 'propaganda' by the Government? The question of the wording of the referendum question was mentioned briefly by the Ambassador at the preparatory meeting but he did not have time to expand on this point. Who will devise the wording and what assurances are there for the neutrality of the wording. The newspapers are presumably free to write whatever they wish. What restrictions are there on state and private broadcasting? I anticipate that the amount spent on the Yes Campaign, including the amount of public money spent on the so-called information campaign, will swamp any small amount spent by the No Campaign. I anticipate that the Government will use its influence on state broadcasting to produce a Yes vote. Early this year there was a small majority, in an opinion poll, against Croatia joining the EU, although there have been subsequent polls with a small majority in favour. The Croatian Government representative said that he hoped or expected that 80% would vote in favour. Such a conversion could only be brought about by a deluge of propaganda, similar to that experienced in the United Kingdom in 1975. This will not be a recipe for long term support but for years of resentment and unrelenting pressure for regaining of independence. There are those who would like to leave the handling of the referendum to Croatia, without any interference from the EU. However, the EU did not feel reticent about interfering in every aspect of Croatian life, during the negotiation period, from enforced social liberalism to the handing over to the International Criminal Court, generals for atrocities that they neither ordered nor condoned. Outsiders generally and the EU in particular must concern themselves with this last act of an independent Croatia and ensure that it is fairly conducted."
Responses Mr. Plenkovics said that the Croatian Government used money to inform citizens and not to make propaganda. A Croatian MP said that if a Pro-EU party were to win the General Election it should be able to spend public money on a pro-EU campaign.
Pseuds Corner *Some people prefer 'referenda' to 'referendums'. However, 'referenda' is the plural only in the nominative, vocative (hardly appropriate) and accusative cases. It is 'referendis' in the dative and ablative cases and 'referendorum' in the genitive. That's enough of that!
29th September 2011: A Preparatory Meeting* of the EU-Croatia Delegation was held yesterday evening at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. At the meeting Andrew Brons asked the Croatian Ambassador to the European Union, Mr. Branko Baricevic, about the planned referendum on accession to the EU. Mr. Baricevic said that he expected the referendum to be held either at the end of January or the beginning of February, although he could not be certain about the date. Andrew asked what guarantees there were to ensure that the referendum was conducted freely and fairly. Would there be umbrella bodies on either side with limits on expenditure? Mr. Baricevic said that there would be neither. Andrew then asked him if it would be fair to describe the referendum as 'unconstrained'. Mr. Baricevic said that the referendum would be conducted according to ordinary Croatian law on referendums and that there would not be any special legislation. Andrew was asked by a Croatian lady MP if he would withdraw his intention to go to Croatia during the referendum campaign. Andrew replied that he would go to Croatia if he were to be invited. * Preparation meeting for the 14th EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee meeting in Brussels in October
16th-17th May 2011: The EU Economy and Competition Policy - This is the last of my various offerings. There was some repetition but then I was addressing a changing audience. "In 1979, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and brought with her an eccentric laissez-faire and privatisation policy. She and her successor managed to destroy Britain’s manufacturing industry and sell off basic (publicly owned) utilities to (eventual) foreign ownership. We have hardly any manufacturing left in the U.K. "Margaret Thatcher has fallen into thoroughly deserved senile retirement. However, I am saddened that the European Union seems to think that her ideas had some merit and now imposes them on member states and even on candidate states. These policies will create Croatian unemployment and an exodus of the young and the mobile." I gave interviews to Croatian television and radio but I have not heard that they have been broadcast. There has been talk of government interference with the media so that might be an explanation.
16th-17th May 2011: In a debate on the Croatian Referendum, Andrew told the meeting: "The title of the item on the agenda has been reversed. The original wording referred initially to the referendum with the communication strategy being mentioned afterwards. The new wording mentioned the communication strategy first and the referendum was mentioned almost as an afterthought. "The use of the words 'communicate' and 'inform' imply that you only need to tell people the facts and agreement will follow automatically. The only possible reason for opposition to accession can be ignorance. Once ignorance has been dispelled, opposition will disappear with it. "The debate will involve enormous amounts of Government and EU money being spent, not on providing objective information but one-sided propaganda. They will deluge the campaign with money and propaganda to produce a ‘Yes’ vote. This is what happened in the UK in 1975. At the beginning of the year there was, according to opinion polls, a two to one majority against continued membership. That was changed by a flood of propaganda to a two to one majority for remaining a member. "The referendum must be held within a clear legal framework with spending limits not only on campaigning organisations but also on the Government and the EU. These limits must also cover the period between the end of negotiations and the signing of the Treaty, when an enormous propaganda campaign is planned. If this referendum is not conducted fairly, it will have no more validity or authority than the plebiscites conducted by European dictatorships. "One final point: if there is a ‘Yes’ vote the referendum will be the only one held and its result will be final. If, however, there is a ‘No’ vote, further referendums will be held until the ‘right’ result is obtained."
16th-17th May 2011: State of play of the accession negotiations, in the presence of representatives of the Commission, the (Hungarian) Presidency of the Council and the Croatian Government "It was said at the beginning of item 3 of the agenda that 'the goal of accession to the EU is accepted by everybody in Croatia'. I would say that (according to the latest opinion poll) everybody in Croatia accepts that goal except for the 73% of the population who are opposed to EU entry (29%), think that the advantages and disadvantages are evenly balanced (41%) or say that they do not know (3%). That (27%) is not quite everybody! "I hope that this is not a foretaste of the accuracy of statements that will be made during the referendum campaign. "With regard to (negotiations relating to) the question of judicial independence in Croatia, I believe that Croatia has been treated most unfairly by the EU. Not all of the existing member states of the EU have had independence of judicial appointment for very long. The United Kingdom established the Judicial Appointments Commission only in 2006. Before that, judges were appointed by a party politician, the Lord Chancellor, albeit on the advice of an informal 'judicial appointments group'. However, I believe that the greatest guarantee of judicial independence is to be found in the difficulty in the process of dismissing judges. "When it comes to judicial independence in practice, judges in the vast majority of cases in the United Kingdom are independent, fair and conscientious but then the vast majority of cases are not political. In politically sensitive cases, such as judicial inquiries into the Iraq War or into the death of the scientist Dr. David Kelly, their decisions are much more questionable. "With regard to the war crimes cases at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, I have the feeling that your generals were thrown to the wolves to secure EU entry and were not treated fairly by the court in the Hague. It was established, quite rightly, at Nuremburg, after the Second World War, that following orders was not a defence. However, it now seems that never having given an order is not a defence either."
16th-17th May 2011: Continuation of Round Table with European House (students, lobbyists and NGOs)
The discussion followed several questions about accession funds. I responded as follows:
"There is a danger that we see the necessity for looking to others for funding. In fact Croatia and other candidate countries are being led into a dependency culture by the EU.
"Croatia is still suffering from the recession but we Nationalists have a saying: ‘What is physically possible is financially possible’.
We, unlike the EU, are not advocates of laissez-faire economics. If there are unemployed people and there are unsatisfied economic needs, the unemployed can be directed to satisfy those needs. Croatia and other candidate countries have been misled into believing that laissez-faire economics is solution, when, in fact, it is the problem.
The trouble is that the EU and member states have been treating Thatcherite or Friedmanite economics with a reverence that it does not deserve."
16th-17th May 2011: Round Table organised by European House, Dubrovnik, involving students the Chamber of the Economy and NGOs. This was an opportunity for each member present to introduce himself. “Dobro jutro. Ja se zovem Andrew Brons. Jesam iz Velika Britanja. (Good morning. I am called Andrew Brons. I am from Great Britain) "I’m afraid that that is the extent of my Croatian so I shall proceed in English. "We have been told this morning that Croatia is to join the EU. However, there has been no mention of the referendum that will be held to decide whether or not that happens. The agreement of the Croatian people is being taken for granted and they are being treated with great disrespect. "There is a lot of talk about telling the people about the advantages of EU membership but none about the disadvantages. This tells us something about the way in which the referendum will be conducted. "We have been told that we should feel as though we were in Europe, when we are in Dubrovnik but we are in Europe! Croatia is as much part of Europe as France or Germany or the United Kingdom. It is the European Union that Croatia has yet to join. Europe and the European Union are not the same thing. I am proud to be part of Europe but I am not proud to be part of the European Union. Why? "It involves a serious encroachment on the sovereignty – the independence – of member states. Between 70 and 80% of UK laws originate with the EU. It would be bad if the laws covered only trade and commerce. However, they extend to laws enforcing social liberalism that are not consistent with the views of a socially conservative country like Croatia. Furthermore, these laws involve restrictions on freedom of speech. The EU has the cheek to check Croatia’s democratic credentials when existing EU countries imprison people for what they say and even ban political parties. I am not aware that Croatia has banned any political parties, since it won its independence twenty years ago. "I had better stop there before I become controversial."
Meeting with Paul Vandoren, EU Ambassador to Croatia (above) - 8.30 – 9.30 a.m. Monday 16th May: This was my response to the preliminary address by Mr. Vandoren "Why is it planned that the signing of the Treaty (following the end of the negotiations) should precede the holding of the referendum, when it should, in my opinion, take place only after a 'Yes' vote. This is almost dismissive of the result of the referendum as a forgone conclusion and disrespectful to the Croatian people. "You mentioned that the Government will step up its information campaign, in preparation for the referendum . . in fact, this will not be objective information but a one-sided propaganda campaign. I should like to know what legislation will be in place to ensure that the referendum is conducted freely and fairly." Mr. Vandoren said that he anticipated that there would be a strong 'Yes' campaign. I said: "I agree completely! The Government will run a one-sided 'Yes' campaign and all the political parties will support the ‘Yes’ campaign. The ‘No’ campaign will be restricted to a few isolated individuals." Mr. Gunnar Hökmark, the joint Chairman of the Committee, said that the way in which the referendum was conducted was not really our business and that it was the business of the business of the Croatian Government. I replied: "The last five years has been spent judging whether or not Croatia was conducting itself, in accordance with the Rule of Law and whether it was satisfying various democratic standards. If that was our (the European Parliament's) business, then it must follow that the last stage – the referendum and how it is conducted – must be our business too."
EU-Croatia Joint Parliamentary Committee Meeting 16th/17th May 2011: I have just returned from Dubrovnik where the thirteenth meeting of this august body was held. Dubrovnik is a beautiful medieval city but I had no opportunity to explore it. I have been criticised by the Daily Telegraph, described by some as a newspaper, for ‘enjoying’ a previous ‘jaunt’ to Croatia. Our fleeting visits provide little opportunity for enjoyment but they do provide me with a platform for an anti-EU message. Why would I want to be a member of any Joint Parliamentary Committee and allow myself to be whisked away to foreign parts? What has Croatia to do with the people of Sheffield, Barnsley, Leeds or York? Croatia is a candidate country on the verge of joining the European Union. We, in the British National Party are not narrow nationalists who believe that Nationalism is for Britain alone. Ethno-Nationalism is a political philosophy that is ripe for export and I believe that Croatia has a fertile soil. If we could dissuade the Croatian people from voting ‘Yes’ in the referendum later this year, we should be doing the Croatian Nation an enormous favour. However, even more importantly than that, we would be delivering a hefty blow against the EU ‘Project’ as they like to call it. This ‘Project’ depends on uninterrupted progress – rather like Trotsky’s ‘Permanent Revolution’ on which it is perhaps based. Any major interruption could cause the whole strategy to start unraveling. That would be an enormous favour to the United Kingdom and other member states. It could be said that I am fighting for British independence in the meeting halls of Dubrovnik and Parliamentary chambers of Zagreb.
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."