What referendum?

The Times - Friday, 7th December 2007


Michael Briguglio, public relations officer, Zminijietna - Voice of the Left, Valletta.

It is ironic that many political forces and opinion makers who spoke so much in favour of the virtues of a referendum upon Malta's accession to the EU are now dead silent on the need for a referendum to approve or reject the proposed EU treaty. Irrespective of one's position on the treaty, it requires democratic approval if it is to be politically legitimate. As things stand, EU leaders are expected to sign the Treaty in Lisbon next December 13.

EU institutions, various European governments and certain political parties are seeking to avoid a democratic debate on the EU Treaty. This is taking place in Malta too, where apparently the only issue that seems to be given importance by institutionalised forces is Malta's additional parliamentary seat. Apparently, short-term electoral calculations, or, alternatively, long-term aims towards neo-liberal directions have become more important than having an open discussion on this issue within the public sphere.

The attempt to stifle debate is unacceptable and is a profound disrespect for democracy and for the verdict expressed by the French and Dutch peoples in the 2005 referendums which rejected the proposed EU Constitution. The cryptic words of Valery Giscard d'Estaing (architect of the same constitution) show a profound disrespect for democracy. In an open letter to Le Monde and a few other European newspapers a few weeks ago, he said that the EU's new treaty is the same as the rejected constitution and that it is only the format that has been changed - to avoid referendums!

If democratic institutions are worth their salt, the right of each people to have their say on a treaty which has such profound consequences for the present and the future of each of their countries and of Europe must be guaranteed, through a broad and democratic debate and through the expression of the popular will.

As regards the Treaty itself, one has to pinpoint that it institutionalises various neo-liberal policies that will further jeopardise economic and social gains of the workers and the peoples, whether through the further liberalisation of markets or through dismantling and privatising public services - the same public services which are essential for a social model based on equality and social justice.

Opposition to the Treaty does not mean that one is against a unified Europe. Indeed, the possibility of a different Europe exists. In this regard, Zminijietna - Voice of the Left believes in a Social Europe of cooperation, social, economic and environmental progress and peace. Yet, this requires strong political action!

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