Monday, January 24, 2005

Debate under Surveillance: The European Parliament's "Rapid Reaction Force"

The European Parliament has set up a “rapid reaction force” to respond to what one of the project’s initiators calls “distortions and misrepresentations” of the “European Constitution” – or more simply put, “lies” – emanating from opponents of the “constitution” in the run up to referenda in several European member states. According to reports in the European media [see below], the European Parliament offices in each member state have been tasked with monitoring the local media and in the event of the discovery of suspicious items should report back to the “rapid reaction force”, consisting of eight prominent pro-“constitution” members of the parliament [MEPs]. “Within three hours, or at least within the same day,” says Jo Leinen, a German Social Democratic MEP and one of the initiators of the “rapid reaction force”, “we want to react to lies and distortions about the constitution” – apparently via press releases and letters to the editor. Mr. Leinen did not specify how the “reaction force” expects to insure that the media in question also publishes its “corrective” missives. Mr. Leinen does not hide the fact that the group’s ostensible monitoring of “distortions and misrepresentations” is tantamount to monitoring of opposition to the European “constitution” as such. Thus, his own press release on the matter concludes: “In this decisive phase, the opponents of the European idea should not be given the chance to lead their countries into isolation and a political dead-end through their opposition to the European Constitution.” The original German version of the press release is still more chilling, since it quotes Mr. Leinen to the effect not merely that the opponents “should not” be given the chance, in effect, to influence the outcome of the referenda, but that they “must not” be given this chance or, more literally, “must not be permitted” [dürften...nicht] to have it.

For more on the European Parliament’s “rapid reaction force”, see the Times of London, The EUObserver, or this article [in German] from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. And for the observations of a prominent critic of the final draft of the EU "constitution" and MEP, see the latest newsletter from Jens-Peter Bonde.

(Hat tip Y.B. - Merci!)