European Parliament president calls for honest and fair debate


PRESIDENT OF the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek yesterday stressed the importance of an “honest, truthful, and fair” debate in the run-up to the Lisbon Treaty referendum, adding that it should hinge on the treaty’s merits and not on the Government’s performance.

Speaking at the Institute of International and European Affairs during a visit to Dublin, Mr Buzek told an audience of diplomats and academics that he was “very surprised” to see some of the arguments put forward on posters belonging to No campaigners.

“It is important for the information campaign to be honest, truthful and fair,” he said, insisting that it was “simply untrue” to claim that the treaty could affect the State’s powers to set tax rates and the minimum wage, or decide legislation on abortion.

“In all these cases, it is the Irish Government . . . which will have the final say,” he added.

Mr Buzek said his impression of the No camp was that it was “made up of marginal groups, some with extreme views . . . and some [located] outside your country”.

While stressing that he had no wish to “tell people how to vote”, Mr Buzek said the referendum should not be “used for domestic messages” to convey dissatisfaction with the Government.

“I hope it will be [debated] on the merits of the treaty and not the performance of the Government,” he said.

Mr Buzek also called for a high turnout on October 2nd, arguing that the issue was “too important for the luxury of a low turnout”.

He said the Government had secured “a good deal” in terms of the legal guarantees granted to address issues that had been of particular concern to voters in last year’s referendum.

Mr Buzek also attended a seminar in Dublin entitled the Importance of the Lisbon Treaty for Sport in Europe, which was hosted by Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia.

He discussed how an existing European Commission White Paper on how sport should be run across member states could be adopted under the Lisbon legal framework.

Mr Buzek said the White Paper had recommendations on tackling obesity and diabetes, social inclusion and combating doping, violence and racism in sport.

“The whole procedure is not completed yet. We wait on the Lisbon Treaty,” he said. “The White Paper will give new powers to the European Commission and Parliament to promote sporting activity to a greater extent and a full legal basis will be given to sporting activity at EU level.”

Mr Buzek said adapting the treaty would mean that sporting initiatives could be funded by EU institutions rather than structural funds, which would make access to funding more straightforward.