Commission rejects claim that guide broke referendum rules

 

FUNDING FROM EUROPE:THE EUROPEAN Commission has rejected suggestions from No campaigners that it broke Irish rules on referendum spending after paying €150,000 to insert a guide to the Lisbon Treaty into all Sunday newspapers. The 16-page guide to the treaty is not specifically targeted at Ireland, but was produced for the citizens of all 27 member states, it said.

“The guide to the Lisbon Treaty is a European Commission publication aimed at citizens in all member states. In fact, the guide makes no specific reference to Ireland at all – other than to note the result of the first referendum and the date of the second referendum,” said a commission spokeswoman, who added the EU executive had a duty to inform citizens.

“The Lisbon Treaty is a key document in the development of the European Union and it is incumbent upon the commission to explain to all European citizens the fundamentals of the treaty,” she said.

The decision to insert 1.1 million copies of the guide into Sunday newspapers enraged No campaigners, who allege the commission is using taxpayers’ money to canvass for a Yes vote. The €150,000 was paid out of the commission’s Dublin offices’ media budget. This spending is in addition to a €1.6 million contract the commission signed recently with Edelman public relations to provide information about the EU in Ireland. Former MEP and chairwoman of the People’s Movement Patricia McKenna said yesterday she had sent a legal letter warning the commission she would take out an injunction against any newspapers carrying the guide to Lisbon.

“This clearly breaches Irish law as set down by Supreme Court in the McKenna judgment in 1995 where taxpayers’ money cannot be used to promote one side in a referendum. This guide is advocacy,” she said.

She also questioned if the commission breached EU law given that it has no role advocating ratification. EU sources said yesterday legal advisers to the Council of Ministers had expressed some concern about the content of the commission’s guide to the treaty.

However, the commission went ahead with the guide because it was felt that it had a duty to inform people about the treaty.