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EU Can Stifle Criticism



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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/et?ac=000157380504876&rtmo=3SSmwxBM&atmo=rrrrrrrq

&pg=/et/01/3/10/wfile10.html


London Telegraph

ISSUE 2115 Saturday 10 March 2001





  Eurofile: EU suppression of criticism smacks of fascism
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard





  THE European Court of Justice changed the political climate profoundly

this week by ruling that the European Union can suppress criticism to
protect its reputation.
Keith Vaz, the Europe minister, dismissed the matter as a minor staff
case
involving Bernard Connolly, the British whistleblower, with no
implications
for ordinary EU citizens. But Mr Vaz mixes up two separate cases. One is
a
staff case, the other is a free speech case going far beyond the issue
of
whether Connolly broke his contract at the European Commission by
writing
The Rotten Heart of Europe.

The court ruled that the Commission could restrict criticism that
damaged
"the institution's image and reputation", and that it could do so by
resorting to a legal device used by fascist governments to suppress
dissent
in the 1920s and 1930s: "the protection of the rights of others". This
ECJ
ruling defies half a century of case law by Europe's other court, the
non-EU
Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, as well as resurrecting the ancient

offence of "seditious libel" banned by the House of Lords.

The Human Rights Court has ruled repeatedly that governing bodies may
not
restrict criticism in such a way. Specifically, the term "protection of
the
rights of others" does not apply to public bodies. Last week's ruling
shows
that the ECJ (despite paying lip-service) does not consider itself bound
by
the European Convention on Human Rights, drafted by British lawyers
after
the Second World War to safeguard liberty in Europe.

This is an extremely serious development because the EU's new Charter of

Fundamental Rights extends the ECJ's competence into the area of civil
liberties, transforming it from a commercial court dealing with single
market issues to a full-fledged supreme court. The ECJ has already begun

referring to the charter in its rulings, demolishing the British
government's pretence that the document has no more legal status than
"the
Beano".

The door could be soon be open for the ECJ to start ruling on free
speech
cases involving ordinary EU citizens, or indeed involving Euro-sceptic
newspapers. We now have two rival sets of European rights law, overseen
by
rival courts with very different views of civil liberty: the ECJ and the

charter on one side, set against the Human Rights Court and the
convention
on the other. The battle is just beginning.



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A EUROPEAN Commission report said that depleted uranium munitions used
by
Nato in the Balkans emitted such low levels of radiation that they
"could
not produce any detectable health effects".



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THE European Parliament's "Echelon" inquiry into alleged Anglo-American
eavesdropping on Europe has concluded that French intelligence services
also
work hand-in-glove with the US National Security Agency when it suits
them.

Gerhard Schmid, the MEP leading the inquiry, said that the French
nevertheless considered themselves to be in a state of "economic
warfare"
with Washington. Mr Schmidt also said that Britain was two-timing Europe
by
conducting joint espionage operations with America and would have to
"choose" one side of the Atlantic or the other.








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