Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

A selective approach to democratic rights.

Daily Telegraph - 3rd February 2000

Sir

It is worth remembering that all EU countries have agreed to abide by Article 6 of the Consolidated Treaty.

This states: "The Union shall respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on 4 November 1950". Article 7 further empowers the Council of Ministers to suspend the voting rights of any member state persistently violating human rights.

Austria, Greece and Italy have legal provisions that prevent members of their exiled former royal families from entering their own countries, which are blatant violations not only of the Convention of Human Rights, but also of EU law. In the case of Prince Victor Emmanuel, he has been unable to visit Italy for 53 years. Karl von Habsburg had to give up fundamental rights before being allowed to visit Austria.

When I raised this in the European Parliament, gathering almost 180 signatures for a motion that would ask the Commission to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice, the procedure was blocked not only by the communist and socialist groups on the grounds that it was interference in the internal affairs of member states, but also by the ELDR (Liberal) Group (although most British Liberal Democrats, with the exception of Lady Nicholson, signed the original motion).

A few socialist members also signed, but it would appear that those most vociferous in supporting human rights and the right to interfere in the sovereignty of member states are more than prepared to be selective in their application of these principles when it suits.

Dr. Charles Tannock MEP (Con)
Brussels