July 3rd 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: NZ Labour legislates to effect 'same-sex marriage'

EDITORIAL: Free Trade Agreement's tilted playing field

ECONOMICS: Setting pay to create new jobs

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Profile of Mark Latham's star new recruit

AGRICULTURE: Western farm subsidies rising, Australia's falling

OVERSEAS DEBT: Foreign debt grows as we live beyond our means

SAME-SEX COUPLES: Gays comprise 0.5 per cent of couples: parliamentary survey

FAMILY: Neurobiology says mothers play vital role

EDUCATION: The gender agenda

POLITICAL IDEAS: Distributism - the neglected tradition

COMMENT: The 'battlers' want jobs, not platitudes

EUROPE: New EU Constitution faces mounting opposition

STRAWS IN THE WIND : Moving the lounge chairs in the retirement village / Still picking up the pieces / Selective indignation

Flouting the law (letter)

Grameen Bank (letter)

Howard Government defended (letter)

Restoring Murray River communities' confidence (letter)

Reagan's wit (letter)

BOOKS: Target North Korea, by Gavan McCormack

BOOKS: An Imperfect God: George Washington, his slaves and the creation of America

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New EU Constitution faces mounting opposition

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, July 3, 2004
On June 18, leaders of the European Union voted in Brussels to adopt a new Constitution to administer the EU's $180 billion budget, but it faces likely defeat when it is put to a vote in the 25 nations which now comprise the EU. The vote must take place before the end of 2006.

The new Constitution, adopted to simplify the complex set of arrangements which govern the EU, must be unanimously supported by all 25 nations which now constitute the European Union to come into effect.

Its most contentious component includes a Charter of Fundamental Rights which critics believe will be used to impose a secular libertarian agenda on the 450 million people in the EU. It purports to be pro-life, anti-discrimination, and promises to guarantee free speech, religion, education and fair working conditions.

However, in light of the fact that states of the EU which promoted the new Charter permit abortion, human embryo experimentation and euthanasia, gay marriage, permit arrest without trial, and in the case of France, forbid Muslim children wearing a veil and Christians wearing crosses to school, the new Charter is seen as a charter for anti-Christian secularists.

A sign of the influence of the secularists, particularly from France and Belgium, was the exclusion of any specific mention of Christianity from the EU Constitution. Instead, there is a vague reference to Europe's "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance" in the preamble.

This is symptomatic of the idea that religious belief must be consigned to the privacy of individuals, and has no role in public policy.

The Charter has absolutely no reference to any basis in Christianity or religion in general, and effectively permits human cloning. These omissions in the Charter leave room for the member nations and the EU to find loopholes through which they can pass legislation or make decisions that would violate human dignity, something which the Charter claims to protect, as stated in its first article.

Significantly, parties and candidates critical of the new EU Constitution were elected in record numbers in the recent EU elections.

In Great Britain, the Opposition Conservative Party and the UK Independence Party (which supports a pull-out from the EU) easily outvoted the Labour Party.

The Independence Party said, "Taken to its logical conclusion, the EU's 'anti-discrimination' policy as reflected in the Charter means that a Christian school could be forced to employ atheist teachers, or a Muslim organisation to appoint Christian managers.

"The perverse effect of this will be to emphasise differences between sections of society and give power to self-appointed activists.

"The European Union favours divisive 'group' rights over individual freedom. In this connection, we note that most countries in the EU are in practice much less tolerant of racial or religious minorities than Britain," it said.

Under the terms of the old EU agreements, the rights of individual states were protected by the right of any EU member state to veto any law of the European Parliament.

This will now be substantially amended. Vetoes have been removed in 49 key areas - including regional aid, justice matters and some areas of taxation and foreign policy. The voting system has been replaced by a simpler method that will see proposals adopted if they command the support of 55 per cent of EU states representing 65 per cent of the bloc's population.

Conversely, at least four countries with 35 percent of the population would be needed to block any measure.

There is growing opposition among Europeans to the establishment of a super-state in Brussels, which will speak on behalf of all, and impose its legal system on all, backed up by its own Europol police force.


Voting for the EU Parliament, held from June 10-13, resulted in the election of an increased number of "Euro-sceptics" throughout the EU.

The voters - many of them unhappy with domestic problems such as joblessness and cutbacks in the welfare state - sent a clear message to ruling parties in several EU states.

The Social Democrats in Germany, Labour in Britain, and the centre right government in France were all rejected by the voters.

However, it is not certain that the vote will transfer into domestic politics. Paradoxically, the emergence of the UK Independence Party in Great Britain could undermine the Tories' prospects in the forthcoming UK election. With a first-past-the-post voting system, and the Independence Party stealing votes from the Conservatives, the way could be open for a return of the Blair Labour Government, even it its vote is slashed.

The dominant trend emerging is that people favour opposition candidates for seats in the 732-seat Parliament, the key law-making institution of the European Union. Most ruling parties in the European Union have suffered defeats in the first elections for a newly enlarged European Parliament marked by record low turnouts.

  • Peter Westmore

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