Buttiglione and the EU Constitution…

Stephen Pollard picks up on the controversy surrounding the vetoing of Rocco Buttiglione as an EU Commissioner because of his mainstream Catholic views on homosexuality, and argues that it points to a deeper problem should the current draft of the European Constitution be adopted:

If the proposed EU constitution is adopted, it will not matter what Mr Buttiglione, or anyone else, thinks. Most areas of morality and fundamental policy would no longer be amenable to democratic decision making; they are dictated in the text of the constitution. US states will be freer than EU member states to legislate as their populations see fit. US states can decide, for example, whether to have the death penalty. The new EU constitution says: “No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.”

Via Conservative Commentary.

  • Davros

    For myself I think the Buttiglione row is a nonsense. We all make private value judgements. This man has very deliberately made the point that his own personal opinions on morality have NO bearing on his function when he is wearing his official “hat”.

  • willowfield

    Sr Buttiglione is entitled to his views, and one’s views alone should not bar one from office (we’re not in Nazi Germany). If, however, Sr Buttiglione were to put his views into practice, contrary to the wishes of the member states of the EC (as represented by the Council of Ministers), the Council should be able to dismiss him.

    But the institutional mechanisms of the EC do not appear to permit this: each member state (acting alone) is able to nominate whoever it wishes, without regard to the views of other states.

    Does this not highlight a flaw in the workings of the EC?

  • Henry94

    Davros

    I’m not so sure about that. Could a commissioner for race relations say that while he personally believed in the superiority of the white race he fully accepted the equal status of races under EU law and would not let he private view intrude on his responsibilities? Would you trust him?

    If Buttiglione was standing for election and expressed such a view then the people would decide and that would be that. In this case the European Parliament has to vote on the peoples behalf. I think they are entitled to decide that the appointment is unsafe and I think they should.

    This happens in the US all the time. Senior appointments have to go before a committee and their views can be questioned. It is a basic democratic safeguard. yes it sometimes gets misused for partizan politics but it is better to have it than not have it.

  • willowfield

    … which highlights the same institutional flaw with the EC: the commissioners are not properly accountable.

  • Henry94

    willowfield

    I agree. If the Commission was elected it wouldn’t be an issue. But would you want an elected Commission?

    Best to let the parliament have power over them in certain areas and let them remain appointed by the national governments. An elected Commission would evole into the government of an EU state.

  • willowfield

    Why not let the Parliament appoint them?

  • Fraggle

    there needs to be a function where the euro parliament can throw single commissioners out after a vote of confidence.

    however, some people use this as an opportunity to damn the whole european project.

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry,

    Apposite thoughts. However what seems to be exercising Pollard (and a legion of conservative commentators) on this issue is the fact that his views are neither extreme nor out of commonplace. They are in fact mainstream Catholic in nature.

  • willowfield

    How about the Council of Ministers proposes commissioners to the Parliament?

  • Davros

    Henry a chara – if as he says his private beliefs on moral issues will not impinge upon his administration of Law then I cannot see a problem.
    After all he won’t be making laws.

    In a secular republic will all practising Jews Christians and Muslims be disbarred from ofice ?

    IMO it’s hard to criticise Britain for disbarring RCs from the Throne and at the same time disbarr this man for HIS religious beliefs.

  • Fraggle

    willowfield, that (appointment by Eparliament) would be strongly opposed by most people other than ardent integrationists. it would be seen as a further erosion of the power of national governments etc. personally, I think it would be a good idea but it’s not likely at the moment. direct election in each country is another possibility. when the dust settles on this case, something will be done to prevent this happening in future.

  • willowfield

    In that case, Fraggle, the man’s appointment has to stand: he’s entitled to his views, objectionable though they might be, and so long as he performs his duties with integrity and according to the rules, there is no reason to disbar him, given that each government is entitled to appoint whoever it likes.

  • The Renegade

    Something rings familiar. If the example of the DUP is anything to go by, then he won’t do much of a job.

    After all, they claim they want power-sharing in Stormont, yet their private views and the examples of Lisburn, Castlereagh, etc show they don’t want to let nationalists have a say.

    Perhaps it is easier said than done to ignore ones personal views when holding office.

  • Davros

    We DO allow functionaries to have consciences.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    In a secular republic will all practising Jews Christians and Muslims be disbarred from ofice ?

    There is a distiction on the one hand between elected office and appointed office and there is also a distinction between being a believer in a particular religion and an advocte of its more extreme positions. For example if a Muslim advoctaed the murder of novelist on a religious basis then I would not hesitate to veto such an appointment.

    Mick

    They are in fact mainstream Catholic in nature.

    Are they I wonder. Only if you define mainstream as going along with what the Pope believes but the reality for the Catholic Church today is that people don’t do that anymore. Otherwise we would still be having big families.

    The fact of the matter is that a stand-off exists in the Church. Those who were born into the Church, in the main, are happy to marry in it and die in it but don’t believe in, or even know about, a lot of Catholic teaching.

    If they take any interest in Mr Buttiglione (aren’t we very PC not to joke about his name) at all it would be to think that he had very bad manners to even mention the subject.

    Stalin once asked, “How many divisions has the Pope?” The question today is how many votes has he in Europe. In truth, not many.

    If Catholics were forced to either accept the teaching of the Church or leave we would leave in our droves. The catastrophic effect that would have on the weekly takings is the reason they will never force the issue.

  • Davros

    Re Stalin and Votes Henry – It will be interesting to see what, if any, effect the Bishops’ intervention has in the USA Pres election.

    On a note closer to home, and I am not (for once ) raising this to cause party political embarrassment – if the majority of those born into the RC Church are so unaffected by or unaware of Church teachings why have SF given such a wide berth to the Abortion issue North and South ?

  • Davros

    There is a distiction on the one hand between elected office and appointed office and there is also a distinction between being a believer in a particular religion and an advocte of its more extreme positions. For example if a Muslim advoctaed the murder of novelist on a religious basis then I would not hesitate to veto such an appointment.

    Henry that doesn’t address the issue. Mr B didn’t advocate, he was questioned and gave answers on his personal beliefs. Let me put this to you – abortion is legal in the UK.
    If we did have a practising Catholic as Minister of Health and that Minister was pressed on his or her religious beliefs on abortion and said that they considered it a grievous sin, should that Minister be sacked ?

  • willowfield

    Seems to me like there is a parallel between the appointment of European commissioners and the appointment of government ministers under the current GFA system.

    In Europe, the commissioners are nominated by the member states in proportion to their size: the Parliament cannot do much about their appointment; in NI, under the GFA, the ministers are nominated by the parties in proportion to their size: the Assembly cannot do much about this.

    So, in Europe, a member state can appoint a commissioner, such as Sr Buttiglione, with objectionable views, and little can be done. And in NI, a party can appoint a minister, such as Mr McGuinness, with objectionable views, and little can be done.

    Maybe Jim Allister should share some of the DUP

  • Henry94

    Davros

    I have no doubt such a Minister would be forced to resign from a Labour government. Maybe not a Tory one. Right and wrong does’t come into it. It’s just politics.

    A DUP minister might be chopped if they said the opposite.

    There is probably not a single politican who could survive if they shared their private views on every subject with us. That’s why they are private.

    The peope in the South defeated the last referendum on abortion despite the Bishops support for it. Sinn Fein and others opposed the Bishops and won the vote.

    In my view the majority position in Ireland, north and south, is that we accept a womans right to choose but think it would far better that she exercised that right discreetly in England. It is of course an utterly hypocritical position and very hard to write into a constitution.

    They had a go in the south where te constitution was changed, after the X case, to recognise the right to information and travel. But the so-called substantive issue still defies resolution.

  • Davros

    So the lesson from this should be that Mr B should have politely refused to discuss his personal beliefs and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Do we really need a commission, a president, a foreign minister and a single codified legal system?

  • Christopher Stalford

    Not to mention an army, a whole raft of unnecessary regulations and a filing currency.

    Do we really need the European Union?

  • Christopher Stalford

    failing, not filing

    Sorry

  • Fraggle

    Christopher, care to explain to us how the euro is failing?

    Willowfield, the point is that an option exists for eparliament to reject commissioners. unfortunately, it is a nuclear option. eparliament is the most democratic representative pan-euro body and if they choose to go nuclear, that is their prerogative.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    So the lesson from this should be that Mr B should have politely refused to discuss his personal beliefs and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    He could have said that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”

    That is from the Catechism

  • Davros

    Even that answer would be open to criticism Henry.

  • willowfield

    Fraggle

    Willowfield, the point is that an option exists for eparliament to reject commissioners. unfortunately, it is a nuclear option. eparliament is the most democratic representative pan-euro body and if they choose to go nuclear, that is their prerogative.

    And my point is that there is a parallel with the Assembly, since – like member states rather than the parliament appointing commissioners – it is parties rather than the Assembly that appoints ministers. In Europe, then, a member state might appoint someone with objectionable views (Buttiglione) and the Parliament cannot easily get rid of him; in NI, a party might appoint someone with objectionable views (McGuinness) and the Assembly cannot easily get rid of him.