Message delivered by 300 Demonstrators to Luxemburg Presidency
Brussels, 17 February 2005 10.30 -- 300 demonstrators standing in the cold outside the Council building in Brussels handed over two letters to Luxemburg's chief Council diplomat Christian Braun which points out flaws in the processes of the European Council and asks for cautious reform, with view to the software patent directive, which governments are trying to push through the Council without a real majority backing it.
The following shorter version and a more elaborate letter of similar content signed by large Spanish organisations were given to Christian Braun, who came out of the building to meet the demonstrators.
Dear Council President,
The European Union has become a Banana Republic, and the present software patent crisis offers you a chance to lead it toward a better future.
This is, in a nutshell, the message which we, a network of people from all over Europe, on whom the "Lisbon Strategy" is supposed to rely, have come to deliver to you.
The design faults of the EU Council are well known, but they have rarely become as widely recognized as in the case of the directive "on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions" (software patent directive), where the Council has been trying to pass a "political agreement" in absence of a qualified majority of supporting countries, by forcing countries whose governments or parliaments clearly oppose the agreement to be counted as supporters.
A few weeks ago a representative of the Luxemburg Presidency told us in a meeting: "This is not a Banana Republic". What he seemed to mean was something like: "We can not allow the decisions of this institution to be disrupted just because they are not representative of the member states."
Fortunately, he was wrong. There is nothing in the regulations of the European Union that forces the Luxemburg Presidency to insist on anti-democratic interpretations of the Council's rules. These interpretations seem to serve no other interest than that of the very diplomats and bureaucrats who wield power in the Council. The planned European Constitution (I-46) says that the ministerial bureaucrats of the Council must be accountable to their national parliaments, but given the manifest anti-democratic spirit of the Council, we must expect that these provisions of the Constitution will remain empty words, as empty as the regular speeches of EU Council representatives at present-day COSAC meetings about parliamentary democracy in the European Union.
In the case of the software patent directive, the Council's design faults are compounded by the design faults of the patent system. The people who are sitting on the Council's Intellectual Property (Patents) Working Party are the very executive officials who are running the European Patent Office and who have, through this Office, been setting rules against the written law without effective oversight from any parliament. These officials have, together with the Commission, been trying to impose their "established practise" on the EU, and when the European Parliament, by proposing amendments, tried to correct this "established practise", that fact in itself was enough reason for the patent officials to ignore the Parliament's amendments, to deceive their ministers by means of contradictory doublespeak, and to hope that these ministers will shy away from a conflict with their patent bureuacrats about this arcane subject matter. Thanks to the design faults and anti-democratic tradition of the Council itself, they succeded in avoiding a proper 1st reading. Their tactic is to simply skip this stage and try whether the European Parliament can uphold its previous position under the unfair requirement of a second reading, where all abstentions and absences are counted as pro-Council.
As things are currently running, it is not possible for the European Union to produce fair and legitimate legislation. A long stream of poorly-crafted, deceptive and illegitimate directives has already come out of the Council. This state of affairs can not go on. Peaceful change can occur only, if the people at the head of the Council begin to discard their banana ideology and instead interpret the rules of the Council in a democratic spirit.
You can only adopt a common position if there is a count of votes, and if those votes reflect the actual will of the member states at the time of votes. If that will is different from May 2004, the blame is to be put on those who manipulated the session of last May, not on those who insist on basic democratic principles.
The deeper purpose of Poland's push for a return 1st reading in Parliament is to make sure that the text will come back and Council officials can not avoid a proper 1st reading. It would of course be much more straightforward if the Council itself assured this and took precautions against the kind misrepresentation of member states which we saw in the May 2004 meeting.
The problems with the software patent directive provide a good opportunity for cautiously reforming the EU Council and making it conform to the requirements of a Parliamentary Union, where Council decisions are transparent and effectively overviewed by national Parliaments. The only alternative to the Parliamentary Union is a Consiliar Union, which in Polish reads like "Soviet Union". Or we could call it "Banana Union". In any case, this is not the kind of political system into which we want to integrate our Eastern European family members, just a decade after they freed themeselves from the previous tyranny, and it's not the kind of political system in which we and our children want to live in the future.
Please help make Europe a better Union. Please take the 1st step by retabling the software patent directive as a B-Item.