Europe's court of injustice

By J. Bradley Keena
web posted March 19, 2001

Think the threat of central government is all hype? Then you haven't followed the latest antics by the European Union, which has now succeeded in suppressing the right of free speech.

The so-called European Court of Justice ruled two weeks ago that the European Union can lawfully suppress criticism of its institutions and politicians. In one arrogant decision, the court flushed 50 years of European speech and press freedoms down the pot.

The Court of Justice is the judicial institution of the European Community, comprising 15 member countries - 365 million citizens - voluntarily united to promote European Unity.

The case centers on British economist Bernard Connolly, who in 1995 wrote a book criticizing European monetary integration. Seems Connolly was the kid who pointed out that the Euro emperor has no clothes. Europe's everyday citizens dislike having a one-Europe currency forced down their throats. The Euro has been ever since it was first dreamed up several years ago by politicians whose previous ideas had all the appeal of a visit to the electric chair.

Looking back, the title of Connolly's offending book, "The Rotten Heart of Europe," is rather prophetic. If the European Union imagines itself in time becoming the heart of Europe, its Court of "Justice" has just served up a myocardial infarction.

"The limitations on freedom of expression in a democratic society, as stated by the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, to which the Court of Justice directly refers, are to be restrictively interpreted," the Court said in striking down appeals by Connolly.

The decision may only be the beginning. It means the European Commission may now restrict dissent and punish members found to have "damaged the institution's image and reputation."

"The case has wider implications for free speech that could extend to EU citizens who do not work for the Brussels bureaucracy," Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, correspondent for the London Telegraph, commented.

Defendant Connolly had stronger comments: "We're back to the Star Chamber and Acts of Attainder: the rights of defendants are not respected or guaranteed in any way; the offence of seditious libel has been resurrected."

Curiously, the Court's ruling stated that the European Commission could restrict dissent in order to "protect the rights of others." So, let me get this straight. Someone criticizes the central government. The central government arrests the critic. The people's rights are thereby protected. Am I missing something here, or have I just been watching Amon Goeth, the mad commandant from Schindler's List, defend killing Plazow Jews to preserve the rights of Poles?

In his book Connolly warned that Europe's Economic and Monetary Union was a threat to democracy and freedom - words that the judges singled out as offensive to the Court. As punishment, they have turned Connolly's warning into a prophecy. Their decision that the European Union can outlaw such words and punish its critics is a threat to the democracy and freedom enjoyed by all of Europe.

"All that is needed now is the creation of an EU criminal jurisdiction, with its own prosecuting machinery," says Evans-Pritchard. "Preposterous? Last [fall] the European Commission put forward a formal proposal for, yes, a European public prosecutor."

Ronald Reagan once said, "Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things… It is the understanding that allows to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions."

The rest of the world should stand up and take notice. The European Commission has become its own argument for why multinational governments, courts, and ruling bodies should be a red flag for citizens of the individual nations that agree to such unions. If this is the future, we should all head for the hills.

J. Bradley Keena is editor of

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