The Panzeri Report is “an insult to Croatian citizens and to democracy”

cimg05921U ime obitelji (In the Name of the Family), the Croatian civil society organization that in 2013 mobilized citizens to vote in favour of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, has reacted to MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri’s draft “Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy” in which, among other aberrances, the legal recognition of same-sex “marriages” is treated as something akin to a human right, while the outcome of the Croatian referendum is “condemned”.

In a communication that was adressed to all Members of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs (AFET) Committee, which is going to vote on this draft on Monday, the group recalls that “family policy and the definition of marriage fall within the jurisdiction of European Union member states“and that “the European Parliament, as an institution of the European Union, does not have the jurisdiction to ‘welcome’ or ‘encourage’ in the member states legal norms concerning marriage”. Furthermore, it points out that the redefinition of marriage (as including same-sex “marriage”) in Mr. Panzeri’s draft has no basis at all in international or EU law, but in fact stands in glaring contradiction to both. 

The letter also contains the following comments with specific regard to the Croatian referendum of 2013:

“The Venice Commission for Democracy through Law of the Council of Europe stated in its ‘Opinion (…) on the abolition of restrictions on the right to vote’ that ‘the right to vote is one of the fundamental political rights’ (Article 3). Croatian people had been deprived of this right for 49 years (from 1941 to 1990) under the fascist and communist regimes. Croatian people exercised this fundamental right when they wanted Croatia to become an independent and sovereign state (in 1991), and to join the European Union (in 2012). Therefore, Paragraph 69 of the Draft Report is an offence to Croatian citizens and Croatian democracy. The referendum on marriage of 1 December 2013 was initiated by the Civic Initiative ‘In the Name of the Family’ as the highest democratic tool, so that all Croatian citizens with the right to vote, and not just some privileged groups, could have their say on what marriage is and how it should be defended. In its Opinion 720/2013, the Venice Commission stated that the (constitutional) definition of marriage as a union of a woman and a man falls within the jurisdiction of national authorities. Furthermore, at the referendum on marriage, Croatian citizens exercised their ‘right to vote (…) as a basic precondition for preserving other fundamental civil and political rights upheld by the Council of Europe‘.”

Indeed, the draft report reveals not only that the author, Mr. Panzeri,  has no knowledge of the human rights he is supposed to be writing about, but also his disturbing lack of respect for democratic decisions. How else is it to be explained that he seriously proposes that the European Parliament, as a body that has no competence on the issue at hand, should censure the democratic vote of the Croat nation on a matter falling entirely within that Member State’s competence? By application of which principle should the non-competent institution have the right to censure the competent institution? How can the opinion of parliamentarians who were elected in a campaign in which the definition of marriage played no major role pretend to be of higher value and importance than the decision that the nation itself has made directly through a referendum? Are parlamentarians elected to represent the people, or to be their lords and masters??

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