ONE OF US, the pro-life “European citizens’ initiative” (ECI), has announced that it has filed an appeal against the decision by the EU General Court not to invalidate the European Commission’s refusal to take action in response to the request of 1.8 million citizens to stop using EU money to fund abortion.
As our readers will remember, One of Us is the most widely supported of all ECIs so far, and there was a legitimate expectation that he European Commission would follow up on it in a positive and constructive manner by launching a legislative proposal that would ban the destruction of human embryos, be it disguised as “research activity” or as “development aid”, from EU funding. However, the Commission, in a communication that became known as a prototypical example of the institution’s arrogance and incompetence, refused to do so, and instead cynically congratulated itself for “the high ethical standards” it was upholding while funding abortion and embryo-destructive research. As became clear, the Commission, despite earlier denials, in fact funds both.
The ECI organisers challenged this decision in a lawsuit befor the EU’s Tribunal of first Instance. The lawsuit was successful only in part: while the Court agreed with the petitioners that the Commission decision was as such subject to legal review (which the Commission had roundly denied), it also said that the review must be limited to verifying whether the decision suffered from “manifest errors”, which it found not to be the case.
In other words, the Tribunal has sought to define a standard that is so ludicrously low that even the Commission’s decision, despite its obvious shortcomings, can be said to have passed the test. The organisers of a uccessful ECIs thus do not have the right to receive an answer that is free of error, but only one that is free of “manifest” error, with the citerion “manifest” being a judicial creation that is defined nowhere and thus leaves ample room for the judicial powers to decide whatever they want. One cannot help noticing the self-serving character of the Tribunal’s judgment: in finding that it has competence to hear the case, but at the same time introducing a new criterion that isn’t defined anywhere, it simply aggrandizes its own power.
Following the appeal that has now been filed, it will now be the CJEU that will have the final say. If the Tribunal’s decision is upheld, the ECI, which in 2011 was presented as a major step towards the democratization of the EU, will be dead and buried: no one can be expected to make the effort of organizing an ECI and collecting more than 1 million signatures if that effort can be ditched by the Commission on the basis of mere institutional power and with no arguments.
For any reasonable observer it must, however, be clear that precisely this will be the outcome. The political elites of the EU have already long ago made the decision that they prefer abortion over democracy. ONE OF US will never be allowed to win this case – not because they haven’t got the better arguments, but because the political and judicial elites will simply not accept them. The only open question is whether the CJEU will find less ridiculous pretexts than the Tribunal for letting the Commission win.
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