MEPs counter critisism of ‘One of Us’ European citizens’ initiative

Anna Zaborska leads a chorus of MEP condemnation against Edite Estrela's 'misinformed and undemocratic' attitude towards the One of Us citizens' initiative.

By Anna Záborská

17 Apr 2014

We were astonished to read on the Parliament Magazine website on April 10, the very day of the public hearing of the ‘One of Us’ European citizens’ initiative (ECI), a lengthy and highly opinionated piece by our colleague Edite Estrela, in which she misinforms your readership about the One of Us initiative.

Mrs Estrela has acquired certain notoriety as the rapporteur of an own-initiative report in which she sought to promote a "right to abortion" and compulsory sex education in primary schools "provided in a taboo-free interactive atmosphere between students and educators".

When that report was rejected last December, Estrela burst out in a fit of enraged hate-speech, denouncing the majority of this house as "religious extremists", "obscurantists", or similar.

As a reaction to this disgraceful outburst, a Portuguese fellow MEP described her as a "democrat of convenience": She is in favour of democracy as long as all share her own opinions - but if someone dares expressing a different view to hers, her immediate reaction is that that person must not be allowed to participate in the democratic process.

It is very much in this way that her piece is written. Estrela denounces the organisers, volunteers and supporters of the ECI as "a small number of people to demand that the EU legislate on the basis of their personal religious convictions" and argues that they should not have been allowed to use the newly created instrument of a European citizens' initiative to impose "their personal (religious) convictions on others".

It would appear from these words that all organisers and supporters of successful ECIs must be "small groups of persons" that can be dismissed in this way, given that One of Us is the most successful ECI so far with approximately two million signatures of support.

But what then was the purpose of creating this new instrument of participatory democracy? It would further appear from Estrela's piece that citizens who are under suspicion of being "religious" should peremptorily be deprived of their rights as citizens.

But is not Estrela, in the report that bears her name as well as on other occasions, also trying to impose her personal beliefs on others?

"Regrettably, Estrela did not condescend to participate in that hearing; had she done so, she would have had an opportunity to get first-hand information on what the One of Us petition is really asking for"

As a member of this parliament she also bears a responsibility for the reputation of this house and should treat an initiative that has received the endorsement of nearly two million citizens with more respect, and at least not misrepresent the content and purpose of the petition to which she expresses her dissent.

The purpose of the hearing that took place on April 10 was that the political institutions should listen to the citizens, not that that they should lecture them.

Regrettably, Estrela did not condescend to participate in that hearing; had she done so, she would have had an opportunity to get first-hand information on what the One of Us petition is really asking for.

She might, on that occasion, have learned that the One of Us petition is neither calling for a ban on abortion, be it in Europe or elsewhere, or for cutting the EU development aid or research budget, or for bringing an end to the EU's support for maternal healthcare and pre-natal care.

Estrela's insinuations in this regard are false, and we are left to wonder whether it was really in good faith that she made them.

As members of this house, we are not worried about the fact that Estrela and other MEPs of her group have opinions that differ from ours, but we regret the profoundly undemocratic attitude that becomes apparent from her piece.

Read the most recent articles written by Anna Záborská - Sexual Harrasment: A Europe with dignity

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