Debates with the conclusions prescribed (by the EU) in advance12TH JULY 2010: I was able to attend both my AFCO and LIBE committee meetings this afternoon, even though they were held at the same time!
This was the contribution I made to a debate in AFCO on the Citizens' Initiative
"Citizens' initiatives can be seen as a medium of debate and the communication of ideas. They will not, strictly speaking, be decision-making processes.
"Debates involve an exchange of ideas based on a complete range of values. Debates might or might not result in a consensus, based on common values. However, debates, in which the conclusions and the values are prescribed in advance, are not free debates but stage-managed demonstrations of unity that we used to see just over twenty years ago.
"One of the grounds on which a proposed citizens' initiative might be refused for registration is that it infringes European values. The European Economic and Social Committee has suggested that this ground should be explained more clearly. In my view, this requirement should be scrapped. A prescription, in advance, of the values that citizens of member states are allowed to hold is not direct democracy (as it was described by one of the rapporteurs) but a denial of democracy. It is, in fact a denial of freedom of speech and freedom of thought".
A British Liberal Democrat and member of the ALDE group said that he agreed substantially with this view, because rejection of an initiative on the ground that it infringed European values would be too subjective a judgement. Furthermore, whilst he found many views offended his sensibilities, that was not a ground for suppressing them.