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Civil Society and Prohibition
22nd March 2010
FORCES President Maryetta Ables attended the second annual TICAP Conference last week at The Hague, The Netherlands.I would like to thank The International Coalition Against Prohibition (TICAP) for inviting me to speak today, it is a privilege to address this special group. First, we know we have some problems, or we wouldn't be here. I hope to expose the source of the problems concerning the tobacco and alcohol prohibitions, which is also the source of many other issues that Citizens do not agree with, and what you, as Citizens of the European Union, are empowered to do via the Treaty of Lisbon and other governing documents to your very new European Union. I will be focusing on how the EU works today, for two reasons, first, because it is such a “new” form of governance, and secondly, because that is where we are speaking from today.
Here, we present the text of Maryetta's speech, entitled "Civil Society and Prohibition".
We recommend that activists and regular readers of FORCES save this document somewhere where it can be easily accessed. Exhaustively researched, and perhaps one of a kind, this document details the relationship between special interest Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), their financial backers, and the relation these NGOs have to both the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU).
As Prohibition did not evolve overnight, resolving it will not come overnight. The options are a process that is steeped in rules of procedure and protocol, I hope to show you a path that will work for you. Without your personal involvement, nothing will change.
What is happening here is happening everywhere in the world, the EU is not the sole owner of this problem. Many say it originates in the US, and it well may, but I did not focus my research on that question so I will not try to tell you it does nor does not. Please do keep that in mind as I speak today that this is a Global problem, and you will better understand what I am telling you.
For decades, you have been busy making a living, paying your taxes and assuming government was being run "business as usual". While we were looking away the rules were changing, bit by bit. Fast forward to today and you no longer have a Sovereign Nation but a European Union operated under the Constitution of the European Union1, the Treaty of Lisbon2, and many other Treaties. I do not have time to review all that you have been doing and whether or not it has been or is successful; but at the least, you are not satisfied with the results or you would not be here.
To focus only on Civil Society and Prohibition I need to stay very targeted, so you may know certain facts that I do not cover, but I must condense this to fit into our time frame. I will strive to give you a light foundation and then what your possible options within the EU's legal structure.
Now for some political facts: On December 1, 2009, the EU went from being an organization to promote trade and movement with the Member Countries, to being a COUNTRY in and of itself.
Today, less than 5% of the entire EU population is aware of this great change, they do not know that Countries such as Germany, France, England and all the other "Members" NO LONGER EXIST as Sovereign Nations, but are now one Nation named the European Union!
The EU is a "partner3" of the UN, not a "member state" as other Countries are. As such, it is strategically aligned with all that is “UN”, particularly its Treaties, including, but not limited to The Millennium Treaty, several Human Rights Treaties as well as Agenda 21.
In fact, the Treaty of Lisbon states in Article III-316 paragraph 2: “The Union and the Member States shall comply with the commitments and take account of the objectives they have approved in the context of the United Nations and other competent international organizations”.
All of these Treaties require forms of “social behavior control” which lead to Prohibitions, and more.
As Signatories to these Treaties, the EU is required to implement them, bit by bit.
The EU is also a signatory to the Framework for Tobacco Control, and must therefore implement tobacco restriction, increase taxes, limit advertising, control packaging and the display of tobacco products in retail stores. Alcohol is generally covered in the “human rights” treaties as is obesity, issues concerning foods and many other “health issues”.
Within the EU is the European Economic and Social Commission4 (EESC), which is also a member of the United Nations5 whose purpose is to implement6 the UN's Global Agenda via its' Treaties. The European Economic and Social Committee is a sister organization to the United Nations Economic and Social Council which governs all Economic and Social Committees world wide. As one of the first United Nations States, the EU is a political first. There are more planned.
Within Article 8b of the Treaty of Lisbon it states that: "The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society”7 and that "The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union's actions are coherent and transparent." The European Economic and Social Committee exists to be communications facility, or in their terminology, the “bridge” to communicate with the Citizen, Employers, Employees and various groups.
Their function is that of a “consultative body”, meaning when the Parliament, Commission or Council wants the opinion of their constituency, they are required to turn to the European Economic and Social Committee by law.
There are other means for the Citizen to communicate, and I will touch on them today, but to discuss Civil Society explicitly I will speak towards their avenue of communication and its effectiveness. Also, I will use the terms NGO, civil society and organized civil society interchangeably – they are one in the same.
The Treaty of Lisbon allows that the European Economic and Social Committee is the “official bridge”8 to present "Opinions"9 or "expert evidence"10 to the Parliament, Council or Commission.
The European Economic and Social Committee also has the authority to decide which11 non-civil society people or organizations are allowed to present to these Bodies12 through them.
Between organized civil society and the European Economic and Social Committee is The Liaison Group13 whose function is to exchange information, identify themes, examine the feasibility, study matters of common interest and consult and coordinate.
This office is also in charge of funding NGOs. This office specificity does not work with "social partners14", nor does it work with Lobbyist15.
The European Economic and Social Committee categorizes its participants into three “Groups16”, Group I is for Employers, Group II is for Employees, and Group III is for Various Interest Groups, which is where most of us may fall into as individuals, NGOs, or anyone who does not 'fit' into their other two Groups definition.
Very recently the term civil society, or more specifically "organized civil society" is increasingly used to refer to a broad spectrum of organizations who were simply lumped together as NGOs, when it constitutes a very specific segment of modern democratic societies. The change in terminology was primarily initiated by the activities of the European Commission, which in its publications pays more and more attention to the aforementioned set of organizations. “Organized Civil Society” now refers to those NGOs or hold “consultative status” with the Economic and Social Council, and “Civil Society” or those NGOs who are aligned with or affiliated with the former. Those NGOs who are neither are referred to as “populist organizations”.
In typical UN/EU tradition, the definition of the term "organized civil society"17 organization sets the criteria for participation; the Commission underlines the importance it attaches to input from representative European organizations.
In this context, it should be noted that the Economic and Social Committee has produced a set of eligibility criteria18 for the "civil society” dialogue19.
NGO activity is not spontaneous involvement of "civil society" as the agenda promoters would have it appear, and that is why the Prohibition laws keep coming back. How they “operate” is how we, as organizations, must operate to be as effective. So let's review “how they operate” with a short history.
NGO activity is carefully organized and meticulously coordinated. NGOs are organized into coalitions. Three of the more important coalitions are the Climate Action Network (CAN), which concentrates on climate change issues; BIONET, which concentrates on biodiversity issues; and CITNET (Citizens' Information Network), which concentrates on sustainable development issues. Each of these coalitions consist of hundreds of NGOs scattered around the world. They are connected by the Internet.
With a substantial grant from the Tides Foundation, the Institute for Global Communications (IGC) joined forces with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in the mid 1980s to form an Internet site20 which has become the communications hub for 50,000 NGOs in 133 countries which reaches "tens of millions" of Internet users. This specialized NGO has contracts with the UN to provide communication services for UN meetings around the world. The President's Council on Sustainable Development also uses this NGO to disseminate information about its work. The Internet site is designated simply: igc.apc.org. It is responsible to a very large extent, for the increased effectiveness of NGOs during the last decade.
Another important tool used by NGOs are the publications provided to the delegates at the UN conferences. One such publication, called ECO, has been published by NGOs at every UN meeting since the first Earth Summit in 1972. At the recent global warming negotiations in Geneva, this publication listed 19 staffers, and published "thanks" to its funders which included the Environment Ministries of Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Rent-a-Mac, EuroFax, and APC. Another publication, published sporadically and called Earth Negotiations Bulletin, was published from March, 1993 to March, 1994 by the International Institute for Sustainable Development in Winnipeg, at a cost of $530,000, of which $279,550 came directly from Canadian taxpayers.
The activities of these NGOs are coordinated through the World Resources Institute through their publication called the NGO Networker. Each of the coalitions have their own coordinating mechanism. CITNET, for example, publishes a newsletter which lists administrative offices in California, a UN Liaison Office in New York, and proclaims that it is a project of the Tides Foundation. Its Internet address is listed at igc.apc.org. Some of the organizations included in this coalition are: the Sierra Club; Faith in Action; The Humane Society of the United States; Greenpeace International; Friends of the Earth; Second Nature; the Earth Council; World Resources Institute; and many others.
One of the functions of these primary NGOs is to activate their respective memberships to support specific policy measures as they are presented for legislative action. Because they hold "consultative status' they are contractually21 required to support any item that is presented to them from their peers. They are also required to support individual candidates that support the overall agenda. The Sierra Club was deeply involved in the 1996 Congressional elections spending millions of dollars in support of candidates friendly to their cause.
So that is the brief Foundation about organized civil society – or NGOs. Now to move on to Europe's circumstance.
What the European Economic and Social Committee does is issue Opinions, such as the COUNCIL RECOMMENDATION of 30 November 2009, on smoke-free environments (2009/C 296/02)22 - which for recent history is most likely why our own Nick Hogan was sentenced to 6 months in prison recently.
Decision-making at European Union level involves various EU institutions, in particular:
the European Parliament (EP/Parliament),
the Council of the European Union, and
the European Commission.
Each year, the Council ‘concludes’ (i.e. officially signs) a number of agreements between the European Union and non-EU countries, as well as with international organizations. These agreements may cover broad areas such as trade, cooperation and development or they may deal with specific subjects such as textiles, fisheries, science and technology, transport, as well as the Treaty items concerning anti tobacco and alcohol legislation.
In addition, the Council may conclude conventions between the EU member states in fields such as taxation, company law or consular protection. Conventions can also deal with cooperation on issues of freedom, security and justice.
In general, it is the European Commission that proposes new legislation, but it is the Council and Parliament that pass the laws. In some cases, the Council can act alone. Other institutions, such as the European Economic and Social Committee, also have roles to play.
The main forms of EU law are directives and regulations.
Directives establish a common aim for all member states, but leave it to national authorities to decide on the form and method of achieving it. Normally, member states are given one-to-two years to implement a directive.
Regulations are directly applicable throughout the EU as soon as they come into force without further action by the member state.
The rules and procedures for EU decision-making are laid down in the Treaties. Every proposal for a new European law must be based on a specific Treaty article, referred to as the ‘legal basis’ of the proposal.
The UN Treaties (known as ‘primary’ legislation), are the basis for a large body of secondary’ legislation which has a direct impact on the daily lives of EU citizens. This legislation consists mainly of regulations, directives and recommendations adopted by the EU institutions. These laws, along with EU policies in general, are the result of decisions taken by the institutional triangle made up of the Council (representing national governments), the European Parliament (representing the people) and the European Commission (a body independent of EU governments that upholds the collective European interest).
The European Commission has four main roles:
1. to propose legislation to Parliament and the Council;
2. to manage and implement EU policies and the budget;
3. to enforce EU law (jointly with the Court of Justice);
4. to represent the European Union on the international stage, for example by negotiating agreements between the EU and other countries.
There were three main procedures to make a law: ‘co-decision’, ‘consultation’ and ‘assent’.
One of the important changes introduced by The Treaty of Lisbon23 (or the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) and the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)) is the fact that co-decision becomes the "ordinary legislative procedure", i.e. what used to be the exception in decision-making has become the norm for most policy areas.
In the co-decision procedure, Parliament shares legislative power equally with the Council.
If Council and Parliament cannot agree on a piece of proposed legislation, there will be no new law.
The procedure provides for two successive ‘readings’ in each institution. If an agreement is reached in these readings, the law can be passed. If not, it will be put before a conciliation committee, composed of equal numbers of Council and Parliament representatives. Once this committee has reached an agreement, the agreed text is sent again to Parliament and the Council so that they can finally adopt it as law. Conciliation is becoming increasingly rare. Most laws passed in co-decision are, in fact, adopted either at the first or second reading as a result of good cooperation between the three institutions which is coordinated by the European Economic and Social Committee..
It is the specific job25 of the European Economic and Social Committee and Civil Society to see the stipulations of the Treaties26 are amended to become more prohibitive as time goes on, to encourage the Parliament, Council and Commission to create more restrictions, higher taxes and more stringent enforcement.
In many instances, the Commission and Parliament are required to consult with European Economic and Social Committee when a law is made. European Economic and Social Committee responds with an Opinion, which is drafted from the input of the NGOs they work with. In some instances, European Economic and Social Committee can issue an Opinion of their own initiative. Here is a chart from the EU's web site that shows the legislative flow. Please note there are only two Bodies who initiate legislation.
The diagram shows the procedure in greater detail.27
[Text for the diagram box]
The co-decision procedure
1. Proposal from the Commission
1.A EESC opinion [Please note that the only SOURCE of legislation is the Commission and EESC...]
2. First reading by the EP — opinion
3. Amended proposal from the Commission
4. First reading by the Council
5. Council approves all the EP’s amendments
6. Council can adopt the act as amended
7. EP has approved the proposal without amendments
8. Council can adopt the act
9. Common position of the Council
10. Communication from the Commission on the common position
11. Second reading by the EP
12. The EP approves the common position or makes no comments
13. Act is deemed to be adopted
14. The EP rejects the common position
15. Act is deemed not to be adopted
16. The EP proposes amendments to the common position
17. Commission position on the EP’s amendments
18. Second reading by the Council
19. Council approves the amended common position
(i) by a qualified majority if the Commission has delivered a positive opinion
(ii) unanimously if the Commission has delivered a negative opinion
20. Act is adopted as amended
21. Council does not approve the amendments to the common position
22. Conciliation Committee is convened
23. Conciliation procedure
24. Conciliation Committee agrees on a joint text
25. Parliament and Council adopt the act in accordance with the joint text
26. Act is adopted
27. Parliament and Council do not approve the joint text
28. Act is not adopted
29. Conciliation Committee does not agree on a joint text
30.Act is not adopted
My observation: unless the Commission has asked for an Opinion, which it occasionally does, the European Economic and Social Committee can convince the Commission to introduce legislation with an Opinion they have initiated. The European Economic and Social Committee works closely with the EP and Council to walk the legislation through the process. At no time is the European Economic and Social Committee excluded from "advising" the Commission and Parliament concerning the proposed legislation – nor excluded from the legislative process until it gets to Council. Don't underestimate the European Economic and Social Committee or the international network behind them. We have been underestimating them for over a decade and look where we are now.
What you can do
You have a few choices as to how to approach your involvement. Before you get too excited, these are the EU's avenues of communication with them.
Before you jump right in to give your opinion, you may want to know what their Opinion is, so you can address it point by point. They are online at the Eurobarometer28 web site. The site posts the results of “surveys” conducted by European Economic and Social Committee, those surveyed are the organized civil society groups they work with. All of the Opinions the European Economic and Social Committee issue are online.
The EU is attempting to give you a voice in the decision making process, but unless you get plugged into the process your voice to oppose their efforts will most likely not be heard.
The first option if you are a business and wish to go “right to the top” you can get involved with an established organization utilizing "Social Dialogue" to access the EU legislative process through an established organization. But, unless you qualify to work with one of these three groups you may not be able to use this option.
Social dialogue29 is the term used to describe the consultation procedures involving the European social partners: the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (BUSINESSEUROPE), the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation (CEEP) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). I will note here that the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederation of Europe holds “consultative status30” with the Economic and Social Council of the UN, and European Economic and Social Committee is the European branch of the ECOSOC.
Their function is to encompass discussions, joint action and sometimes negotiations between the European social partners, and discussions between the social partners and the institutions of the European Union. In other words, they are Lobbyist at the UN level. They attempt to help develop the Treaties.
To date, fifteen joint opinions have been delivered on economic growth, the introduction of new technology, education, vocational training and other subjects. The social dialogue may also lead to contractual forms of relations, including agreements which are implemented by the Council or by the social partners themselves, on a proposal from the Commission. There have so far been five cross-industry framework agreements of this type, concerning parental leave, part-time work, temporary work, telework and stress.
Your second option is to become involved in the “decision making process” on the topic of “social dialogue”. One example is an upcoming meeting on “social dialogue”.
With a view to giving new impetus to the European social dialogue, a Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment was set up in March 2003. It consists of high-ranking officials from the Council Presidency and the Commission Presidency and representatives of the European social partners. It meets once per year, on the eve of the Spring European Council which debates the economic and social situation in the Union.
An example of this is on Monday, the 3rd of June, the European Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs will hold a workshop on the topic of Civil Dialogue31. The workshop will give different civil society platforms the opportunity to express their views on the developing of civil dialogue under the Treaty of Lisbon.
Additionally, if you are part of an industry, you have a third option: a trade association with a Lobbyist, you could choose to align yourself with the Trade Association thus utilizing their Lobbyist. In an effort to enhance transparency for citizens and give the Lobbyist easy access to registering with the European Parliament and European Commission, they have established registers online aimed at providing information about the interest representatives (lobbyists) who engage with European institutions with a view to influencing policy formation and the decision-making process.32 You may look there to see if any organizations that you might align with are registered.
Those were 'business options”, now for Citizen options. I must note the EU is reviewing this process and they may have new options available33 as soon as “early 2011”.
The remainder of your options involve the specific Articles of the Treaty of Lisbon that were meant to empower the Citizen as well as business and European Economic and Social Committee. As noted earlier in the graph provided by the EU web site, the control of access to the EU legislative process by “civil society” groups, other than Social Partners and Lobbyists, is the European Economic and Social Committee utilizing the “bridge” function with the NGOs they work with. These Articles empower you, the Citizen just as much as they empower European Economic and Social Committee if you use them and the mechanisms provided by the EU.
1. The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.
2. The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.
3. The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union's actions are coherent and transparent.
4. Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties.
Aside from the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU has has a web site where they will take written or online Petitions35, this site gives all pertinent information to do so and does not mention the “1 million” number specified in the Treaty of Lisbon.
A Citizen can take part online at the EU Commission's “Your Voice”36 When the Commission is seeking opinions on specific issues they will post it on there web site and give you access to provide your input. You must register and follow their guidelines. You may only comment on a topic if it is listed.
Also recently created is the EUROPEAN CITIZEN ACTION SERVICE (ECAS)37. The ECAS was created to empower citizens and civil society with the European Union. It proclaims itself to be an association about action as much as information, creating balance between public interest and corporate lobbying. They also offer information about potential funding sources.
If you have access to “experts” in any field, they can participate on your behalf at the EU's SINAPSE38 web site which is a communication platform offering tools to promote a better use of expertise in EU policy making and governance (networking of advisory bodies, support to expert groups, ad-hoc/public consultations and e-debates, etc.). SINAPSE is a free public service of the European Commission.
SINAPSE in particular allows the creation of "e-Communities" which enables groups of members and organizations with a common interest to share and exchange information in a dedicated environment which can be graphically personalized and linked to the initiator website.
You can still write letters, send emails, and make phone calls. They all have their advantages and disadvantages – but it is hoped that if the above venues are successfully used, they may end up having a priority over other dialogues. Should you write European Economic and Social Committee, they are required to reply, in your language. Should you write to your MP or MEP, they too should respond. Emails can end up in the spam filter and phone calls seldom reach beyond the secretary who takes the call except to be counted. You have been using these methods for years, I need not explain the often poor results they produce.
Upgrading your NGO lobbying skills
The European Training Institute (ETI) is offering a training module39 specific to the not-for-profit sector.
This training course is for any non-governmental organization or civil society movement, it is becoming more and more crucial to acquire an in-depth understanding of the methods and strategies
of the private sector. While I have touched on some options here today, with the European Union in constant evolution, your capacity to influence the EU decision making process depends directly upon your knowledge of its methods and processes. Taking advantage of a course such as this could benefit you greatly.
And, finally, you can join an organization that is part of TICAP, support that organization financially so they, in turn, can support TICAP. In doing this you will enable TICAP to grow and position itself to become part of “organized civil society”, thus giving you a voice at the table that is not controlled by UN Treaties. TICAP is positioned to be a premier international organization, to voice the truth on your behalf, but only if you allow it.
Oh, don't forget to personally vet your candidates and VOTE...
2. The Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009. It provides the EU with modern institutions and optimised working methods to tackle both efficiently and effectively today's challenges in today's world. In a rapidly changing world, Europeans look to the EU to address issues such as globalisation, climatic and demographic changes, security and energy. The Treaty of Lisbon reinforces democracy in the EU and its capacity to promote the interests of its citizens on a day-to-day basis. http://europa.eu/lisbon_tr
3. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009, the European Union has replaced and succeeded the European Community. Therefore, as from that date, the European Union will exercise all rights and assume all obligations of the European Community, including its status within the United Nations, whilst continuing to exercise all existing rights and assume obligations of the European Union. In particular, the European Union will succeed to all agreements concluded and all commitments made by the European Community with the United Nations and to all agreements or commitments adopted within the United Nations and binding on the European Community. As of 1 December 2009, the European Commission Delegation to the United Nations becomes the European Union Delegation, under the authority of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms. Catherine Ashton, who will also be Vice-President of the Commission.
From 1 January to 30 June 2010 the Delegation of the European Union to the UN and the Permanent Mission of Spain to the UN will work jointly to represent the EU at the UN, on behalf of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Ashton.
4.The European Economic and Social Committee is a consultative body of the European Union. It is composed by 344 members. Its opinions are required as a mandatory consultation in the fields established by the treaties or as a voluntary consultation by the Commission, Council or Parliament. The Committee may also issue opinions on its own initiative.
“So the EESC is a bridge between the Union and its citizens, promoting a more participatory, more inclusive and therefore more democratic society in Europe.”
10. Why do we need the EESC?
Quite simply, the EESC is the only way for Europe's interest groups - trade unionists, employers, farmers, etc. - to have a formal and institutionalized say on draft EU legislation. The EESC exists to channel the views of these vital interest groups to the larger EU institutions. The involvement of European society in its very broadest sense is thus at the heart of the European decision-making process. It is interesting to contrast this role with that of the European Parliament, which represents individual citizens rather than interest groups. The ESC is therefore highly complementary. It does a job done nowhere else at EU level.
1. Exchange of information and views on the respective work programmes and important
2. Identifying themes on which cooperation would be appropriate and possible;
3. Examining the feasibility of and practical arrangements for an increased involvment the
networks in the EESC’s consultative work;
4. Consultation or cooperation on preparations for certain hearings, seminars, conferences,
5. Studying any other matters of common interest, e.g. in the context of dialogue with the EU
institutions, such as:
· the role of organised civil society in the democratic life of the Union;
· interpretation and implementation of Article I-47 of the draft constitutional treaty on the
principle of participatory democracy: how to put participatory democracy into practice
and how to organise civil dialogue;
· the representativeness of civil society organisations other than the social partners;
· funding of NGOs.
16. Group I: http://eesc.europa.eu/grou
Group II; http://eesc.europa.eu/grou
Group III: http://eesc.europa.eu/grou
17. In order to be eligible, a European organisation must: exist permanently at Community level; provide direct access to its members’ expertise and hence rapid and constructive consultation; represent general concerns that tally with the interest of European society; comprise bodies that are recognised at Member State level as representatives of particular interests; have member organisations in most of the EU Member States; provide for accountability to its members; have authority to represent and act at European level; be independent and mandatory, not bound by instructions from outside bodies; be transparent, especially financially and in its decision-making structures.» (Opinion on ‘European Governance – a White Paper’ of 20 March 2002; CES 357/2002)
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