The largest petition in European history, calling for an end to European funding of research that destroys human embryos, has been vetoed by the European Commission.
In its last day in office May 28th, the “Barroso Commission” vetoed the Citizens’ Initiative “Un de Nous / One of Us” which demands that Brussels no longer finances any practice that destroys human life before birth.
The petition, backed by two million people and the largest in the history of the European Institutions, calls on the EU research budget to no longer be used to finance projects that involve or pre-suppose the destruction of human embryos. In order to cease funding, it requests that modifications be made to EU regulations.
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), a participative democracy mechanism created by the Treaty of Lisbon, allows a million citizens to take the initiative of introducing a legislative proposal in the European institutions.
Pro-life groups called the decision a “travesty” and a “farce” that “flouts” democratic procedure.
In a statement, the One of Us Committee expressed its “deep disappointment” with the decision. It criticized a “deaf Commission” that has acted “contrary to ethical and democratic requirements.”
“While each initiative draft is controlled upstream by the Commission before being open to signature, the Barroso Commission claims to possess the right of veto downstream, against initiatives having yet successfully obtained the required popular support,” the committee said. “Such veto power is illegitimate and anti-democratic since politically, it is the European Legislature that may give a verdict on the content of the Initiative, and not the Commission, otherwise, the ECI mechanism would be meaningless.”
European Dignity Watch, a Brussels-based pro-life think tank, also said the outgoing Commission acted “illegitimately and anti-democratically”, and accused it of having “biased political will.”
The Commission’s decision meant the entire European Citizens’ Initiative is a “farce” as the Initiative was meant to empower European citizens, the organization said. It noted that the European Commission is under no obligation to follow the petition, but said “it makes a fool of itself if it shoots down a democratically backed request that is in line with European law.”
The One of Us Committtee said the Commission’s response is “hypocritical and disdainful as it pretends to not understand the purpose of the demand and comprises of thirty pages of self satisfaction of its own policy.
“The Commission wishes to continue financing non ethical and outdated biotechnological practices, as well as abortion in developing countries including countries where this is prohibited by criminal law,” it said.
Noting how the veto flouts democratic procedure, and the Commission’s unwillingness to recognize the Initiative’s success and transmit it to the European Parliament and Council of Europe, the Committee said the Commission has “abused its power”.
It said the decision made the petition mechanism “a travesty” and “thus testifies to the absence of a democratic culture.”
The Committee remains hopeful, however, and the veto is likely to go to appeal before the Court of Justice in Luxembourg which acknowledges respect for human life from conception.
A European Parliament which has just held elections, and a new European Commission to be sworn in soon, also give grounds for hope.