Dr. Rath Health Foundation

Dr. Rath Health Foundation

Responsibility for a healthy world Dr. Rath Research Institute 100+ Studies Published In PubMed

The European Union: between rules and regulations, lobbyism and proximity to the people

This speech was presented by Dr. Andre Brie on Saturday, November 2, 2002 at the Health Congress 'Make Health Not War - A Peacefull and healthy world is possible'

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for inviting me to speak at this congress.

The main subject you are discussing and to which you are personally committed is of inestimable importance for a great many people. I am convinced that popular involvement in general, and involvement in such central issues in particular, is decisive in determining whether we will be capable of meeting the highly complex challenges posed by the modern world and modern society in a democratic way, or whether, if we fail, democracy proves to be a brief interlude in our history.

It touches directly on my topic tonight when I confess to you that, as a Member of the European Parliament, I am very often not competent to make a proper judgment on the issues involved, including ones of real legislative significance. Anyone sitting in a parliament, and obviously the European Parliament in particular, who is not aware of this problem, or who suppresses or denies it, is undoubtedly contributing to the exacerbation of the crisis in parliamentary democracy, which I and many other observers view with increasing concern. The growing role of scientific, technical and other specialist issues in politics, in society, in our lives generally, and consequently also in the legislature, is a trend that cannot be reversed. For our society and our legislatures it represents an enormous, but in my view soluble, challenge to our democratic systems. Anyone who believes in the division of powers and in representative democracy and who rejects technocracy will defend parliamentary democracy and accept the human limitations of members of parliament, especially in view of the fact that the majority of MP's endeavor to compensate for their lack of expertise in specific fields through turning to specialists within their own parties and among their staff, by taking careful part in the discussion process preceding their decisions, and last but not least through contacts with external experts, lobby groups and citizens who are often directly involved in the legislative process themselves.

However, the real problem, the true threat to the democratic potential and structures of our societies and the European Union lies in another area, to wit the untrammeled power of the big corporations, banks and investment funds. That great European liberal Ralph Dahrendorf, to name but one, has in recent times warned on more than one occasion that major political decisions are no longer primarily made in parliaments but rather among lobby groups, in stock exchanges, among informal groupings or by the courts.

And Lothar Späth, for example, complained a few years ago in an interview with the news magazine ‘Stern’ that politicians do not realize that decisions are not primarily being taken in Bonn (which was then still the seat of the German government) but by business. However, I do not think, as Späth would have us believe, that the problem lies so much in the politicians’ slowness to realize this, but rather, as Späth rightly points out, in the increasingly autonomous role of business, and the lack of political control over it while at the same time the economy increasingly comes to dominate central societal decision-making processes.

This is not happening of its own accord, though, rather being the result of political policy. It was the policy and decision of governments to make the European Central Bank an uncontrolled center of power within the European Union. It is the European bank that decides on credit and investment conditions, as well as making decisions on significant portions of budgetary policy and tax policy, and also on the terms of reference for economic, social, employment and environmental policy. It was decisions made by governments and parliaments on European competition policy, which have partially taken away their power to pursue their avowed social and employment policy goals.

I have touched on this issue because it does not get to the heart of the matter if protest movements such as yours, ladies and gentlemen, only confront the outward manifestations and consequences of these policies. By so doing you can offer resistance, you can try to prevent or correct excesses, you can make repairs, but you will not get to the root causes, you will always have to act on the defensive.

I do not underestimate such struggles or the results they achieve, but in my view they are not enough. It is not just a matter of bureaucratic rules and regulations, democracy deficits and uncontrolled lobbyism, something more fundamental is at stake: whether we have and want to have a Europe for the people or whether we are willing to put up with the actual existing Europe of money and monetarism, of banks, of big corporations. And at this point I would like to stress that in my view the solution is not to adopt a negative stance towards European integration.

Firstly, this policy chiefly stems from the national governments, and is also dominant in states not belonging to the EU. Secondly, the European Union could become just the major economic and political zone which (unlike the individual nation states, which are no longer big enough) could defend against the negative aspects of globalization, in particular social dumping, while also defending and reinvigorating the European welfare state of the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, you are holding this congress under the banner “A Healthy And Peaceful World Is Possible“, and I gladly share this confidence, but would like to note an indispensable precondition for it: regaining democratic decision-making powers over the basic direction of politics. It is not a question of anti-business politics but rather of the validity of Article 14 Subsection 2 of the German Constitution, and similar fundamental constitutional principles in the other European Union member states aimed at guaranteeing the subordination of property for the common good.

Dr. Rath at the European Parliament representing the people of Europe against pharmaceutical business interests.
 

What has already become a threatening problem in the majority of European nations, to wit the crisis in democratic politics and governments divesting their political power, has right from the start led to a dramatic and hitherto insurmountable distortion of the development, structures and entire legitimation of the European Union. Europe is not in good condition, Although 60 per cent of local and 80 per cent of national legislation is influenced or even determined by Brussels, the gulf between the EU and its citizens is wider than ever.

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Ladies and gentlemen, many of you have this year had direct experience of the debate and decision-making regarding the EU vitamin dietary supplements directive. It is only seemingly a paradox when the European Commission’s regulatory zeal is revealed as being in the interests of deregulated marketing opportunities for the major pharmaceutical companies. Here we are dealing with the power and influence of some of the most powerful European and international groups and cartels, we are dealing with one of the largest growth markets, to put it in the terms used by EU authorities and governments. We are dealing with an industry that makes enormous profits. This goes beyond the well funded lobbying work, and unlike many other social groupings, unlike the critics of the pharmaceutical and chemical companies, they have permanent representatives in Brussels, and are able to put forward their interests with MEP's, with the European Council and with the European Commission on a daily basis.

Most importantly, moreover, they also have people representing their interests sitting directly in the institutions where proposed directives are drafted. All too often, the powers at the European Union representing the people are entirely anonymous. In contrast, for the pharmaceutical groups and other major corporations, power within the European Union is concrete and personalized. All too often, it is their own power.

But there are alternatives. A different European Union is possible, a more democratic one oriented towards social welfare! At this congress, and through your sustained work, you are setting an example.

Unlike you, ladies and gentlemen, originally I was unaware of the problem in connection with the EU directive on dietary supplementation with vitamins. At the beginning of the year I received several hundred letters, circulars, petitions and e-mails on the subject. However, as regards the electronic campaign, I believe that your organizers were doing your cause a disservice. If computer systems are almost blocked by stereotyped and completely impersonal mail, thus restricting the office’s operations, it is difficult to generate sympathy for an issue, however justified your concerns may be. The reaction of my MEP colleagues, I have to say openly, was almost exclusively negative. I just mention this in passing, though.

I have received many, many letters giving genuine information, many people have portrayed for me their individual medical histories in long, handwritten letters, and explained the relief they have obtained from intensive vitamin treatment. Numerous doctors have written to me too. Whether a member of parliament is receptive to such issues is up to him. In the end, only 139 MEP's accepted my party’s motion to throw out the European Commission’s directive. Naturally the Commission and experts put forward arguments that had to be taken seriously. Above all, though, the pressure from governments and the pharmaceutical industry was huge. And that was no abstract issue. In some respects it amounted to a genuine scandal.

Dr. Rath is refused entry to the EU-Parliament. As his name is typed into the computer at the gates, the system seems to "crash". It appears that the bodyguards at the gates are supposed to protect the EU Parliamentarians from the 500 Million votes.
 

In order to really find out for myself, I was very willing to meet Dr. Rath at the Parliament [building] in Strasbourg during the week of the vote. I was informed of my visitor’s arrival by reception and went down in order to sign him in, giving his ID to the security officers. He entered the data into the computer and suddenly nothing happened. We waited patiently, suspecting nothing, and after five minutes we were told the computer had crashed. After ten minutes the computer was still down. Then after 15 minutes the European Parliament security head came over with a big entourage, took me to one side and wanted to know whether I really wanted to meet Dr. Rath. Yes of course, I said, it’s important to me and it is my right as an MEP. Naturally it was my right, I was told, but Dr. Rath was responsible for the campaign against the EU directive. Exactly, I answered.

To cut a long story short, it was extremely unpleasant, and his tone of voice was disgraceful. Finally I was allowed to take Dr. Rath to my office, but throughout our conversation two security officers stood outside the door. I will pass no judgment on this incident other than to note that there is absolutely no problem about having visitors at the European Parliament, and diplomats from countries governed by military dictatorships and oppressive regimes have access at any time via long-term passes in order to do their lobbying work.

Security Guards are trying to prevent Dr. Rath from entering the EU-Parliament Building. What are they affraid of? Simply the fact that Dr. Rath represents the interests of millions of patients against the interests of the Pharma-Cartel that continues to abuse the EU-Parliament.
 

For me personally much that happened in connection with this EU directive was an eye-opener. I still will not presume to make an informed judgment on the issue. I cannot make an expert decision on the subject, nor do I want to, rather weighing up the pros and cons as a politician, looking at the issue not from the point of view of the big corporations but from that of the people personally affected. First and foremost, the many very personal letters I received made a strong impression on me. Secondly, unlike many drugs that the industry has used its power to impose on us, vitamins do not have any hazardous side effects. Thirdly, and for me this was the decisive factor, I cannot and will not accept that the European Union can prescribe such things for the people like a centralistic superstate. That is a decision that can and should be made by the individual for him- or herself!

A Europe that contributes to making health something other than a question of social background and wealth would be worth fighting for. A Europe that does not squander its resources on an independent military intervention capability, but which sets an example of civil society, solidarity and social welfare. What is at stake is a Europe that, once and for all, grants its citizens binding and enforceable fundamental rights and opportunities to become involved in the democratic and decision-making processes.

Such a Europe is a long way off. But a different Europe, the current one, serves the needs of the big corporations, banks and power-hungry politicians. It is not what the people need.

That is why we must stay committed! We must not allow ourselves to become discouraged!

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