No referendum, please !

That is the strange message sent out by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, as he begged EU leaders not to hold in-out referendums because he fears that voters will choose to LEAVE Europe, rather than stay in!

The beleaguered European Commission president does not even seem to realize how undemocratic these manipulations have become. In the past, European countries where a referendum had not given the “right” result, such as in Ireland, organized a new consultation of its citizens a few months later, to make sure that this time, they would vote “correctly”.

But now it really looks like panic football in Brussels! Juncker gave his desperate cry to member countries, as the “EU Superstate” dream slips from Brussels’ grasp following Britain’s momentous Brexit vote and the ripple effect of it throughout Europe.

Mr Juncker, who has a dark sense of humour, admitted that indeed Europeans now have a “lack of love” for the Brussels club. His desperate plea comes as Austria’s presidential favourite at the coming election next week-end, Norbert Hofer (Freiheitspartei), threatened to hold a referendum to cut ties with the crumbling block if he takes power.

Norbert Hofer is calling for its own EU referendum in Austria
Norbert Hofer is calling for its own EU referendum in Austria

Jean-Claude Juncker stopped short of advising member states to throw democracy out, and said: “we can’t deny or take away the people of Europe’s right to express their views.” Nice of you, Mr. Juncker! Just the simple fact of feeling you have to say it, is incredible!

Juncker stated: “regarding referenda on EU membership, I think it is not wise to organise this kind of debate, not only because I might be concerned about the final result but because this will pile more controversy onto the huge number already present at the heart of the EU.”

In an unusually frank comment about elections, Juncker added: “besides, I don’t think the next president of Austria, whoever he will be, will launch themselves into this kind of escapade. I have learned to tell the difference, between campaign promises and concrete policies.”

His remarks are just the latest salvo between competing visions for the EU’s future, with politicians locked in a battle to determine its direction post-Brexit. There are currently deep divides at the heart of the EU over how to proceed with the project in light of Britain’s decision to turn its back on the 27-member bloc.

Austria, France, but also Italy with its referendum are facing votes that could lead to another version of Brexit in the next year. It would for example be the case in France, if Marine Le Pen were to win the presidential election in May 2017.

Juncker started in an unusual hard-line rhetoric, by calling for Britain to be punished for Brexit. Then he toned down his language and accepted the idea of a measured approach. Said Juncker: “we will make sure relations between the British Isles and the continent remain harmonious, all the while knowing that the British cannot have the same rights and advantages as citizens of the European Union.”

His comments came as a the leading think-tank – the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – which had orchestrated the dire predictions of an economic meltdown for Great Britain if it dared leave the EU, was forced to put out a more positive prediction about Brexit, announcing an increase of GDP projection from 1.8% to 2% for 2016, and a similar increase in 2017…

This is a strange period for all EU observers! We are really entering unknown territory.

L.R.