It was meant to be a solemn event marking the new EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Instead the European Parliament descended into chaos today as more than 100 lawmakers jeered, booed, and heckled in a noisy protest against the new EU reform treaty due to be signed tomorrow.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, whose country currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, had to face down the hecklers in Parliament.
Wearing black t-shirts and holding placards demanding referendums on the treaty, the lawmakers from countries – including Britain, France, Poland and Italy – shouted down Socrates as he delivered his speech. “No matter how loud you heckle and yell, today is a day of fundamental importance for Europe,” a defiant-looking Socrates told the assembly.
The ceremony at the parliament was held to mark the signing of the charter by the EU’s three institutions – the European Parliament, European Commission and the European Council, which represents the member states. The event took place a day before the 27 EU leaders will sign the bloc’s new reform treaty in Lisbon. The treaty retains key parts of a doomed EU constitution, including provisions to boost EU foreign policy and make the rights charter legally binding – except in Britain and Poland, which won opt-outs.
Ireland is due to be the only country to hold a referendum on the issue. The other 26 nations will ratify the document through parliament, much to the anger of opponents.