Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Royal House of Savoy

Delivered in Plenary 15th March 2000

The English Philosopher John Locke once said that a country without law is a country without freedom. Fifty years after the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights, twenty years after the Helsinki Final Act, ten years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and one year after the coming into force of the Amsterdam Treaty, there are constitutional provisions remaining in the heart of Europe which belong to the medieval age - provisions which have no place in a modern Europe.

For instance, Victor Emmanuel of Italy was forced to leave his native Italy as an uncomprehending nine-year old child, and for fifty-three years has been unable to return. If he sails from his home in Corsica in the direction of Italian territorial waters, coastguards are mobilised using modern satellite technology instructing him with loudspeakers to turn back. His twenty-eight year old son has only been to Italy once when his plane was diverted to Milan airport because of bad weather. The plane was surrounded by police guards and he was told not to step off the plane. What has he got to do with what his great-grandfather did during the Fascist era? 80% of Italians in a recent poll believe these people should be allowed to return without restrictions. Neither represent any conceivable threat to the Italian State. This is not, as some have tried to claim, an issue affecting only a few people; it goes to the heart of the European Union's commitment to respect the Convention on Human Rights, to its own Treaties and to the rule of law.

There is much talk of a Charter for Fundamental Rights. Such talk will ring exceedingly hollow if this Parliament does not first do all it can to address existing Treaty violations. I speak as someone with a deep and abiding love for Italy and its people, but I say here to you today, and to President Ciampi of Italy, that Italy had neither the moral nor the legal right to sign the Treaty of Amsterdam until it had removed this most blatant violation of the Convention from its own constitution.

This is also the case for Austria where Otto von Hapsburg was required to deny his own identity and renounce rights belonging to him and to members of his family to enter Austria. The rights under the Treaty are not conditional in my view. The Treaty does not discriminate against individual families and the Treaty is therefore violated. The right to enter, live and die in your own country are fundamental, sacrosanct rights and I hope that this Parliament will uphold them. I therefore commend paragraphs 41 and 42 to this House.