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Monday, 12 December 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

13. Immunity of Bruno Gollnisch

  President. The next item is the report by Diana Wallis, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs, on the request for defence of the immunity and privileges of Bruno Gollnisch (2005/2072(IMM)) (A6-0376/2005).


  Diana Wallis (ALDE), rapporteur. Mr President, I use this time as rapporteur to report to the House the decision of the Committee on Legal Affairs. I make no secret that this was a difficult case for the committee. It was one where our colleague, Mr Gollnisch, came to us to ask us, as a Parliament, to give him the benefit of this Parliament’s immunity. I should also like to thank him for his courtesy and cooperation with the committee’s inquiries.

Mr Gollnisch has found himself prosecuted under French law – the law of his home Member State – for words he used at a press conference which, it is alleged, form something like Holocaust denial.

The committee considered this matter over several meetings and finally came to the decision, by a large and persuasive majority, that it would not be appropriate in this case to give him the benefit of this House’s immunity. The committee felt that the circumstances in which he had used the words complained of by the French prosecutor were not circumstances where it could be said fairly and squarely that he was only exercising his mandate as a Member of this House or carrying out his duties as a Member of this House. That being the case, it was not within the remit of the committee to enquire any further, and the committee made its decision on that basis. Therefore, we decline to give Mr Gollnisch the benefit of parliamentary immunity of this House, and that is the committee’s recommendation to the Presidency and to the House.




  Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (FR) Whether or not Mr Gollnisch holds on to his immunity is a delicate subject. I decided not to shirk my responsibilities in order to tell Mr Gollnisch, publicly and quite frankly, why I will not defend his immunity.

There is a strong temptation to express an opinion about the content of the remarks attributed to the Front National member. There is a strong temptation to want only to remember the martyrdom of the Jewish people, by dismissing the only debate worth having, that of the conditions governing the application of parliamentary immunity. There is a strong temptation to reject the defence of Mr Gollnisch’s immunity by regarding him solely as the representative of an ideology which nearly all of this Assembly rejects and in opposition to which the European project was conceived on the basis of the European idea.

Conversely, there may well be a strong temptation to call for this defence of immunity as part of a corporatist reflex to make sure that no remarks can be held against any one of us. I call on you not to give in to these temptations and not to transform a technical debate into a debate belonging to historians. Our Assembly is not a court.

Mrs Wallis’ report is balanced. She reminds us that immunity is not designed to protect Members of the European Parliament, but to protect the integrity of the European Parliament, through its representatives, and to give them the independence with which to carry out their tasks.

There is no doubt that, in Lyon, in the heart of the university where he teaches, far from his constituency in north-east France, Mr Gollnisch was not speaking as a Member of the European Parliament. Mr Gollnisch lives dangerously, constantly on the razor’s edge. This form of political life is, in reality, peculiar to the extreme right-wing in France and Germany. Mr Gollnisch is far too cultivated and intelligent not to have realised that his remarks were in danger of being condemned by French law. If he must rush headlong into a legal tussle in order to remain faithful to what he believes is right, then it is advisable that he does not drag our Parliamentary institution into the matter by involving it in a debate in which it does not belong.

The request for defence of immunity, which was put together with your consent, Mr Gollnisch, is halfway between a call for help with no legal basis, given that this procedure does not in any way threaten to prevent you from carrying out your duties, and, as I see it, a baffling attempt to shirk your responsibilities, just as though you were at last overcome with panic at the thought of what you knowingly triggered off and clearly no longer control.

I feel no hatred for you, any more than I wish to support you, as a Member of the European Parliament, in this ordeal that you knowingly brought about. It is down to you, on your own, to accept the consequences. It is not perhaps too late for you to change and to make peace with France, Europe and our painful past. I hope that you succeed in doing this. The European Parliament cannot do it for you …

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Maria Berger, on behalf of the PSE Group. (DE) Mr President, let me start by expressing profuse thanks to our rapporteur, Mrs Wallis. There are various members of the Legal Affairs Committee who deal with immunity cases, but I believe that this case was a particularly difficult and delicate one, which demanded very careful consideration on the Committee’s part; nor do I believe, if I read the signs rightly, that this was particularly easy for her personally.

We, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, supported the rapporteur’s conclusions. We too believe that the immunity conferred by membership of this House should not apply in this case. I would also like to add a personal observation. What was once the Mauthausen concentration camp is situated on my home patch, which is also my electoral district. If you still have any doubts about whether these concentration camps actually existed, I am more than willing to invite you to join me on a visit to it. You will find people who survived it still living in the area; where I come from is also home to people who helped the few who managed to escape from it; one woman who did so is being honoured here today. I would like these remarks to be taken as honouring her memory.


  Lydia Schenardi (NI). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the report by Mrs Wallis on Mr Gollnisch’s request for defence of immunity is, both in its form and its content, truly scandalous. It is scandalous because the legal rules and the settled case-law of our Rules of Procedure and of the Committee on Legal Affairs have never before been so warped and violated. It is scandalous because the matter presented before the Committee on Legal Affairs was the subject of unprecedented politicisation and political pressure on the part of Mr Gollnisch’s political opponents. It has taken no less than four draft reports, all differing each time in their conclusions and reasoning, to come up with the report presented before us today in plenary, which is not, I might add, the report of which the members of the Committee on Legal Affairs had voted in favour, as the reasons behind the decision proposed by Mrs Wallis have subsequently been amended.

The argument put forward by the report in support of the decision not to defend Mr Gollnisch’s immunity and privileges is that he was not using his freedom of expression in carrying out his duties when he spoke at the press conference held in his political premises in Lyon on 11 October 2004. What hypocrisy and what lies! The written invitation to Mr Gollnisch’s press conference mentioned, next to his name, his status as a Member of the European Parliament. The majority of the press reports referred to his status as a Member of the European Parliament. Moreover, the subjects successively addressed by Mr Gollnisch were connected with Europe, whether they were the issue of Turkey’s joining Europe, the ratification process of the European Constitutional Treaty or, furthermore, the so-called Rousso report mainly related to certain academics’ political opinions on the history of the Second World War in Europe.

The settled case-law of the Committee on Legal Affairs in relation to opinions voiced by Members of the European Parliament tends, in this case, towards the systematic protection of immunity. Far more serious precedents involving prosecutions for libel, slander, uprisings against the police or even contempt of court have resulted in the immunity of a Member of the European Parliament being upheld. Yet, this has not been the case for our colleague Mr Gollnisch, thus undermining the independence and the freedom of expression of all Members. Make no mistake: if this report were to be adopted in plenary, the freedom of expression of all Members of the European Parliament would be restricted and subject to the discretion of others; a new interpretation of the waiver of immunity for opinions voiced by Members in the course of their duties would be adopted; and Europe’s oh so precious democracy and fundamental values would lose their hauteur.


  Adeline Hazan (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted that it should at last be possible for us to voice our opinions on Mr Gollnisch’s immunity, as this series of postponements of our vote has lasted too long. We have spent long enough evaluating the facts. I will not repeat in this House these facts exactly as they stand, but I want to emphasise that it is entirely right to support Mrs Wallis’ report, which proposes waiving Mr Gollnisch’s immunity for several reasons.

The first, and by no means least important, reason is that Mr Gollnisch did not make the incriminating remarks as a Member of the European Parliament. The immunity enjoyed by all Members of the European Parliament is designed to protect their freedom of expression in the exercise of their duties. In this case, Mr Gollnisch was not exercising his parliamentary duties. Immunity does not equal irresponsibility, just as freedom of expression cannot be used to justify intolerable behaviour.

The second reason is that, in the case in point, the values of the European Union that we, as Members of the European Parliament, are supposed to defend, have been scorned. Far – very far – from these humanist values, Mr Gollnisch, who is a good pupil of Mr Le Pen, tried to rival his master in the provocation stakes with the remarks he made at that press conference. We must therefore strongly condemn these remarks.

Finally, the third and final reason is that, in the arguments put forward by Mr Gollnisch, there is no indication whatsoever of fumus persecutionis. Being unable to accept the consequences of his remarks, Mr Gollnisch claims to be a victim of petty political proceedings designed to remove him from the political scene. That is a bit rich when viewed in the light of the extremely shocking remarks he made in, I am convinced, full knowledge of the blows he was dealing to our democracy.


  Bruno Gollnisch (NI). – (FR) Mr President, Article 7 states that I cannot speak in the debate. I do not intend to speak in the debate, but Article 7 allows me nonetheless to correct an inaccurate allegation. The third subparagraph of Article 7(8) allows me to speak on the basis of Article 145, and Article 145 gives me three minutes in which to make a personal statement.

If you will allow me, Mr President, and without my speaking in the debate, the outcome of which is, in any case, a foregone conclusion, I should like, as provided for by Article 7, to speak for three minutes on the basis of Article 145 in order to voice my opinion on accusations directed at me personally. Consequently, I am not speaking with reference to the content of the debate, but simply with reference to allegations made about me by some of the speakers. Mrs Bachelot believed she could say – and this is a widespread opinion – that I had spoken in the heart of the university. That is totally incorrect. The remarks for which I have been criticised were made at a press conference organised in the context of my political duties, during which, as another speaker, Mrs Schenardi, said, I answered journalists’ questions, a point that is not seriously disputed. If I do not have the right to give these kinds of answers, then journalists should not have the right to ask questions about the history of the Second World War. That seems quite clear to me, and I did not say those words as an academic even though the academic authorities, by order of the French Government, tried to undermine my presumption of innocence and were condemned for doing so by the Council of State, our highest court.

Secondly, Mrs Berger suggested that I had denied the fact that the concentration camps, and particularly the Mauthausen camp, ever existed. Mrs Berger, I have never denied the fact that the concentration camps existed, and certainly not the Mauthausen camp. The existence of the gas chambers at Mauthausen was denied by Mr Lanzmann, the director of the film ‘Shoah’, and not by myself who, on the contrary, said loud and clear that they existed. I believe that these two clarifications are, Mr President, extremely important. As for any possible recantations and procrastinations by the Commission, I personally played no part whatsoever in this affair. I will point out, as my colleague said, that the President of the French Republic, Mr Chirac, recently asserted that there could be no official historical truth. I question how it is that I can be criticised for remarks that have just been repeated by the Head of State, the head of the judiciary, and how it is that I can have the legal proceedings against me justified on the basis of a communist law, the Gayssot law, which Mr Toubon described as a Stalinist law when it was adopted. It will be interesting to see what Mr Toubon has to say on the subject of my immunity. That is all I had to say to this Assembly.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12 noon.

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