Eurocrats are desperate to overturn the country's tough new abortion law, says Daniel Hannan aniel Ortega is back in power. Does the name sound familiar? Do you hear some deep 1980s memory tolling up toward your consciousness, like the bell of a seadrowned steeple? You don't? Then allow me to remind you.
For the better part of a decade, Daniel Ortega was the pin-up of Leftie students all over Europe. He was the silent, squinting Sandinista leader who overthrew the Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua in 1979, causing panic in Washington.
Its easy to forget now, but Nicaragua, in those days, was the trendy.international cause. Every summer, socialist students from all over Europe would volunteer to work on the Sandinista coffee collectives. When they came home, these "Sandalistas" would tell anyone who would listen that Nicaragua was an independent state, pluckily standing up to foreign powers. Even if Ortega wasn't perfect. they would insist, he was plainly the choice of the Nicaraguan pueblo (one of the few Spanish words they had picked up, having spent little time talking to natives). The rest of the world, they would conclude belligerently, should respect Nicaragua's sovereignty.
Which puts them in rather an awkward position today. Mr Ortega, you see. has just come back after a 16-year absence, and his first act in office has been an absolute prohibition on abortion. Previously, Nicaragua allowed terminations where there was judged to be a risk to the mother. Now, this condition has been disallowed.
So, how have Euro-lefties reacted? Have they clung to the anti-colonialist principles that they so shrilly insisted upon during their youth? Not a bit of it. As soon as the law was signed, Brussels began to demand its repeal. "Access to abortion is linked to aid programmes against poverty and to the rights of women." said Marc Litvine, the Ell's man in Managua. "We hope that the new government will be capable of opening the debate and discussing it outside the passion of the electoral season." Note the classic Eurocrat assumption: we all have to make these silly promises to the half-wits who vote for us, but no one actually expects us to keep them, for heaven's sake.
Don't think that. being a Brussels issue, this is nothing to do with you. To all intents and purposes, our foreign policy is conducted by the EU. Britain has no Ambassador to Managua. Like most EU states, it has taken the view that, since Brussels is running 90 per cent of what the national embassies used to do — trade, aid, visas and so on — there is no point in maintaining its own missions. So when the German development minister, representing the state that currently holds the EU presidency, makes it clear to President Ortega that "there will be consequences if the law is not amended", she is speaking in your name.
Nicaraguans have so far proved less willing to be pushed around by Brussels than we in Europe are. The abortion issue was very thoroughly aired during the election in December. Believe me: I was there as an official monitor. Candidates made clear in advance where they stood, and the Bill went through the Nicaraguan parliament with an overwhelming majority.
To be honest, wouldn't have supported it. I'm one of those wishywashy people who think that abortion is far too easy, and who feel deeply uncomfortable about the six million foetuses that have been legally aborted since David Steel changed the law here. I know from my constituency work that, despite all the assurances we were given, abortion is now routinely used as a means of birth control. But, that said, I don't believe that terminations are always and everywhere wrong. There are cases where it seems to me the lesser evil, and what Nicaraguans call "therapeutic abortion", where the mother's health is at risk, strikes me as such a case.
But I'm not a Nicaraguan voter. That, surely, is the key point: the clinching argument of my Leftie MEP colleagues in their student days. I seem to remember a fair number of them demonstrating outside American embassies during Nicaragua's election in 1990, demanding that President Bush "respect the result" rather hilariously, as it turned out, since. in defiance of every opinion poll, Ortega was voted out with a landslide. Yet now, when their man finally wins fair and square, respecting the result is the last thing they intend to do.
Whenever Washington wants to intervene somewhere, Eurocrats bang on about not thrusting our values down other people's throats. When MEPs debate Iraq or Iran or Cuba, they can guarantee themselves a round of applause by saying that the peoples of these countries have a right to determine their own futures. But when it comes to insisting that Peru abolishes the death penalty, or that Nicaragua permits abor tions, or, for that matter, that the Latin Americans merge themselves into a supra-national regional bloc in mimicry of the EU, Brussels suddenly comes over all imperialist.
The Eurocrats might argue,1 suppose, that a woman's right to decide on abortions is a universal human entitlement. But it's hard to see why, if this is so, the same does not apply to, say, free speech. If it's right for the EU to demand the former in Nicaragua, why is it wrong for America to demand the latter in Cuba?
Surely it is precisely when we are dealing with such sensitive issues as the status of the unborn that we should respect the parliamentary procedures, cultural traditions and religious beliefs of other democracies.
But, of course, our masters in Brussels rarely apply this criterion within their own borders. On the contrary, they see the replacement of national democratic systems with a supra-national technocracy as a way to ensure that the populism of elected demagogues is tempered by the good sense of officials who don't need to worry about public opinion.
They are, if nothing else, being consistent. They didn't listen when the Danes voted No to Maastricht, or when the Irish voted No to Nice. They didn't listen when the French and Dutch voted No to the European constitution. Why should they listen when the Nicaraguans vote No to abortion?
Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP for South East England and a Daily Telegraph leader writer. Read his blog at httplIblogs.telegraph.co.ukl politicsIdanielhannanl