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Saturday, April 19, 2008

So what's this Lisbon Treaty thing about?

This just in from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious: Most Irish people haven't a clue what this Lisbon treaty malarkey is about.

Why is that, do you think? Might it have something to do with the fact that the document is so difficult and complex to summarise that everyone just gave up trying to explain it?

That seemed to be EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's position this week when he visited Cork and deigned to take a few questions from a hand-picked selection of langers.

But it's not that complex: here's a nice, simple (pro-EU) summary of what the treaty will do, from Auntie Beeb.

Then again, it might be because the Lisbon Treaty is just the failed EU Constitution rehashed. That constitution failed because the good people of France and Holland rejected it in referenda.

So this time around, the EU mandarins have made two clever changes: firstly, they're not calling it a constitution, and secondly they're not allowing any referenda.

So basically, whatever the people of Europe might think or want, their governments are not permitting them to decide for themselves. Unfortunately for the EU mandarins, that doesn't fly in Ireland. Our national constitution DEMANDS that a referendum has to be held.

So what will Lisbon bring if we vote for it? Well, some of the scary NO people would have you think it will bring in abortion on demand, bio-chips in your babies, an EU army with a draft during wartimes, and all sorts of other nasties.

That's not strictly true. But what IS in the treaty is scary enough without people having to make shit up.
  • There'll be an EU parliament that can overrule the Dail.
  • There'll be an EU army, albeit without a compulsory draft (for now.)
  • There'll be an EU government in the shape of a beefed-up EU Commission.
  • There'll be an EU Foreign Minister implementing foreign policy on a Europe-wide basis, overruling national foreign policies.
  • There'll be a Europe-wide justice system, in the shape of a beefed-up European Courts of Justice.
In short, if Lisbon succeeds, you will cease to be a citizen of Ireland in any meaningful legal sense, compared to how you will be a citizen of Europe.

Lisbon is a charter for a federal Europe. But to admit that would be to see it defeated, so the mandarins have been terrifically careful to avoid the F-word.

Of course Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour all like Lisbon. It's a charter that creates new levels of politics and power and bureaucracy.

But it's not something that's good for the people of Ireland or the people of Europe.

Why else do you think that diplomats and civil servants were seeking to delay bad news from Europe until after the referendum?

Why do they believe you will vote whatever way Irish politicians tell you to, and why do they think the treaty is 'largely incomprehensible' to the lay person?

The answer lies here, in the embarrassing email the British Embassy in Dublin sent to London after a secret meeting with Irish civil servants about the Lisbon Treaty.

Basically, it's a con that they're inflicting on us, because they think we're stupid and easily led and because they think we won't read the damn thing. I hope we prove them wrong on all of their arrogant counts.

Unfortunately, it's up to us and us alone to pull the EU back from the brink of a Federal Europe and all that entails.

So vote sensibly. Vote against the Lisbon Treaty if you believe in national sovereignty, if you believe in democracy in Europe and if you believe in Ireland.

Vote NO to Lisbon.


Peter Slattery said...

Having read up on the Lisbon Treaty (I embarassingly knew sweet F.A. about it up until last week), I will most definately be voting against it. However, the lack of public knowlege about what is in the treaty is quite shocking. I got a piece of literature in the post during the week, as I'm sure everyone else in the country did. However, the government must realise the majority of the country wont be bothered reading the pamphlet. It's kind of worrying that the fate of this treaty lies on our shoulders. But then it could be a very proud moment for us!

Anonymous said...

If we vote it down, the political class won't thank us, but the ordinary European will owe us big time.
It's terrifying to think of how little most people know about the treaty, constitution really.
I'm also scared by the prospect of the amount of people who will vote in favour just because the politicians told them to.
As that embarrassing British memo revealed, that's what our politicians and civil servants expect us to do.
I really hope the Irish people prove them wrong and do the whole of Europe proud by voting this nonsense down.

Anonymous said...

It really is simple, if you don't vote for a United Europe then your a fool. Because it is gonna happen anyway as the man says, "maybe not now but...", because the might of the media at large will see fit to force it apon us anyway, and the main population that are not smart enough to understand its scope will vote for a yes due to the strength of the media coercian.
Simple does as simple says

Anonymous said...

And there is more simons than others!

Peter Slattery said...

So we should just bend over and accept the inevitable? Nah, I'd rather see us making it very very difficult for the European government to get this carried than just accept it now because it'll happen eventually.

JC Skinner said...

I'm with you on that score, Peter.

Anonymous said...

Vote No to the Treaty - but:
Vote YES to Free Europe Constitution at www.FreeEurope.info

James said...

Sorry Skinner, but really, can we deal with each of these 1 through 5?

1. There'll be an EU parliament that can overrule the Dail.
2. There'll be an EU army, albeit without a compulsory draft (for now.)
3. There'll be an EU government in the shape of a beefed-up EU Commission.
4. There'll be an EU Foreign Minister implementing foreign policy on a Europe-wide basis, overruling national foreign policies.
5. There'll be a Europe-wide justice system, in the shape of a beefed-up European Courts of Justice.


1: The E.U. parliament is required to give assent to law, it does not produce law. Law originates with the commission and council. The council and commission are made up of representatives from every country. Presently, as per the terms of Bunreacht na hEireann, Article 29.4.3 'no provision of the constitution' may invalidate a law passed at European level.

This is because when you agree to join up to a club you agree to abide by its rules. Only in certain areas though, and it's very few areas that the E.U. has exclusive competence in. It mostly operates through shared competence.

As we both know, a competence is conferred. The Irish people have repeatedly affirmed through constitutional referenda that they wish to invest in the E.U. competence which was hitherto solely invested with the Oireachtas. What' I'm basically saying is that you can paint it in Orwellian language or you can realise that we're already, er ... here.

2. An E.U. army? There are E.U. battlegroups and EUFOR sure. But both already exist before Lisbon and I remember as far back as Amsterdam in 1998 people were roaring about the European army with a draft. Mate, to lend them credence I should be polishing my boots now at the ripe old age of 19.

The big problem with them (the Battlegroups) is that the European nations treat them as a joke. The mission to Chad was repeatedly delayed because no one was willing to offer the basic equipment. The battlegroups are not any greater than the sum of their parts which is national donations of men and equipment. The idea of an Empire of Europe with an Army at its beck and call is something I'd expect from Alive!

What there is a provision for in Lisbon is a common defence but this is entirely subordinate to national sovereignty with regard to war and peace (we decide whether we go to war or not and our triple lock is intact.)

You have made the implicit accusation that the triple lock is worthless by the terms of Lisbon so I would desire to see you show me where in the text we are told that Ireland will be forced to participate in conflicts.

If you're voting against Lisbon to retain the Status Quo then we still have these vestiges of the 'European Army' you fear. Which tells me that your problem is not with Europe but with the E.U. more fundamentally. There's no problem with that, you can be Eurosceptic and that is a sometimes legitimate position but I think it's disingenuous to lay this at the door of a Treaty like Lisbon, the embodiment of national self-interest and horse-trading over a conference table in Berlin.

You think that the Poles would sell themselves down the river to the Germans? It was the Poles that wrangled a better voting formula for themselves and were careful not to allow QMV (qualified majority voting) enter areas they desired a veto in. As did all the governments. You have yet to prove the case for Angela Merkel wanting a Fourth Reich or Nicolas Sarkozy desiring a Third French Empire.

3. The Commission will be 'beefed up'? No. You mean improved surely, not 'made in to a thug with a baseball bat' like 'beefed up' suggests. Seats on the commission for all the nations will be rotating. All of them. That includes France losing a commissioner 5 out of every 15 years. Furthermore, commissioners at present don't 'represent' us or at least are not meant to and the way the commission operates in the future will tighten that up considerably more.

There'll be an 'E.U. government' - surely one already exists? We have a bicameral structure, a Council of Ministers and a Commission which propose the law and a lower chamber of deputies in the E.P. who ratify? If you're concerned with that, then voting 'yes' to Lisbon strengthens the E.P.'s role (more voting is required from it) and brings forward the ability to petition the E.P. with 1 million signatures to raise important issues on the floor of the chamber. Amongst other things.

4. Mate, seriously. Do you know who Javier Solana is? That's all I need say. He's our High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs as per the Treaty of Amsterdam. He's hamstrung now as he will be in the future by the will of the national diplomatic corps of the member states. That's why Kosovo won't be getting E.U. wide recognition ever. Greece, Spain and Cyprus have too much to lose in terms of face with respect to their own national 'situations'.

5. We've had the European Courts of Justice for a very long time. Lisbon 'beefs them up'. In what way? They are going to be guided in the event by the charter of fundamental rights. You should read it, it's a very cosmopolitan and relevant document. The EUCJ was critical in the events stemming from the Norris case which ultimately led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in this country in 1993.

I'm a 'yes' voter so I don't expect you to actually believe me when I tell you that a lot of what you fear with Lisbon is a problem you have with earlier treaties, perhaps more fundamentally with the E.U. as it stands. The status quo which you say will change utterly and awfully?

Er, look, we're basically already living in an E.U. where much of what you've said has come to pass. Albeit I wouldn't spin it as you have by any measure or means.

You'll be pleasd to note though that Lisbon includes an official secession mechanism. So perhaps you should vote for Lisbon and then agitate for Ireland's E.U. withdrawal? Dunno, it might be an idea.

This treaty is not the bogeyman. Check out the Referendum Commission Website: http://www.lisbontreaty2008.ie/

Finally, let me propose something to you. With regard to this being 'the same as the Constitution'. I'm hearing that bandied around as if it's ineffable truth. More honest 'no campaigners' at least concede that it's '90% the same as the Constitution that France and the Netherlands rejected.'

Let me ask you of the 10%. That seems a considerable body of text. Yet, even if it were 1%, might the deletion of the offending passages not constitute a significant alteration or change?

Consider the Treaty of Versailles. There is the War Guilt clause placing the yoke of responsibility upon Germany's shoulders. Now, we all know that it would have been a remarkably different Treaty but for that War Guilt clause. In strict numerical terms though it only accounts for less than 1% of the Text.

Would you have thus claimed that Versailles was '99% the same' and not at all different? Its character as a peace settlement would have altered fundamentally. What you're essentially doing is engaging with the word-count as a substitute for dealing with the substance. Lots of people do that.

Consider what was removed from what the Netherlands and France were asked to vote on. Passages on European heraldry and anthems, mottos and so forth. Consider then how really, it wasn't the Treaty of Lisbon they were voting on. It was indeed a different document.

FutureTaoiseach said...

This is absolutely true. I know because I made an effort to read it and wrote in the politics.ie wiki about what changes Lisbon makes relative to the previous state of affairs. It was most disturbing to see we were being asked to sign away most of our voting rights, national vetos that could lead to nuclear power being forced on Ireland, our sovereignty on asylum and industrial relations to the ECJ via the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as the mutual-defence pact. The government are relying on confusion to get this true and I fear they may succeed but I'm hopeful that they won't. Vote No.

JC Skinner said...

Amazing how panicky the Yes men have become.
Amazing how many emails I'm receiving asking me to reconsider, to vote yes, or just to stop telling others to vote No.
What are you all so fearful of? If in doubt, vote no, and nothing changes. We get the current status quo. Nothing to fear there, I'd argue.
Or we could go and rubber stamp this constitution in disguise and open ourselves up to having our sovereignty overruled by Brussels.
James, I'd ask you to address these two points I raised above - if the treaty is so benign, why is everyone else in Europe being denied the right to vote on it bar us and why are the DFO, the British Embassy and Brussels all conspiring to bury any bad news from Europe and seeking to get the electorate to ignore the actual text of the treaty and vote instead on the basis that cuddly unkie Bertie tells us to say yes?

James said...

Skinner, I'm not an evangelist. I just feel that most people voting 'No' have gotten it quite wrong. I'm then putting forward why I believe that is the case. Whoever's e-mailing you must be on the usual delusional ilk that believe the blogosphere will decide this vote. If only!

Skinner, sovereignty has already been arrogated to the E.U. You're talking like it isn't. Some portion of it has been divested from the Oireachtas and resides with the E.U. since 1973. It has been arrogated more sovereignty in subsequent Treaties. You're talking as if Lisbon does this for the first time when it assigns no new exclusive competence merely further shared competences which are about as shared as the national governments decide. Climate change is one area.

Skinner, why they might be trying to bury bad news is because the electorate tends to be fickle and to use referenda to punish governments (see the IFA threatening to vote 'No' so as to punish Mandelson at the WTO which Lisbon does not even remotely concern.) The British ambassador is likewise quite entitled to hope that the public will believe the political parties who he further believes are leading the people correctly.

He is not going up to anyone with a gun in the polling booth so I don't know how much mileage you can really get out of 'Politician in hoping people listen to Politicians shocker'

You've said you'd like the status quo, and then you complain of several elements of the present status quo as a negative change which Lisbon will bring about for the first time. You can vote 'No' but the fact is you're just going to be retarding the progress of the European project. This will then take more time.

And all the while the more ardent members of the 'No' camp will never be happy no matter how many times the deal is renegotiated as the fact is that they disagree with the E.U. fundamentally whereas I sense you do not really, or rather would really but are citing concerns with Lisbon that (I believe) have already come to pass and not nearly in as negative a light as you spin.

It's not the Constitution in another guise, more fundamentally, because the Constitution would not have been an amendment of the Treaties of Rome and Maastricht but would have actually invalidated those documents and functioned as a brand new base document.

Perhaps the fact that Lisbon is built on familiar, and hopefully very un-Orwellian planks is a further reason to see that Lisbon=Constitution is just a very weak argument? Generally though, the Pascal's Wager approach to all this 'It might have something bad in it which there's nothing to lose from rubber-stamping' is arrived at from a fundamental unwillingness to come to grips with the document.

Vote how you will Skinner. I can only ask you to vote the other way but I'd be a right cunt to tell you that you couldn't vote the other way if your conscience convicted you otherwise.

James said...

Heh, 'from not rubber-stamping' I meant there.

JC Skinner said...

For someone who's not an evangelist, you could have fooled me, James.
But what you won't fool me about is the 'Constitution in disguise' that is the Lisbon Treaty.
There is nothing of benefit in this for Ireland. We get to lose vetos and influence. We get to be railroaded into beefed-up EU institutions that can over-rule our own institutions under the terms of this new treaty. Oh, and something I failed to mention before, this treaty allows for the EU to expand into Turkey, which the current one does not.
The more desperate and shrill the Yes men get, the more concerned I am about this treaty being passed.
We owe it to the rest of Europe, who are being denied democracy on this, to vote no.

Modesto said...

Faced to TERRORISM MEDIA in favour of 'YES', to disseminate these arguments in favour of the 'NO'. Send this link 'http://www.isfcc.org/' to your email list
I am a Catholic who loves Ireland and Christian Europe

www.isfcc.org say:
I am a Catholic.
Can I approve of the Treaty of Lisbon?
The violation of non-negotiable principles raises a grave question of conscience for
Irish Catholics in the face of this referendum.
A spectre is haunting Europe—it threatens you, the Christian future of your family, of Ireland, and of the Continent. It is a European Union without God and without moral principles.
The Treaty of Lisbon seeks to reform, for you and for all Irish Catholics, the fundamental values which govern the functioning of the European Union. These new values are in stark contrast to the non-negotiable principles given by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Pope insists that, in the construction of Europe, there are three areas in which the Church defends “non-negotiable principles”:
• “the protection of life at every stage;
• “the recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family;
• “and the protection of the right of parents to educate their children”.
To be at peace with his conscience, when casting his vote in the referendum, a Catholic has to give absolute priority to these non-negotiable principles. The moral preservation of our children and the future prosperity of Catholic Ireland and of all Europe will depend on the level of respect that the E.U. shows towards these principles.
Catholics must reject the Treaty of Lisbon
Our Lord Jesus Christ commanded: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and everything else shall be added on to you.” In contrast to the Divine commandment, if the Treaty of Lisbon is ratified by Irish Catholics:
• The E.U. will ignore God and the Christian roots of Europe and will create a new European identity based on radical secularism and atheistic philosophies. We do not want our children to grow up in an Ireland without God!
• The E.U. will impose a relativistic and evolving idea of human rights, contrary to Catholic moral teaching. We do not want the relativisation of the principles that we will pass on to our children and grandchildren!
• The E.U. will considerably restrict the protection of human life and will facilitate abortion, euthanasia, and embryo experimentation. We do not want the mass murder of innocents being promoted throughout Europe!
• The E.U. will destroy the family by dissociating it from marriage between one man and one woman. Our children have the right to live in a normal home, in accordance with Catholic principles!
• The E.U. will impose excessive limits on the right of the parents to educate their children in accordance with their convictions. The freedom to pass on the Faith is a legacy that can never be challenged in Catholic Ireland!
• The E.U. will recognise, for the first time in the history of international treaties, “sexual orientation” as a basis for non-discrimination, opening the way for homosexual marriage and adoption of children by homosexuals. If today promiscuity and immorality already invade our homes and ruin the education of our children, what will it be like when these kinds of practices are imposed on us?
Catholics: only by uniting our voices can we be saved from this tragedy and this chastisement
To prevent Ireland and all of Europe from distancing itself even further from the Kingdom of God, Irish Society for Christian Civilisation is campaigning for a rejection of the Treaty of Lisbon in the name of the Catholic non-negotiable principles.
According to the late Pope, John Paul II, it is “the laity which by its particular vocation has the specific role of interpreting the history of the world in the light of Christ.”
If you consider it a matter of conscience to make heard the voice of Catholic Ireland in this debate, then you already are part of this campaign.
Click Here to read the study: “9 reasons why a conscientious Catholic citizen should reject the Treaty of Lisbon” (Click here for the document in .pdf format) or click here to order the printed booklet of this study, or to order flyers to distribute.
You will understand why this referendum is happening at this crucial time in our history, and why it is not right for a Catholic to abstain in this hour of need. Above all, you will be able to influence and direct others among your acquaintances, clarifying the issues for them to prevent them from voting for the Treaty of Lisbon through ignorance or because of media or peer pressure.
Participating in this campaign you will be doing your bit to alert our fellow Catholics so that, at the moment of casting their votes, they will remember what Jesus said: “He who is ashamed of Me and of My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes into His glory.” (Lk. 9:26)
For the honour and glory of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ, say no to the Treaty of Lisbon and you will be saying yes to a Catholic Ireland and yes to a Christian Europe.