31 March 2008

From Luton to Lisbon, Just the name.

Saw a pretty interesting debate today on the Lisbon treaty. The event was streamed live over the internet by RTE, and was really the first opportunity that folks outside of Ireland had to engage in a process that will effect everyone with the EU. At the heart of the Lisbon treaty are a series of proposals that change almost every aspect of the way in which the EU is run. For want of a better term it is an EU constitution in all but name. Ireland is unique in that we are the only country putting this Treaty to the people before ratification. Every other EU country has or will adopt it by act of parliament, we are the only nation thus far to put it to a referendum. It effects everyone in Europe because it needs to be accepted unanimously by all member nations, if Ireland votes "no" then the whole Treaty is scrapped.

The debate featured John Bruton, former Taoisach and current EU ambassador to Washington (with whom I had a very enjoyable pint or two one night in Anna Liffey's pub in New Haven a few years ago) and Ruari Quinn speaking on the "Yes" side, and Patricia McKenna and John McGuirk from Libertas speaking on the "No" side. The debate did tend towards the usual "Voting 'No' means you hate Europe and/or don't want anyone else to join" vs "Voting 'Yes' means giving up our sovereignty/neutrality/influence" arguments, and I was disappointed that there wasn't any discussion about the erosion in worker's rights that the Treaty will bring about.

The main problem that I have with the Referendum, which was thankfully highlighted in the debate, is the fact that we are being asked to vote on a very large document with an incredible number of clauses and implications without actually being given the opportunity to read or understand the significance of the treaty. The Government has made no effort to explain the Treaty to the population, citing the cost of printing and distributing a copy to every household. During the debate John Bruton and Ruari Quinn both suggested that as the full treaty was available online, anyone who wanted to read it could.

Apart from the fact that internet access is far from universal in Ireland, the Treaty is so dense and opaque as to be impenetrable to any but the most seasoned of Eurocrat, and this is quite deliberate. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who presided over the creation of the failed EU Constitution, was quoted by Le Monde in June 2007 as saying:
"Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly" ... "All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way."
Both Patrica McKenna and John McGuirk were quite critical of this lack of transparency around the contents of the treaty itself, and McGuirk went as far as to commit his group to circulating a guide to the Treaty to every household if the Government failed to do so itself.

The European Union, and EU Parliament, are already so far removed from the citizenry at large that this referendum is certain to have the lowest voter turnout in recent history. The lack of information, measured public debate, or even a date for the referendum itself all seem to be part of the Government's calculated plan to introduce an EU constitution by stealth, and one that enshrines the rights of business, not workers.

For more information check out:
The European Union Lisbon Treaty website

The Irish Lisbon Treaty Site
The full text of the Lisbon Treaty
RTE's Lisbon Treaty Referendum site
The BBC's Lisbon Treaty Site


At 7:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Free Europe Constitution is better than the Treaty:
1. You can read it
2. You can vote online about it.
Vote YES or NO at www.FreeEurope.info

At 4:03 pm, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks, it is good to get a clear synopsis of what it's all about. Alas, i don't av any spare concentration power to focus on articles etc...as i spend too much time dossing and plodding through assignments.

At 1:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

24/04/2008 - Austria to give its green light to the Treaty
nuff said,
vote no


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