The deceivers and manipulators are out again. ‘Ireland Needs Europe,’ a Fianna Fail poster proclaims. ‘Yes to Jobs, Yes to Europe,’ a Fine Gael one declares. ‘It’s simple, I want a strong voice in Europe,’ another poster proclaims.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen was on radio last Wednesday talking about the other EU member states going ahead without us by inaugurating a ‘‘two-speed Europe’’ if we voted No again. ‘‘It’s in Ireland’s interests to be at the core of Europe," he said.
They rage about the disinformation on the No side, the posters from the last time about conscription, abortion and corporation tax. Those messages may have been bogus, but so are the messages this time from the Yes side. What has the Lisbon Treaty to do with whether Ireland needs Europe or not? The phony implication is that, if we vote No again, we will be rejecting not just the treaty, but the European Union. What has the Fine Gael poster ‘Yes to Jobs, Yes to Europe’ to do with the Lisbon Treaty? Again, it is a sham message suggesting that, if we vote No, we will be voting against jobs and against Europe. As for the ‘‘strong voice’’ stuff, surely the exercise of a strong voice would be to voice our opposition to a treaty that is bad for Europe and, therefore, bad for Ireland, too?
On the two-speed threat, it is impossible for the EU to change the rules and opt for an inner core to proceed towards further integration, while leaving an outer core in a slow lane. It cannot be done, not without us voting Yes to a treaty approving it - and would we be daft enough to do that? Let me repeat: it cannot be done. The main point of the Lisbon Treaty was to streamline decision-making in the EU at a time when it was becoming so large that the old decision-making mechanisms were too cumbersome to work effectively - or so it was thought.
There was also a concession to concerns about the democratic nature of the EU. National parliaments were given a role on EU legislation, and the European Parliament was to be given more competence. But we now find, after five years of working with the old rules, that the EU works just fine and those earlier apprehensions were misplaced. As for the democratic issue, the main problem remains. The Council of Ministers, the main decision-making body, remains unaccountable, as all inter-governmental bodies are (which seems to be the point of them).
The changes also proposed the end of the circus of the rotating presidency, whereby every member state gets to hold the EU presidency for six months. There are 27 member states. The system means that every state has to wait 13-and-a-half years to get its six months of power.
There are obvious logistical problems with this, and some states are better at hosting the presidency than others. Also, there was the ‘problem’ of member states attempting to run their own agendas while they held the presidency. It seemed sensible enough to end that and have just a single presidency - a single president of the European Council, who would hold the position for five years. Allied to that was the idea of having just one person representing Europe on foreign affairs.
That seemed like a good idea too, better than having three people - a commissioner; the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (that’s the job Javier Solana holds at present); and the foreign minister of the country that holds the presidency. But these ‘sensible’ ideas have dangers. The rotating presidency, while messy, did decentralise power in the EU from Brussels, and that was a good idea. Any subversion of the ‘official’ agenda is also no bad thing. A five-year president, by definition, would have to be the creature of the large powers (certainly Germany and France) and he or she would pursue their agenda. As for a single foreign minister, expressing a single voice on foreign policy on behalf of the EU - no way, Jose.
If we’d had that at the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, you can bet your bottom euro w e would all have been embroiled up to our necks in that criminal enterprise - not necessarily militarily, but politically. So where is the case for the treaty? It boils down to us not annoying our partners in the EU at a time when we need their forbearance to ensure the European Central Bank continues to give us credit. Not a great case, is it? Is it really true that the ECB would withhold funds from us as a penalty for voting No again? And doesn’t it say something about the case for voting Yes that it degenerates into blackmail and damn all else? I think there are strong reasons to vote No. Among them are the following.
First: this Lisbon Treaty is a con job, deliberately constructed to deprive electorates in other member states from having a say on the changes it proposes. The treaty is essentially a redraft of the EU constitution that was rejected by the people of France and the Netherlands. It was then reformulated in unintelligible mumbo-jumbo to allow governments in these and other member states to argue that there was no need to have the electorates decide; parliamentary endorsement would suffice. Now the Irish electorate is being asked again to vote for a treaty that is unintelligible. On that basis alone, we should vote No.
Secondly: for the first time, the treaty incorporates into the institutional structure of the European Union the European Defence Agency, whose primary role is to assist the European armaments industry to prosper - in other words, to assist in the refinement of the instruments of killing. We are often told by EU fans how the organisation ensured peace in Europe for 50 years. How, then, can the incorporation of the dogs of war into its institutional structure be justified?
Thirdly: the treaty seeks to centralise power in the EU. We should not have that.
(A-fecking-men is what I say.)
I stay up all night reading treaty, quips McCreevy