Friday, June 12, 2009

Brussels resisting Irish guarantees

EU foreign ministers are resisting providing the legal guarantees being sought by the Irish government on the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish government is keen that the 'assurances' in the areas of taxation, neutrality and social affairs be attached as protocols to the next available treaty (possibly Croatia's accession treaty) and then ratified by all member states, enshrining the guarantees into European law. But member states – such as the UK and the Czech Republic – fear this could reopen their respective national debates on the Lisbon Treaty. They are instead pushing for a legal declaration from EU leaders at a European Council later this week (18-19 June). Czech European Affairs Minister Stefan Fule said on Monday that the "legal form" of the assurances required further discussion in order to: "ensure a smooth passage for the required guarantees during the European council,", adding: "Very good progress has been made and we are well on track to reach agreement at this week's European Council," he said. "Reaching consensus this week is important not only for Ireland but for the whole of Europe." Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin claimed the response to the draft texts "has been very positive so far" and that he was "quietly confident" that Ireland would secure the legally binding guarantees it was seeking. The Irish government is eager to return from this week's meeting of EU leaders with enough to convince Irish voters to back the treaty in a second referendum likely to take place in September or October. The Government wants to have them added to the next treaty following Lisbon in response to critics who said they could otherwise be superseded by the European Court of Justice. On RTE's Questions and Answers last Monday, constitutional-law expert Paul Anthony McDermott warned: "It's not clear they have any legal status...They are mumbo-jumbo. These legal guarantees - they're meaningless. The rest of Europe will sign up to anything if it gets them off the hook on Europe. But if you were ever to go to a court in Europe and try to rely on one of these pieces of paper you would be told "what article of the Treaty are you suing on and the answer would be I'm not suing on the Treaty, I'm suing on a piece of paper Ireland passed around the Council of Ministers and everyone signed up to it" so I'm certainly not a big fan of having another referendum.".
Amidst the gloating of the Lisbon-elites as to the fate of some anti-Lisbon candidates in the Irish euro elections lies a simply truth: this election was not fought on European issues, but on national ones. It also cannot be separated from the broader European context. For to do so, would represent hypocrisy on the part of those on the other side who sought to demonise Libertas on the basis of controversial comments on issues ranging from torture, to false accusations of anti-semitism and neo-Nazism with respect to its candidates in other EU countries. The Irish elite are trying to portray the defeat of Libertas across Europe as a humiliating defeat and a victory for the pro-Lisbon cause. Yet it is not so simple. Traditionally, the constitutional-architecture of the European Union has demanded unanimous treaty-ratification by the member states. It is abundantly clear from these elections in the 27 member states that where Lisbon is concerned, such a mandate does not exist - at least at popular level. The most glaring example of this can be found in the UK elections, where Labour - pushing through the deeply unpopular Lisbon Treaty without a referendum in the teeth of opposition from their own Eurosceptic population - was pushed to a humilating fourth-place behind the Tories, Liberal Democrats and even the UK Independence party. On 15.7% of the vote, they are now weaker than they have been since the 19th century. Were the results replicated in a General Election, the BBC estimates the Tories would return to power after 12 years with a majority of 28. The size of that majority should evoke memories of the last Tory govt, which was constantly at the mercy of its Eurosceptic backbenchers, particularly after the strong leadership contest in the party by John Redwood in 1995. In any case, party leader David Cameron is, if anything, far more of a Eurosceptic than his predecessor, promising - if Lisbon has not yet come into force across Europe - to withdraw the articles of ratification from Vienna and put the Treaty to a referendum that would certainly end in the rejection of the Treaty. And the Irish have allies further afield too. The Treaty remains under consideration by the German Constitutional Court, and further challenges are pending in the Czech Constitutional Court by Senators opposed to it. The Czech and Polish Presidents themselves continue to refusal to put their signature to it unless and until the Irish first vote no. And even then, it is far from clear that President Klaus will sign it. He is not obliged to by the Czech Constitution. Some in the leftist Opposition and a former Green minister in the deposed Coalition government have called for Klaus to be impeached, but the Constitution is clear on this: the Constitutional Court would make the final decision, and it appears that short of being incapacitated or having committed and act of treason, the President will remain in Prague Castle for the remainder of his four year term. It seems probable then, that if the Irish people and Klaus hold out until the next UK General Election, the Lisbon Treaty will be consigned to the dustbin of European history where it belongs. In that context, it is imperative that we stand our ground, that (in Lincoln's words) "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth".

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1 comment:

18 k@@rt said...

When Brain Cowen goes to the Galway races, every three-card trick man has a guaranteed customer coming his way. The man is a complete mug.

We have to ask, what's in it for him? thirty pieces of silver?

That,s what the Lisbon Treaty is, one gigantic CON!