May 16 2008

Lisbon And Me

Published by at 1:38 pm under Politics

I admit it, I confess, I throw my hands up in the air and openly reveal that I do not understand a thing about this Lisbon Treaty vote. In recent days it is a topic that has come up in conversation quite a bit and when asked how I’ll vote, I’ve laughed, shrugged and said I’ll vote whatever way Lottie tells me to vote. I then quickly change the subject.

Funny and silly as it may sound, I realised that unless I made a conscious effort to find out more about this Lisbon thing, then I probably would just blindly follow my better half’s lead.

Little Lisbon Learning Day

So, today is my Little Lisbon Learning Day. I will find out what it’s all about and I will try to write about it in such a way that other complete political Luddites like myself can understand.

Where to begin? The Referendum Commission’s website? Fianna Fáil’s pro-Treaty site? The Libertas NO Site? The Wikipedia? Should I just go have coffee with someone who can explain it to me? Should I get Dick Roche on the phone?

Sarah Carey made a throw-away post a few days ago about not being around to vote on the treaty and I was all set to make a funny retort when I saw the comments ahead of me. Pete had asked what the Treaty was all about and Sarah gave a lengthly, informed and intelligent response, which I found quite helpful (further evidence that when you reply to a comment on your blog, you are not just replying to one person). A debate was sparked in the comments section of the post and I was quickly in over my head.

Sarah begins…

Here’s the deal: The EU is enlarging, so the old rules about decision making and some of the institutions don’t work so well any more. e.g vetos apply to practically everything; EVERY country is entitled to a commissioner; lots of people want to enable the EU to adopt a common position on criminal matters and foreign policy. There’s also more pressure to make the EU “more democratic” and really just work more efficiently.
SO the Lisbon Treaty is a series of amendments to various treaties and institutions.

Consulting other sources, such as the Treaty’s own website and the handbook that circulated, I found myself understanding the content, I could see what each bit meant and did, but I still found it baffling overall. And I doubt I’m the only one in this position.

It’s clear that the Treaty is about change. If ratified, our constitution will change; the powers that the EU have and can exert will change; the make up of the European Parliament will change; the way decisions are made will change; and there is emphasis on things that will not change. But to understand all these changes, we must first ask WHAT are we changing. I think here is where the problems begin for the layman and the Lisbon Treaty. The majority (I’m guessing) of people do not full understand what the EU is, what it does and what it already has the power to do. So, I’m first going to look at the current situation.

(As I raft through the Amazon river of information, I am already regretting taking this on)

The EU is governed at present by The European Commission, The Council of Ministers, The Parliament and the European council (which is made up of each of the European heads of State, led by a President). Laws are made by a process of co-decision, where the Commission proposes laws and policies, which are discussed by the Council of Ministers and the Parliament, before being decided upon jointly by the Parliament and the Council. The process differs for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, which is decided upon solely by the Council.

So what will change? Firstly, there will be a nifty bureaucratic name change. The standard co-decision process will be called the “Ordinary Legislative Procedure” and the decision made by the Council alone will be made under a “Special Legislative Procedure“. But what’s in a name, right? The important part is in the changes and the extensions to powers proposed to the “Ordinary Legislative Procedure”, which I will come to shortly.

European Commission

Charlie McCreevyThe Treaty will change how each governing body in the EU will operate. At present, each member state appoints a Commissioner to the European Commission (at present ours is Charlie McCreevy). The Treaty proposes to change this to allow just two-thirds of member states to nominate a Commissioner for each term (of 5 years) on a rotating basis. Simply put, this will mean that each member state will have a Commissioner for 10 of every 15 years. I can understand how this apparent reduction in individual state powers could be a point of controversy. A lot can happen in 5 years – think back to five years ago and look at the changes that have occurred both on the Irish stage and on the European and worldwide stages between then and now. In addition, one commissioner will hold the position of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Council of Ministers

The most significant proposed change to the Council of Ministers is in voting. At the moment, some decisions must be made unanimously while others are made by Qualified Majority Voting. According to QMV, each member state has a fixed number of votes. The number allocated to each country is roughly determined by its population, but progressively weighted in favour of smaller countries. When this voting system is used, no one country has a veto over the issue being debated. QMV is currently used when voting on issues relating to competition rules, consumer protection, environment and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. It is proposed to apply QMV to a number of new areas – these include energy, asylum, immigration, judicial co-operation in civil matters and sport.

At present, for a vote to pass under QMV, 74% of the total weighted votes are required. Under new proposals, this drops to 55%, i.e. 15 of the 27 member states, and those 15 states must represent 65% of the EU population. This may sound like the larger states can band together to overrule the QMV, but there is a provision which requires at least 4 member states to oppose the decision, preventing 3 of the largest states from blocking rulings of the QMV.

The new Treaty will make this system of qualified majority voting the norm when decisions are being taken, except where the EU Treaties require a different procedure (e.g. a unanimous vote). The literature is at pains to point out: Important policy areas for Ireland such as taxation and defense will continue to require a unanimous vote.

The Treaty also changes the arrangements for the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. At present the Presidency of the Council changes every six months. In the future, the Presidency will be provided by a team of three Member States working together over an 18-month period, except for the Foreign Affairs Council which will be chaired by the High Representative. This is designed to increase the coherence and efficiency of the Presidency.

European Council

At the moment, the European Council is chaired on a rotating basis by the head of Government of the Member State holding the six month Presidency of the EU. The Treaty would allow for a two and a half year EU Presidency, the holder being elected by QMV by the European Council. The President, who can hold the position for a maximum of two terms, would chair and co-ordinate the work of the European Council and will continue to be responsible for major policy decisions. In addition, all legislative meetings of the European Council must be open to public viewing.

European Parliament

Click for larger imageHere is where we return to the Ordinary Legislative Procedure. The Treaty proposes to extend the powers of the European Parliament into areas such as agriculture (which seems to be causing some consternation in Ireland), asylum, immigration and judicial co-operation. The number of MEPs would be permanently reduced to 750, in addition to the President of the Parliament. The Parliament also gains greater powers over the entirety of the EU budget, having joint decision with the Council rather than having to present it to the Council for approval.

(Are you still with me? It truly is a huge amount to wade through and I’m beginning to see how people could be frustrated by the lack of transparency in the 294 pages)

Individual National Parliaments

By today’s rules, the national governments have no direct involvement in decision making. Under Lisbon, the Governments will have 8 weeks after the publication of a legislative proposal to vet the proposal and offer an opinion.

Things get a bit foggy when looking for information on the Power to Change Treaties. There is so much divisiveness on the subject that it is hard to find an unbiased explanation other than that of the Referendum Commission’s booklet.

At present the Treaties governing the EU are amended only by the Member States agreeing to an amending treaty which must then be approved by the Member States in accordance with their own constitutional traditions…for example in Ireland, a referendum may be required.

The Lisbon Treaty now proposes to give the European Council (Heads of Government) the power to propose changes to certain parts of the governing Treaties. Any such changes cannot increase the competence of the EU. Any such proposals must be agreed unanimously by the European Council. This means that any national government may veto such a proposal. If the European Council does agree a proposed change, then in order for it to come into effect, it must be ratified by the Member States in accordance with their own constitutional traditions. This may require a referendum in Ireland as happens at present.

The EU has the competence to decide policies and make laws only in those areas which are set out in the treaties. The Lisbon Treaty would specify who has the power to do what by listing the areas in which:

  • the EU has exclusive competence – this means that the decisions must be made at EU level and not at national government level;
  • the EU and national governments have joint competence;
  • the national governments have exclusive competence but the EU may support and help to co-ordinate.

The Lisbon Treaty would give the EU joint competence with Member States in a number of new areas including energy and aspects of the environment and public health. It does not propose to give the EU any new exclusive competence.

This is such a contentious issue that I’m not going to offer my own opinions on it just yet. I want to keep this piece an unbiased as possible, and truth be told, I am still making up my mind on the whole thing. It is, however, worth pointing out that if the Treaty is ratified, there are a number of areas in which Ireland will be able to opt out, such as judicial and policing issues (known as the “Area of Freedom, Security and Justice”) and there are a number of issue that will not be affected by the Treaty at all, such as Ireland’s neutrality.

Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights lists citizens’ political, social and economic rights. It is intended to make sure that European Union regulations and directives do not contradict the European Convention on Human Rights which is ratified by all EU Member States (and to which the EU as a whole would accede under the Treaty of Lisbon). In the rejected EU Constitution it was integrated into the text of the treaty and was legally binding. The Lisbon Treaty refers to it and raises it to the same legal standing as the main treaties.

Lisbon and (a very tired) Me

So, there it is, there is the information. There is more in it, but I think I’ve covered the important parts. There are sections which talk about minor changes (e.g the renaming of the Court of First Instance to the General Court, and the declaration that the euro is the official currency of the EU) but the essence is laid out above. I’ve made no arguments in favour nor against the Treaty. I am close to deciding whether to go Yes or No, but am still reading and listening to arguments.

A ‘Yes’ vote will change the Irish Constitution, ratifying the Treaty. Assuming all other EU countries accept the Treaty, it could come into effect early 2009. A ‘No’ vote will keep everything exactly as it is, our constitution will remain unchanged and the EU will be unable to adopt the Treaty, as it required agreement from ALL member states.

I will follow up this post with my own opinions, decisions, questions and ideas on the Treaty and I look forward to hearing what other people have to say.

Thank you for bearing with me throughout.


32 responses so far

32 Responses to “Lisbon And Me”

  1. Darrenon 16 May 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Of all the posts I’ve written, this is one I definitely would like some comments on. Have I summed it up well enough? Have I left anything out? Am I wrong on any points?

    I’ll be following it up tomorrow and it would be great to get some feedback.

    Thank you all!

  2. elly parkeron 16 May 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Really good summary Darren! It’s a hugely complex issue, and one that George & I sat down last night to take a look at. We ended up creating a spreadsheet showing the populations of each country and playing around with the 55% / 65% figures and trying to look at who it would give the power to.

    I actually commented at one point that I almost felt as if the future of Europe was in my hands! We’re the only country taking this to a referendum, I believe, but since it needs 100% of the countries to agree, Ireland basically gets to decide what happens!!!

    In the end, after reviewing the booklet from the Referendum commission, I’ve ended up on the side of a YES vote – I simply feel that it’s the better way to go forward as the EU continues to grow.

  3. maz@styletreatyon 16 May 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Great post Darren, I’d be recommending it to anyone who is unsure about the whole thing. Thanks for taking the time!

    Oh and before I’d read your post I had been leaning towards YES simply because all the mainstream parties and bodies seem to be in favour, the only ones against are Sinn Fein and Libertas – that was enough to send me the other way. But after getting more details I’m even more convinced that YES is the way to go.

  4. Andrewon 16 May 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Good job Daz, I was every bit as much in the dark as you were. No wonder your post was up later than usual, it must have taken you forever to write.
    Thanks for taking the time to do this, I definitely needed a concise explanation in layman’s terms that didn’t just dumb the whole thing down. Well done.

  5. Darraghon 16 May 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Nope, I still don’t get it, despite how well you’ve explained it Darren. I don’t see why we need it or how it will benefit us or indeed Europe.

    Europe has undeniably been good to us and I hate the feeling that because of that we should vote yes.

    What I’d like to know is:

    Will it mean a better education system where schools are better funded, teachers better trained and more facilities provided?

    Will it mean a better health service with shorter waiting lists, less bureaucracy and more availability to people of all financial situations?

    Will it mean a better police force, helping to prevent random crimes, racist attacks and the like and to cut down on the amount of drugs in the country?

    Will it mean social workers get more help, training and resource to deal with the problems in working class areas?

    Will it mean higher levels of pensions for OAPs and people on invalidity pensions, and help unemployed people get training and skills that they need?

    Will it improve the standard and quality of living?

    Until I get an answer to those I’m not going to vote either way. I’ve read the literature and still can’t see the benefit.

    Thanks for the great post though.

  6. elly parkeron 16 May 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Darragh, the questions that you ask above aren’t meant to be addressed by the Lisbon Treaty. This discussion is all about how decisions are made within Europe and where you feel the power should lie. The reason that we need this change is that the EU has grown drastically – the old rules were fine when we had only 15 countries. Using the old rules under the current shape of the EU leaves too much power with the larger countries (France, UK, Germany) and they can easily veto things that every other country has agreed to.

    The new system proposed under the Lisbon Treaty plans to adjust the accountability so that measures can only be passed if at least 55% of the countries agree AND if those that agree encompass at least 65% of the population of Europe. It should ensure that the largest countries cannot veto decisions by themselves – at least 4 countries will need to agree before a veto can be exercised.

    Choosing to not vote, IMHO, is not being accountable and responsible, two traits that I thought you had…

    Every one of the questions you pose is linked to national decision making, not things that would be decided at the European level. You should be lobbying your TD and local council about these issues, as they are the relevant decision makers.

  7. Darraghon 16 May 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks Elly but then WHAT decisions are made in Europe that could affect us, especially on a day-to-day level? See, this is what I don’t understand. If it’s not neutrality then what is it? I haven’t been able to find any online literature to tell me.

    Surely as well, voting either way when not understanding it (or feeling that Ah sure I might as well) isn’t that responsible either?

    I understand the need to vote and all that but I’m unclear about the role of Europe in Ireland, other than funding, farming and fishing, the only things I hear about on the news from time to time…

  8. Darrenon 16 May 2008 at 3:32 pm

    @Darragh Elly posted more or less word for word what I was going to say (mostly). I agree with you however when you say there is no literature on how it really affects us. I hope to address that tomorrow. I want to know and talk about the benefits of Lisbon or pitfalls if we do ratify it. I want one of the MANY ‘yes’ supporters to explain the consequences of ratification and it would be wonderful if the ‘No’ campaigners could come up with an argument better than your first comment above (no offense, but that’s what their a lot of their arguments sound like).

    I truly am still on the fence, because I have the basic details but know nothing of the eventual consequences of thew YES or the NO.

  9. elly parkeron 16 May 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Darragh, the EU is responsible for many things, including freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital. It maintains a common trade policy, agricultural and fisheries policies, and a regional development policy – all this is from the first paragraph of the wikipedia article on the EU.

    The EU rules affect you every time you travel out of the country, every time you spend the Euro coins in your pocket (aren’t I sure glad that Ireland went with the Euro unlike the UK – If I was paid in sterling then summer holidays to Europe would be off the agenda this year). I saw a lot of the benefits last summer when I spent 3 weeks travelling through Europe. Free movement of people meant driving across national borders without having to stop for checkpoints. No customs searches or charges for goods being carried across borders.

    Again, from Wikipedia: “The EU has established agencies to co-ordinate its actions in the justice and home affairs area: Europol for co-operation of police forces, Eurojust for co-operation between prosecutors, and Frontex for co-operation between border control authorities. The EU also operates the Schengen Information System which provides a common database for police and immigration authorities.” These are all good things IMHO.

    Other things – well the EU developed a lot of the human rights protection legislation – “Prohibitions against sexual and nationality discrimination have a long standing in the treaties. The Amsterdam Treaty supplemented these, by supporting further legislation against discrimination based on race, religion, disability, age and sexual orientation. Using these powers the EU has enacted legislation on sexual discrimination in the work-place, age discrimination and racial discrimination. All EU states have abolished capital punishment for all crimes and the EU has been a prominent campaigner for global abolition.”

    I also love the fact that it allows the European countries to join together and stand as a large global power, reducing the hold that the US has on the world. Did you know that “Considered as a single economy, the EU generated an estimated nominal gross domestic product (GDP)of US$16,830 billion in 2007, amounting to 31% of the world’s total economic output, which makes it the largest economy in the world.”?

    You are correct, if people can’t understand the issues or haven’t the time to research what this is about, then they shouldn’t vote. Same applies for all elections and referenda as far as I’m concerned.

  10. Darraghon 16 May 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Elly, I’ve just copied and pasted that into an email that I’ll send to people. That’s great, thank you. Really clear and concise. I like that. Now THAT’s what one of the campaigns should have. Thank you for taking the time to do so – really appreciate it 🙂

    @Darren – tis a tricky one alright sir. Again, thanks for all the help on it. Something to definitely think about.

  11. elly parkeron 16 May 2008 at 3:51 pm

    @Darragh – glad that I could help. I spent many hours going through the Lisbon stuff myself, it’s not easy at all. The EU things I had a little knowledge of, but it was a good refresher for me. Any quotes in my last comment were all from the EU entry on wikipedia – it’s a great reference point for beginning to learn what the EU does.

    But keep remembering, the Lisbon treaty is not like the referenda we’ve had previously in this country. A lot of it’s effect will not be very obvious to people on the ground, it’s all about procedural changes, levelling the playing field and changing the names of some committees.

  12. B'dum B'dumon 16 May 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I should probably register to vote.

  13. Andrewon 16 May 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Surely if we vote No the EU will foist it on us again for another referendum in a year or so. But perhaps it would come back ina slightly re-jigged form which might be a little better for Ireland. I can’t help but feel that we will definitely accept it in the end, its just a matter of when and under what exact terms.

  14. Beach Girlon 16 May 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Having 1/2 of my ancestors coming from Ireland hundreds of years ago and settling in the “New World”, I don’t have the right to say a darn thing but I read the book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, and I agree with the folks who said earlier that they felt they had the responsibility of the world in their hands.

    I think you do. I agree with Andrew though that it will be forced on you regardless of what you do if you vote ‘no’. In America, we are being forced into the North American Union with no vote at all. All of this overlord supragovernment stuff is coming in the guise of ‘trade treaties’ and it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    I have written in my blog more than once that it is appearing to me that “freedom” is just too hard for us to manage in these times of growing socialism and therefore, we seem willing to march silently into slavery.

    I don’t presuppose to know what is best for Ireland but I love your nation and the mystery it holds for those of us who are your descendents. What I see is the weakening of nations and the loss of individual freedoms to the subjugation of supracourts, etc.

    I just wonder when the EU, the MU, the NAU, the coming AU (American Union or the Union of the Americas) are going to be fighting for power against the UN – seems like world leaders are fighting for power grabs on enormous scales and we are the pawns being removed farther and farther from the governments that will control us from cradle-to-grave.

    God bless you.m Thank you for this excellent post. Mind-numbing research, isn’t it?

  15. Benon 16 May 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Grr why did you make me dizzy on a Friday? eh

    I have to say i didnt look into it with as much detail as above commenters but i would side on the YES vote side. I received the booklet, i looked into some “light” available information and made a decision.

    plus the shinners are going for a NO vote so i always like to go against them 😉

  16. B'dum B'dumon 16 May 2008 at 9:46 pm

    I’ve read it all now, thanks for that, now I have some grasp on it at least.

    Coming from Longford, I can tell you just about every farmer in the midlands(at least) is opposed to it without knowing exactly why.
    The vast majority of farmers here have got a LOYT of money from the EU, so as far as I’m concerned they shouldn’t have an opinion… especially without knowing why they have it.

    Then there’s these “People died for your country: VOTE NO” posters everywhere that really make me want to vote yes.

  17. Ozon 17 May 2008 at 12:16 am

    I’ll really sorry about how unsubstantiated this is going to be. I spend some time trying to find the figures, but I just can’t get to them. But you asked about stuff you left out.

    I heard from an admittedly questionable source that while they say that any four countries can get together to block legislation in the Council, what they don’t say is that so long as those four or more countries represent a certain percentage of the EU population. That’s the figure I’m missing and I’m sorry for this point being worthless because of that failure. But the thing I was reading pointed out that whatever the percentage is it means that France and Germany along with any other two member states could block. But not *any* four member states.

  18. Suzy Byrneon 17 May 2008 at 6:43 am

    I’m with Ben on this one – a) I’ve voted Yes so far and have loads to thank the EU for. I don’t like a lot of the administration, the summits, the QMV etc but am fed up with the ‘we’ll be wiped out by the rest’ arguments – Chicken Licken arguments. We’re a very small country that has made huge amounts of money from the EU to develop social and industrial/agricultural systems. Poland really needs the EU in the same way Ireland did 30 years ago and I’m enough of an internationalist to want to have a system in place to make sure that the lives of everyone in Europe improve in the same way ours did. We haven’t had a war in Europe in 60 years, you can travel around the place and get a job if you want to, equal pay, employment equality, portability of qualifications, and then well there’s always the Eurovision to be thankful for.

    b) COIR (aka Youth Defence, TruthTV, Hello Divorce, Goodbye Daddy) are running a No Campaign. Nuff said.

    Great post Darren – I wish more people were as interested in preparing to vote and I wish Lisbon was something that politicans could talk about in simple words in an attractive manner – however they are just talking in response to Libertas rather than explaining the bloody thing.

  19. Letteon 17 May 2008 at 10:27 am

    Im retarded when it comes to politics, I really still know nothing about it, but I have the vagueist of ideas about it and I think “Yes” too is the way to go, but I dont know enough yet and like you im not voting either way till I know exactly what its about! but fair play breaking it down 🙂

  20. Darrenon 19 May 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Thank to everyone for their comments and for their insights into this topic.

    @Andy Yes, I suspect a NO vote will just see it rejigged, reworded and retitled (The Dublin Treaty might be the propaganda laden title required to pass it).

    @BeachGirl Yes, mind-numbing! And you have every right to give your opinion. 🙂

    @Ben & @B’DumX2 You are not alone in your feelings. Many people are so appalled by the NO campaign that they are voting YES just out of spite. It’s such a shame that both sides of this debate are fraught with disaster.

    @Oz The sheer numbers in France and Germany mean that the rule about the four nations being able to block a decision relates only to them. Seemingly if most of Europe is in favour of something, it would be easy for France and Germany to align to block, but it would be very hard for them to force two further countries to join them. I won’t pretend to understand it, but this ‘clause’ seems to be well thought out and very valid.

    @Suzy Thank you for your comment. I agree, Europe has been great for us and the anti-Euro campaigners are simple using Lisbon to strike a blow. They need to come up with some valid arguments, not scaremongering.

    @Lette Again, you are not alone. I would ask that you try to gain some understanding of what’s involved before voting Yes, but it’s not that easy. It’s a messy situation.

  21. Lottieon 19 May 2008 at 1:40 pm

    I’m a NO voter for a number of reasons – firstly and most prevalently , I am stubborn. Haven’t we already said NO to the EU constitution? My interpretation of the Treaty is that it is simply a re-dressing of this proposed and rejected constitution. So they didn’t bite the first time? The “lets put some bells on it and see if they swallow it this time” Approach is an insult. NO means NO!

    Secondly, This is Ireland. I am proud to be Irish and value our individuality(so much so that I am actually taking a course to try get my tongue around the language). There is no doubt that Europe has been good for us but we must retain our own identity. Do we really want to become another US style merger?This is essentially moving one more step towards this united states set up.

    Thirdly – Our constitution is one of the most envied in the world. it provides enormous protection for it’s citizens. A real solid protection that is respected by the courts. Introducing this Treaty will reduce the ambit of our constitutional rights and throw the Jurisdiction of the courts into disarray and confusion for years to come. Instead of a solid hold on our destiny we will become a small voice in the din of a Greater Europe.

    Fourthly (and lastly for now as I have work to do) I will not walk blindly into the dark. This last minute dash overload of ill prepared “information” on the treaty has only had the effect to confuse people more. As Darren pointed out – the “independent information” booklet sent to all our homes does not even state the date of the Referendum!!!!

    (I’ll be back!)

  22. Markuson 20 May 2008 at 3:57 pm

    It is indeed a complex and weighty ‘little’ treaty, but in effect, and I hate to make sweeping statements, it increases the chances of a one superstate federal Europe with wide ranging powers. It’s the long term view you have to take on these matters, but if we vote Yes, I feel we will regret it in a much bigger way than if we vote No. Plus, as someone earlier pointedout, we already voted twice on Nice, because the No vote was unacceptable to the Yes camp in Brussels. How undemocratic is that, coming from the side that says this Treaty will further democratise the institutions therein?

    Plus this is the rehash of the failed and I stress the word failed, EU Constitution which was rejected by the good people of France and Holland some time back. Why on earth do these EU people keep pushing us to give the bureaucrats more power? We have a great economic unity now, why spoil it?

  23. Beach Girlon 21 May 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Markus, the bureaucrats’ feeding habits demand more “power.” I appreciate your open post and the efforts many folks are making to understand the re-presented EU Constitution.

    Another answer is that “bureaucrats” don’t know when enough is enough. They only know power.

    Good luck with your vote on June 12th…

    At least you get a vote and even if you vote no, it will be “rejigged” but think of the happiness of the bureaucrats – more mindless paper-work to do. Whoo-hoo!

    We’ll be keeping an eye out. We, across the pond, do pay attention to what is happening in the lands of our heritage.

  24. non-irishon 23 May 2008 at 11:47 am

    Please check out this site

    This referendum is not about Ireland only.

    Almost 500.000.000 people are citizens of EU member-states.
    They did NOT get a vote on the Renamed EU Constitution.

    You alone will have this right.

    Don’t forget them!

  25. One Manon 09 Jun 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I know what I’m about to say here has nothing to do with this post theme, but further reading of your blog makes me believe you may be interested in the subject (note:comment moved to this topic – Darren).
    I’m a portuguese citizen and, as you surely know, one of the 450 million europeans that were not asked about the constitutional treaty. The prime-minister of my country “forgot” his promise, that he would make a referendum on the matter, because the portuguese have never been asked anything about Europe. So, I decided to take this action:

    I ask you only to disseminate the blog among your friends and fellow-bloggers, so they can understand the frustration of the other european citizens.
    I’m not anti-european, but I believe that the only way to built Europe is with their citizens agreement and participation.
    Thank you for your time and attention.

  26. Simon Richardsonon 09 Jun 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Although my mother’s family came from Waterford, I am essentially a Brit who came to Ireland to get away from NuLabour. We’ve been here two years, and we have not the slightest regret.

    We chose this country as the most civilised in the English-speaking world, and as an earlier poster pointed out, the Irish constitution is the envy of the world. It’s a lot of the reason we’re here.

    But the biggest reason why we will go out and vote “no” is because we don’t trust the institutions of Europe. They claim to be about democracy, but the French and the Dutch have already rejected this thing. If we are good Europeans who respect the will of the people of Europe, we should respect the decisions of the French and the Dutch. And if we’re not good Europeans … why on Earth would we be voting “yes”?

    When membership of this European experiment was sold to the British back in the 1970s, it was called “The Common Market”, and was sold as a vehicle for delivering economic opportunity, not for replacing national government with federalism. I don’t want to live in the United States of Europe, especially as the government will be by the big population groups: the British, the French, the Germans. I want the “Common Market” back. It is the “Common Market” that has delivered the economic advantages, and that is all we need.

    The Lisbon Treaty won’t deliver a federal Europe. But it will be one step along the way, and it is obvious where the politicians are going with this.

    It is time to stop taking those steps.

  27. Darrenon 13 Jun 2008 at 11:00 am

    @Lottie & MArkus & BeachGirl Agreed, agreed, agreed and thanks for the comments.

    @Non-Irish I agree – we have a responsibility to all of the citizens of Europe to not waste this opportunity that as not been afforded to other countries. I was saddened this mornign to read the turnout is around 45%.

    @OneMan Happy to help.

    @Simon “The Lisbon Treaty won’t deliver a federal Europe. But it will be one step along the way, and it is obvious where the politicians are going with this.” I think this is a point a lot of people are afraid to discuss. It is very easy for politicians to deny it, but it is just a stepping stone. The steps should stop here!

  28. Big Bopperon 13 Jun 2008 at 8:12 pm

    the NO’s win!

    Good Job Ireland!


  29. Darrenon 16 Jun 2008 at 10:18 am

    @BigBopper Yay us!

  30. kosheron 18 Jun 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Is this correct below. If so, does it worry you?

    The Lisbon Treaty contains two features of a neo-liberal approach to central banking.

    It makes the ECB totally independent of any democratic influence. Article 245a states that:

    ‘It shall be independent in the exercise of its powers and in the management of its finances. Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and the governments of the Member States shall respect that independence’.

    This article helps to seal the ECB off from any democratic pressure from the people of Europe.

    Article 105 continues the practice of previous treaties by stating that ‘the primary objective of the European System of Central Banks shall be price stability’.

    The focus on fighting inflation to the neglect of promoting full employment or lower interest rates is one of the great canons of neo-liberal economics.

    Formally, the ECB takes a more extreme position than even the Bank of Japan or the US Federal Reserve.

    The former is mandated to maintain close contact with its government while the latter must promote ‘maximum employment’ and ‘moderate interest rates’ as well as ‘price stability’.

    In their latest press release, the ECB stated that one of the reasons for raising interest rates is that they feared pressure for higher wages from the unions.

    They are less concerned that high interest rates might deepen an economic slowdown and lead to increased unemployment.

  31. Darrenon 18 Jun 2008 at 1:44 pm

    @Kosher It may be true – I’m sure it’s not as black and white as all that though. Even still, it’s the politicians in Europe I’m more concerned about. The ECB is run by those who actually have qualifications in economics and accounting. It’s probably one of the better success stories within Europe. IMHO

  32. kosheron 18 Jun 2008 at 4:25 pm

    It seems to me like it leaves a wormhole for these well qualified economists to attack the only lifesaver the irish economy has, low corporate taxes. We have our own highly educated economists in Ireland too who have exibited that even a broken clock tells the right time twice daily, I fear for the other 22 hours though in all cases 🙂 I also fear that the Irish weather is more predictable than the economy, but lets not go into the ‘chaos theory’..
    I’m no expert in American taxation but I see there is both State and Federal corporate taxation, where Europe may be pushing for a fed setup for everything.

    I’m afraid that it all worries me.

    The question is there as to why we cannot be asked separately about each of the outstanding treaty issues (not all amendments of course).

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