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Will the Lisbon Treaty vote change anything?

category national | anti-capitalism | opinion/analysis author Tuesday March 25, 2008 22:51author by Chekov Feeney Report this post to the editors

Last year, the EU Constitution was defeated in referendums in France and the Netherlands. Europe’s governments quickly got together and rewrote the constitution as an incredibly complicated list of amendments to existing treaties. Together these amendments make up the “Treaty of Lisbon.” Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the president of the Convention on the Future of Europe which did much of the ground work in drafting the constitution, has concluded that “the difference between the original Constitution and the present Lisbon Treaty is one of approach, rather than content”.

By redrafting the constitution as amendments to existing treaties, most of Europe’s governments were able to avoid holding referendums and instead rely upon the formality of parliamentary approval. Now, the only country to hold a referendum will be Ireland.

The Lisbon treaty will give the EU the right to set policy in a broad range of new areas. It will also redistribute voting and appointment rights among the participating governments in a way that is more closely aligned to each country’s population, effectively reducing the Irish government’s voice. It will further remove each country’s veto over a range of policy areas.

By centralising more functions, and introducing slightly more balanced and efficient decision making, the Lisbon Treaty represents another small step towards a European Super-State. A large number of groups have expressed opposition to the Lisbon treaty on the grounds that the emerging European state erodes Ireland’s national sovereignty. While the treaty undoubtedly erodes the Irish government’s sovereignty, it is a sovereignty freely surrendered. Not only every government, but every single mainstream political party in the country has supported every single European treaty.

Even those who began as fringe opponents of European integration, such as the Green Party, became supporters as soon as they got a sniff of power. Similarly, throughout Europe, governments of all stripes have repeatedly signed treaties surrendering some of their sovereignty to the EU. If Europe’s governments really represent the people, then European integration has their sovereign backing.

Europe’s democratic deficit does not lie between the sovereign governments and the super-state; it lies between the people and their governments. The EU is an arrangement between Europe’s business and political elite. They negotiate treaties to their mutual satisfaction and nothing trifling like the people’s opinions will be allowed get in their way.

When constitutional hindrances force them to have a referendum in some country or other, and they somehow manage to lose, they simply repeat it until they get the right answer, as happened in Ireland when the Treaty of Nice was rejected, or else they redraft the agreements to avoid the vote altogether – as is now the case with the Lisbon Treaty.

EU treaties, especially Lisbon, are long and complex, and popular knowledge of the intricate workings of EU institutions is almost non-existent. Public debate on the treaties has been singularly bad at informing the public about the realities of the EU – with political leaders choosing to focus on emotive appeals to high-minded ideals rather than the plans for the deregulation of public services or any of the actual contents of treaties.

In such a context, the idea that Europe’s governments are expressing the democratic will of their people becomes meaningless. In reality, from its inception, the EU has been driven by Europe’s industrialists and their desire for a large tariff-free “common market” for their products.

The Lisbon treaty shows their continuing imprint, with dozens of amendments calling for further ‘liberalisation’ of markets in goods and services. This is not to say that the European treaties are entirely devoid of social content. The struggles and campaigns of workers throughout Europe have, over the years, compelled Europe’s leaders to include a social component in their treaties.

Some of these social elements, such as health and safety and rights-based legislation, have been helpful in workers’ campaigns for decent conditions in backward regions such as Ireland. However, in general, the clauses about social matters in EU treaties tend to be assertions of basic rights, at such a level of abstraction that they have little beyond rhetorical value.

The EU treaties are still primarily a rulebook dictating how Europe’s capitalists should act in their dealings with one another. The Workers Solidarity Movement will be campaigning for a No vote in the Lisbon referendum. However, we do not object to the loss of sovereignty that the treaty entails nor do we worry about the Irish government having less voting rights.

We oppose the idea that Europe should be shaped by an unaccountable elite. We reject the idea that Europe should be built as a hyper-competitive capitalist market place. We oppose the attacks on public services implicit in the treaty’s calls for liberalisation.

Most of all, we reject the arrogance and contempt that Europe’s ruling class shows for the masses, in claiming popular support for their alliances through referenda which serve only as sad caricatures of democratic decision making. However, while a big No vote might indicate that a large number of people are opposed to the arrogance of our political elite, by itself it means little.

The Irish government and EU will figure out a way to get around it. In the long run, in order to oppose the power of Europe’s capitalist elite, Europe’s people need to organise themselves internationally, through trade unions, political groups and other voluntary organisations. We must provide alternative visions of Europe’s future. At the same time as opposing our current leaders, we must try to build a new Europe from below – a genuinely democratic Europe based on socialism, mutual aid and international solidarity.

author by iosafpublication date Wed Mar 26, 2008 21:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The firs EU constitution by Giscard fell down on 5 points none of which have been addressed in the Lisbon rehash.
There was no & still is no -

* right to a job.
* right to a house.
* right to self-determination.
* right to pension.
* clause of automatic expulsion of any member state which slips further from liberal democracy & becomes like a d-i-c-t-a-t-o-r-s-h-i-p.
which considering almost all of them have been before in the recent past is not so silly to presume they could be again..,

The absence of a right to self-determination disallows the consideration of Serbia & Kosovo in a future EU a simple result of the creation of the "protectorate" of Kosovo which now that I've come to think of it compromises the vision of the original Treaty of Rome of a Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Urinal as well as rubbishing the rights of minority populations within the EU as defined now pursuing their further nationalist agenda.

I liked when you got rhetorical in the third last & penultimate paragraphs Chekov. Very good how you told them what we won't stand for.

author by B.O'Bpublication date Fri Mar 28, 2008 02:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Libertas opposes the Lisbon Treaty on the grounds that it impedes the operation of freely competitive markets. The Left 'No' campaigners oppose it because it promotes market liberalization. They can't both be right.

author by Scepticpublication date Sat Mar 29, 2008 19:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Iosaf the reasons you gave for the defeat of the polls in France and the Netherlands were not the ones that really defeated them. In the Netherlands it was fear of massive Muslim immigration from Turkey and in France concerns about the Services Directive and the philosophy behind it.

The rights to a house, job etc would not properly belong in the a multinational treaty – these would have to be addressed at a national level and in any case it is hard to see how they could be guaranteed except under soviet style system with a soft currency. Then people would leave the country if they could to get away from the accompanying poverty and repression.

Its quite reasonable for the EU to insist on democracy. It has been one of the reasons for the spread of democracy in Europe. That is as it should be to right thinking people.

author by iosafpublication date Sun Mar 30, 2008 21:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is Mr Feeney's thread & subsequent article in the current issue (102) of "Workers Solidarity" the organ of the "Workers Solidarity Movement"in Ireland. http://www.wsm.ie/story/3674
I wrote about the referenda on the EU constitution as written by V.Giscard d'Estaing, in Spain, France, Netherlands & Luxembourg, both before and after their respective votes in the year 2005 on this newswire as elsewhere in both cyberspace & hard copy recycled "cat litter suitable" pamphlets. I might even have done a few graffiti stencils like the illustration at this link http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/may2005/europe.jpg but all these contributions have long gone their respective ways of; being accessible only through the indymedia search engine or Google, forensic reconstruction of cat litter or careful fresco-restoration style peeling off of Barcelona's council anti-graffiti grey paste.

If you want to discuss the article above then you address your concerns to Mr Feeney, not me. If you want to argue with me on the reasons or consequences of the "No!" votes in France & The Netherlands and the slimmest "Yes!" vote of 76,49% of 42,43% participation of 34,692,278 voters in Spain, (the participation was below 50% and saw the highest abstention in the history of that state) :- then do so at the appropriate articles. But I don't think it's relevant to the Irish Lisbon vote now. I had previously identified 7 issues not 5 of difficulty with Giscard d'Estaing's proposals. The extra 2 to those I push now, were no "God clause" (a concession to the RC church) & no right to health care. I don't have to push "health care" in epistles to the Irish, do I? Previously during the negotiations of the Catalan statute of autonomy which even our great Chomsky mistakenly believed would not be neutered by Madrid, I had not brought too much attention to the lack of proper mechanism to facilitate increased autonomy our new statehoods in the EU. However, in view of Scotland and the Basque Country's parliaments wishing to pursue referenda on such issues in the next four years, that is now clearly a problem. As for why workers move and the role Europe and her institutions play in same in conjunction with the role multi-national corporation relocation options play in the EU and beyond; I'd merely remind most people that as a speaker of many European languages and a worker who has lived in several states, I feel more European than many MEP's, and rightly - I have to and had to fill out the tax forms, visit the health centres, get through the red tape & at no stage do I our the other few million "true Europeans" find situations which reflect the social framework aspirations of the Treaties of Rome, Maastricht, Shengen, Nice or the Lisbon declarations on full employment & social welfare support systems. I know about Europe because I'm a European. Maybe I'm not the best person to tell someone from Offaly or Opsala why they should vote thinking in their local issues on EU referenda. But neither are Eurocrats who have never stood in line to jump through the hoops & lived the ridiculous consequences of lessened enfranchisement in their new home states & increasing complications on return to their home states. The European Union and its predecessor entities might have allowed for many million Erasmus students to its psychological & trans-cultural benefit but it still hasn't even found common frameworks for the recognition of educational standards, qualifications or disciplines. I sometimes joke that only the Europeans (meaning the people who have lived at least 7 years in Europe outside their home state) should be allowed vote for Europe. & you are mistaken in believing there are concrete guarantees on member states holding the democratic contract.

Now don't flare Mr Feeney's thread. Just get yourself a copy of the current issue of "Workers Solidarity" and using it as a prop - go talk to your fellow Irishmen and Irishwomen about why they should vote No! and any earthly reason they should vote "Yes!".

author by 5h4mr0(kpublication date Wed Jun 04, 2008 16:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Am I the only one that has noticed that if the referendum is passed, then this will be the last time that the government ask for our ratification on EU treaties?

We're currently the only voting population in the EU that is trusted to ratify treaties and this is proposed to be removed.

Yes and No camps are arguing about what may or may not happen. This is one thing that WILL happen if it is passed and yet I've not heard one mention about it in the media.

Related Link: http://inanerambings.blogspot.com/2008/06/sneaking-under-lisbon-treaty-radar.html
author by euromanpublication date Wed Jun 04, 2008 22:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Am I the only one that has noticed that if the referendum is passed, then this will be the last time that the government ask for our ratification on EU treaties?"

Yes, my friend, you are. You are either a supremely enlightened genius or, well, something quite different. Each amendment to the EU treaties has been and will continue to be ratified by each member state in accordance with its own laws and procedures. In our case, the Crotty judgement requires that this be done by referendum.

author by martin Luther - private guypublication date Tue Jun 10, 2008 23:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Straight Irish men and women. Please do our european continent a favor and vote NO to the lisbon treaty.

I ask your help for us all from germany. Most people in the 27 country's are NOT AGAINST the european union but AGAINST an EU of the big busineses. Against an antidemocratic not even to say a faschist EU which do not care about their people. Wich do not care about our children and which do not care about peace.

They only care about foreign ressources which they want to "secure" for europe by means of war if neccessary.

They want send our children into death, just to secure their profits.

Again, good people of ireland. Remind your history as a strong and free nation as well as remind your responsibility for other european nations who dont have the opportunity to decide.

God bless you..

author by Assholepublication date Wed Jun 18, 2008 21:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Your article on why we should vote no to this treaty cites absolutely nothing as regards treaty content. Essentially what you are saying is that people should vote no to "stick it to the man". Your argument is basically non-existent. Why don't you just buy buy yourself a Slipknot CD and go around dressed in black? To me it beats stifling the progress of what has been the greatest force for peace and prosperity in human history.

author by Scepticpublication date Thu Jun 19, 2008 21:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

See this thoughtful contribution to the Dáil yesterday by Michael D. Higgins on the social floor and its uniqueness in the globe - the problem with you people is that you don't know how good you have it:

"It is important in terms of the future that we do not lose what we already have. The Labour Party is part of the Party of European Socialists and subscribes to the values articulated by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and others. The PES has emphasised the importance of having a region in world politics where there is a social floor. That is the distinction. This is not only about Europe being able to compete with every other region; it is about there being one region in the macro-political space of world politics after the unipolar moment which accepts a social floor and fundamental rights, sustainable development and takes as its aim the reduction of world poverty, makes a specific commitment in regard to climate change and so forth. These are important principles.

All I am saying, with no sense of recrimination, is that it is very important that that which was there is not lost in respect of the future shape of Europe. I said earlier that this is a European issue and not just an Irish issue. That is the exciting version of Europe. It would not be appropriate if across Europe were to be amplified the politics of fear, distortion and downright untruths that was depicted here on posters. No one should be able to blast their way into the decision moment of a referendum. If all the little right-wing groups from Austria to the United Kingdom Independence Party received a voice we would have a fearful Europe that is indistinguishable from the very thing they opposed, namely, a country always accepting international policy and the logic of a war on terrorism. It should have been understood, and I hope it will be, that foreign policy and defence - not going to war in the interests of peace - these things alone make up the definition of a peaceful region in world politics. That is totally different from a bloc that has declared a war on terrorism, that identifies enemies and axis of evil around the world. That was the choice, nothing else."

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