Now that the Irish have been given a few meaningless promises* and told to stop being naughty boys, it is worth reflecting on it all and remembering what they will be voting on. It will, of course, be exactly the same text that they rejected last June, since to change anything would require re-ratification in all the other countries of the EU. It strikes me, and I don't doubt it will strike the Irish people, that arrogance, bullying and belittlement are not the best ways to win an argument, but that is how Brussels works. What real democracy, be it a country or any other form of institution, would introduce a new Constitution by show of hands among a few oligarchs, against the will of the people? We have words for states that do that, we call them tyrannies, rogue states, despotic and undemoctratic and we call upon them to set their people free. But the EU does exactly that. What true democracy has a puppet parliament** with no power, where it is hard even to speak and where dissent is not tolerated (specifically, where you may be forbidden from representing the people who voted for you), and in what kind of democracy is power vested in an unaccountable body of appointed bureaucrats, most of whom have failed out of democratic politics through corruption or incompetence?
Let's have a look at this Lisbon Treaty thing, and see why it's so wonderful that we must not be allowed to reject it.
The Treaty on European Union shall be amended in accordance with the provisions of this Article.
1) The preamble shall be amended as follows:
(a) the following text shall be inserted as the second recital:
‘DRAWING INSPIRATION from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of
Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable
rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law,’;
(b) In the seventh, which shall become the eighth, recital, the words ‘of this Treaty’ shall be
replaced by ‘of this Treaty and of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,’;
Lucid, snappy, inspiring stuff, I think you'll agree. Principles you could be proud to live by and would die to defend.
The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy,
equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism,
non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men
Not bad as an idea. It isn't true, of course, but it would be great to achieve it. It sounds a nice place to live. But it wasn't founded on those principles and those in charge are not interested in them as such. And when they do apply them they won't be asking you what it means, they will simply tell you, and you will be left saying 'but...but...'
2. The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without
internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with
appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the
prevention and combating of crime.
This is quite hilarious, and typical of much of the treaty, 'to those who want free trade and open borders we promise free trade and open borders, and to those who want to keep foreign goods, workers and immigrants out, we promise that as well. There is no contradiction here at all...'
(b) the words ‘this Treaty’ and ‘the present Treaty’ shall be replaced by ‘the Treaties’, the verb,
where applicable, shall be put in the plural and any necessary grammatical changes shall
be made; this point shall not apply to the third paragraph of Article 182 and to
Articles 312 and 313;
Can you see a yellowing manuscript version of this on display in a glass case at the British Library in two hundred years time, visited by generations as yet unborn offering grateful thanks for the blessings the foresight of its authors bestowed on them? No, I thought not. It is deliberately designed to be incomprehensible. Yes, you can wade your way through the other treaties mentioned, cut and paste the amendments and try to work out how the result might be interpreted. But there's an awful lot of this, most of the treaty in fact, and what I just quoted is one of the easy bits. How many people are actually going to try to understand it?
10) In the second recital, the word ‘countries’ shall be replaced by ‘States’
A tiny thing, it seems, but I have been saying for years that we mustn't forget we are still countries, soveriegn nations, and the commission and the whole apparatus of Brussels are bureaucrats at the service of those nations. Words are very powerful and it's a short step from 'states' to 'united states.'
1. When the Treaties confer on the Union exclusive competence in a specific area, only the
Union may legislate and adopt legally binding acts, the Member States being able to do so
themselves only if so empowered by the Union or for the implementation of Union acts.
Only the Union has power to legislate in many areas, and national (democratic) Partliaments may only legislate when the Union says so and under the conditions it lays down. Notice also that it does not even recognise that it's authority to legislate has been given by national governments; it says it derives from the treaties. It is the letter of the treaties that matters, not any kind of democratic principle.
There is much, much more- I have barely started- describing how more and more power will be taken by the unelected commission and the ECJ, which is a political court, and by other bodies including the Councils of Ministers. Most (but not all) of the members of the Councils of Ministers are indeed elected politicians, but by taking decisions in Council they don't have to justify them to national Parliament, whose role should be to hold them to account, and, because the treaty allows for binding decisions to be taken by majority rather than by unanimity, a Minister can easily find legislation forced on him which neither he, nor the government he represents, nor the Parliament that represents the people of his country, can do anything about.
The Lisbon Treaty is not a Constitution, but it does create a Constitution. It does not create an EU army but it provides for the creation of one (The EUFOR already exists and is not answerable to national governments, but it's a bit of a joke. However, the conversion of it into a real EU army would, according to the Lisbon Treaty, be in the hands of the Commission and teh Councils, not of the national governments, who might be unable to stop it, and unable to control what it did once it was created) . It creates an EU foreign minister which will effectively mean the end of British foreign policy and independent action (in fact he already exists, and has for some time, even though the treaty creating the position has not been ratified). It will create a President with a fixed term of office. He is unlikely to have much power- the Commission won't allow it- but he will be very useful to them as a symbol. There was originally some talk of having an elected President, but it was soon realized that we might not choose the right person, so the governments of the countries that matter will just get together and give the job to someone who's owed a favour.***
* Jens-Peter Bonde says here (scroll down) that all the 'guarantees' given to Denmark at the time of the Maastricht treaty have since been breached, and they were framed in a much more formal fashion than those offered now to the Irish.
** Cometh the hour, cometh the man- it is more than possible that if Parliament had an important function, rather than a self-important one, great men and women, true leaders, would emerge to perform those functions. On the other hand, possibly not.
*** Since before Tony Blair became Prime Minister, long before the post of President of the EU was ever seriously mentioned, I have been boring people in the pub by saying that what he really wanted was to be that President. I wish I'd had a few bob on it back then.