[27/05/2005] False statements about EU Constitution

EU CONSTITUTION: TWO SERIOUS FALSE STATEMENTS IN TODAY'S IRISH TIMES

- Statement by Anthony Coughlan
__________________________________________________________

THE NATIONAL PLATFORM EU RESEARCH AND INFORMATION CENTRE
24 Crawford Avenue
Dublin 9

Tel.: +00-353-1-8305792

Friday 27 May 2005

Two significant false statements  on the EU Constitution in today's Irish
Times  - by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and that paper's European Correspondent,
Denis Staunton:

In his  article supporting the proposed EU Constitution in today's Irish
Times (P.16)Taoiseach Bertie Ahern makes one  quite inaccurate statement.
He says that the EU Constitution "includes significant new powers for
national parliaments."

It includes nothing of the kind.  The EU Constitution would remove over 60
further national vetoes on top of those already  removed by previous EC/EU
treaties. Half of these would be in new policy areas where the EU, not
National Parliaments,  would henceforth make the laws. The other half would
substitute qualified majority voting for unanimity in making EU laws in
relation to policy areas that are already with the EU.  This means that
National Parliaments and Governments would lose their power to decide
matters for some 60 policy areas.

The EU Constitution does not give National Parliaments a single new power.
Its Protocol on Subsidiarity provides that National Parliaments must be
informed in advance of proposals for new EU laws, and if one-third of  the
25 Pariaments  think that a particular proposal goes too far and they
object to it, the proposal must be "reviewed" by the Brussels Commission,
but the Commission and Council of Ministers can still go ahead with it.
Contrary to what Taoiseach Ahern claims, this is not a "significant new
power" for National Parliaments. It is not new, for National Parliaments
can object already.  It is not a power, for they can object all they like
and the Commission can go on ignoring them. What National Parliaments get
in this provision of the EU Constitution is  more like a new right to be
ignored.

If  the Taoseach wishes for a proper national debate on the proposed EU
Constitution, as he says he does, he should not himself make such
fundamental misrepresentations regarding what is in the Treaty.

Under the heading "No vote will not kill constitution" (P.11)the same
paper's EU Correspondent, Denis Staunton, makes a seriously inaccurate
statement which could have a fundamentally misleading effect on public
attitudes to what should be done following a posssible No vote to the EU
Constitution in France or Holland.  Mr Staunton writes:  "According to the
Constitution, if at least four-fifths of the member states ratify it by
November next year and the others are unable to do so, 'the matter will be
referred to the European Council' of EU leaders."

Contrary to what Denis Staunton states, this is not "according to the
constitution". The EU Constitution contains no such provision, and even if
it did, how could States be bound by the provisions of a document that is
not yet ratified?

What Denis Staunton misleadingly refers to as "part of the constitution" is
a political Declaration, No.30,  that is attached to the Constitution but
is not  legally part of it, and which was adopted by the Intergovernmental
Conference  that drafted  the final  Treaty-cum-Constitution. This
Declaration reads:  "The Conference notes that if, two years after the
signature of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, four fifths
of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have
encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter will
be referred to the European Council."

Note that the Declaration states that "IF Š four fifths of the Member
States  have ratified."  This is not an obligation on them to proceed with
ratification if one Member State has  said No and the others decide to
respect that No.  The terms of this Declaration, which is not of course
itself  a Treaty,  make quite clear that the decision by other EU States
to ignore  a possible No vote in France or Holland and to proceed with
ratification in other States as if  a French or Dutch No could be reversed
or over-ruled, is a purely political  matter -  without any legal force
behind it.  It would be an attempt by politicians, bureaucrats and
propagandists to bully the people of the country concerned to get them to
change their minds.

This is the kind of outrageously undemocratic  behaviour that Ireland's
political elite engaged in in this country when voters rejected the Nice
Treaty in June 2001.  When that happened, Taoiseach  Bertie Ahern could
have told his EU partners that he wished the ratification process to stop.
Instead he when to  the EU summit in Gothenburg the week afterwards to
apologise to them for the way the Irish people had voted, told them to
ignore that vote and to go ahead with ratifying the Nice Treaty, and that
he would re-run the referendum and get a different result  by means of
changing the referendum rules  and securing the help of other EU
politicians to threaten, bully and cajole the Irish electorate a second
time around.

French Prime Minister Raffarin has satated that there will be no second
vote in France - thereby  showing more respect for his people than
Taoiseach Ahern did for his - and showing also that he  is aware of what
the significance of a Treaty Declaration.

For his article Denis Staunton dredges up some Professor of Politics in
Edinburgh - presumably some Jean Monnet Professor? - to state, quite
falsely, that there is an obligation under international law for the EU
Member States to continue trying to ratify this Treaty when one State has
rejected it.

There is  no such obligation. Where could such an "obligation" come from?
The Declaration referred to is not an international treaty and imposes no
legal obligation whatever. It is a statement of intention in hypothetical
circumstances: namely, that the 25 Governments would discuss the matter if
four-fifths of EU States did not ratifiy the Treaty.  But that does not
amount to a requirement that they should go ahead with their own
ratifications while ignoring No votes in some countries, contrary to what
Mr Stanton and his Edinburgh Politics Professor state.  That would be a
political decision. It  would not be legally required.

It is surprising that such an experienced correspondent as Mr Staunton does
not seem to know the difference between a Declaration attached to a Treaty,
which is a political  statement but not legally binding as part of that
treaty, and a Treaty's substantive Articles and Protocols, which are
legally binding.  If Mr Staunton had enquired a little harder he might have
found someone properly qualified in international law who would have been
be able to tell him what was in the EU Constitution and what was not and
who could explain the legal/political weight that might attach to political
Delarations.

One suspects that Denis Staunton is merely echoing and seeking to drum up
support for the policy line now being pushed by the eurocrats of the EU
Commission and the many eurofanatics and eurobullies across the EU who want
to ignore a possible No vote by the people of either France or Holland in
their referendums, so as to keep their precious  Constitution project on
the road, from which they stand to gain so much personally themselves.

This is playing politics and pushing EU propaganda, not  good journalism.
It us unfortunate that so many European correspondents who "go native" in
Brussels seem unable to tell the difference.

Signed: Anthony Coughlan
(01)830 57902

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