Irish Times: “Lisbon would turn Ireland into a province”

Irish Times  article, Friday 16 May
 
VOTE NO TO LISBON AND REJECT EUROPEAN FEDERAL STATE

Lisbon would  turn Ireland into a province or region of an EU superstate and make us citizens of it first rather than of the Irish Republic
 
by Anthony Coughlan
 
The push to turn the European Union into a superpower with many of the features of a Federal State goes back to World War 2, when the continental imperial powers, France, Germany, Italy, Holland and Belgium, experienced the trauma of defeat and occupation.  After 1945 they found themselves much diminished in a world dominated by the USA and USSR.
One response of their political elites was to decide that if they could no longer be Big Powers individually on their own, they would seek to be a Big Power collectively. This is not the full story of European integration, but it is perhaps the most important part of the story. 

The Lisbon Treaty is the constitutional culmination of the federalist project which has been the political dynamic of European integration ever since the Schumann Declaration of 1950 proclaimed the European Coal and Steel Community to be “the first step in the federation of Europe”.

The EU commemorates that Declaration on  9 May each year – Europe Day.  Fifty years later, in 2004, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt proclaimed the EU Constitution to be “the capstone of a European Federal State”.
When the French and Dutch rejected the EU Constitution in their 2005 referendums, the Prime Ministers and Presidents decided to give the EU the constitutional form of a Federation indirectly rather than directly.

This the Lisbon Treaty does by amending the two existing European Treaties instead of replacing them entirely  by a formally titled Constitution. But the legal-political effect is the same.

THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT WE WILL VOTE ON 

The first sentence of the Amendment which the Government is asking  to insert into the Irish  Constitution provides that the State may ratify the Treaty of Lisbon and “may be a member of the European Union established by virtue of that  [Lisbon] Treaty.”  

This sentence shows that the European Union which would be established by the Lisbon Treaty, although having the same name, is constitutionally and politically a different Union from that which we are currently members of, which was established by the 1993 Maastricht Treaty.

The second sentence of the Constitutional Amendment would then give the constitution of this post-Lisbon Union supremacy over the Irish Constitution:


“No provision of this  [Irish] Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by membership of the European Union referred to Š or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said European Union or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the treaties referred to in this section, from having the force of law in the State.”
This post-Lisbon EU would have the constitutional form of a supranational European Federation – in effect a State – in which Ireland and the other Member States would have the constitutional status of provincial or regional states.

From the inside the Union would look like something based on Treaties between States. From the outside it would look  like a State itself.  This constitutional revolution in both the Union ands its Member States would be brought about by four legal steps which are set out in the Treaty, as they were in the previous EU Constitution:

Firstly, Lisbon would give the post-Lisbon Union full legal personality separate from and superior to its Member States, so that it could act as a State in the international community of States, sign Treaties with other States in all areas of its powers, have its own political President, Foreign Minister(High Representative), diplomatic service, embassies and Public Prosecutor, and make most of our laws.

Secondly, Lisbon would abolish the European Community which we joined in 1973 and which still exists as part of the present EU, and replace it by the new Union (Art.1 TEU). 


Thirdly, it would give the new Union a unified constitutional stucture so that all areas of government would come within its aegis either actually or potentially(Art.4 TEU, Arts.1-6 TFEU).  The only major feature of a fully developed Federation which the EU would then lack would be the power to force its Member States to go to war against their will.

SUBORDINATING THE IRISH CONSTITUTION TO THE EU CONSTITUTION   

Finally, Lisbon would make us all real citizens for the first time of this post-Lisbon Union, rather than our being notional or honorary EU “citizens” as at present(Art.9 TEU).

One can only be a citizen of a State and all States must have citizens. As real EU citizens we would owe it the duty of obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority over and above our obedience and loyalty to Ireland and the Irish Constitution and laws.
We would still retain our national Irish citizenship, but our new dual citizenship post-Lisbon would not be citizenship of two different States, but rather of the federal and regional/provincial levels of one state, as is normal in such classical Federations as the USA, Federal Germany, Switzerland and Canada. 

The Irish Constitution would remain – just as the various states of the Federal USA still retain their constitutions –  but it would be subordinate to the EU Constitution in any case of conflict between the two. 

One indicator of the constitutional change which Lisbon would bring about is that Members of the European Parliament, who under the present Treaties are “representatives of the peoples  of the Member States brought together in the Community”, would become “representatives ofthe Union’s citizens in the post-Lisbon EU(Art.14.2 TEU).  

Another is that the European Council, the summit meetings of Prime Ministers and Presidents, would become an EU institution for the first time, legally bound to forward the interests of the Union, not of the national Governments or electorates concerned, so that its acts or its failing to act would be subject to judicial review by the EU Court of Justice(Art.13 TEU).

Couple these constitutional changes with the power-political changes which Lisbon would bring about and it is clear that the Lisbon referendum confronts the Irish people with a momentous choice.

The most important power-political change is that Lisbon would base law-making in the post-Lisbon Union primarily on population size.

 This would double Germany’s relative voting strength on the Council of Ministers from its present 8% to 17%. It would increase the voting weight of France, Britain and Italy from their present 8% to 12% each and it would halve Ireland’s weight from 2% to 0.8%.(Art.16.4 TEU)
As well as our being deprived of a voice on the EU Commission, the body which proposes all EU laws, for five years out of every 15, a little noticed feature of Lisbon’s provisions is that when it comes to our turn to have an Irish Commissioner, we would  lose the right to decide who he or she would be. Henceforth Ireland would be able to make “suggestions” only, for the new Commission President to decide(Art.17.7 TEU). 
It is surely a major historical moment by any standard: this attempt to turn four million Irish people and nearly 500 million Europeans into real citizens of a real EU Federation, without most of them being aware of it, and without any but us Irish being allowed to have a direct say on it.  

If Lisbon is ratified it is bound to lead to major democratic reactions across Europe when people discover that their national independence and democracy have been filched from them. That is why the best course for the Irish people is to vote No to Lisbon on 12 June, as the French and Dutch did to its virtually identical predecessor, for their own sakes and for Europe’s.
_______
Anthony Coughlan is secretary of the National Platform EU  Research and Information Centre, 24 Crawford Avenue, Dublin  9;  Tel.: 00-353-1-8305792;   Web-site: nationalplatform.org

Freagraí: 4

  1. Hello,

    You Irish people have now the destiny of freedom and démocracy in your hands. You see, you are not alone, we support you.

    Dear Irish friends and friends of Europe,

    I am a citizen of a EU member state. In my country, we have not been allowed to vote on the future of Europe. You, our friends in Ireland, alone have this right and are called to vote on the “Lisbon Treaty” on June 12th.

    I reject this Treaty as undemocratic in conception and in content. Please, vote NO on this Treaty for me as a first step to building a common social, ecological, democratic and peaceful Europe.

    seen on http://www.irish-friends-vote-no-for-me.org/index.php?cccpage=sign_petition&set_language=en

  2. As an Irishman of the diaspora (all four of my grandparents were of Irish descent) I am vitally interested in the present and, especially, the future of my home land. This issue of the Lisbon Treaty frightens me to death! I’m afraid that too many of my brothers and sisters do not realize that the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is in effect a decision equal to new elections in Ireland. The decision on ratifying the Lisbon Treaty is – upon transferring the current powers of the nation state of Ireland to the federal state in Brussels – it is a decision on accepting or rejecting the permanent construction of A NEW FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND PARLIAMENT OVER IRELAND. To do so will be to utterly discard on the rubbish heap of history all the sacrifices of our ancestors, both the suffering against British oppression and the fighting for freedom in which so many lives were lost.

    This is a crucial time in Irish history – a time when you/we will decide whether to march on under your/our own strength and character and leadership or to surrender your/our rights, lives, and fate to others who have, upon every past opportunity, either turned their backs on Ireland in her need or swooped in to take advantage of her riches. Which is exactly what is happening now. Ireland (God bless her forever!) has risen, by her own strength of character and moral fortitude and by God’s kind grace, far above her past of subjection and base poverty to a point where she is a jewel in the crown of Europe and the world. Ireland has earned all her scars and medals of valour and has come into her own – at last. (One might quote of Ireland as well, “Free at last, free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”)

    And now, in the time of finally enjoying the fruits of our hard-won, blood-bought freedoms and successes, Ireland considers handing over her self-mastery to yet another foreign dictator! God forbid it! Let Ireland be Ireland, not some small dot on the EU map. Let Ireland be Ireland, not another chattel within another kingdom – for such is the becoming EU/EC. Never forget the sacrifices made by our (OUR) grandparents for the possibility of self-rule for Ireland. We are Ireland! We are not Europeans – we never have been. We were at best pets, at worst slaves of Europeans. Ireland has suffered too long to throw away her freedom and self-sufficiency on yet another European master race. We are Ireland!

    Look long and hard at America and learn from her mistakes. Under her own power, the United States stood together by choice. Today, we have given up the idea of mutually beneficial partnership among the member states and have become subjects to a dictatorial Federal Government who seeks to rip our choice from us – from freedom of religion to freedom of choice to freedom of speech. American is becoming what the EU would march straight into, from the beginning.

    Ireland, my Ireland, whom I learned to pray for and to love from my mother’s knee and my father’s stories, remember the source of your strength in your tortured past – return to your faith and your moral sense of self. God lead you through 700 years of tribulation and abject slavery. Your/our sense of Irish identity apart from that of the rest of the world kept us unified and alive during years of deprivation and attempted genocide. Please, please, please don’t give all that up now for a new, stronger master.

    We, the children of your diaspora, are counting on you to safeguard our heritage and our home. Guard and keep them from another outsider who seeks to steal and destroy our culture. We are counting on you. Please don’t let us down. Remain independent and free and self-governing. Please.

    We are Ireland!

  3. After the so-called EU Constitution was refused in most countries where people really were asked to vote on – and all where a real political debate was held – EU is trying to pass the same absurdly complicated stuff again, carefully avoiding people to vote it… in all countries but Ireland.

    Just for this -if not for many other good reasons – please say NO and force EU technocrats to come back to the basics of Democracy.

    Many countries have simple and sound rules that their people can understand and approve, why is EU the only place where we’re told this is too complicated for normal citizen and we should let it discussed by political ‘elites’ then blindly approve their enlighted choices ???

    Europe used to be a vision of free countries sharing common values with their people willing to build things together… not about a bunch or technocrats and lobbyists seeking workarounds to european (legacy ?) democratically elected parliaments through cryptic technical regulations they’re the only ones to generate/understand/apply !

  4. traight 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..

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