The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre
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Thursday 11 December 2008
Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s hypocrisy in pretending to “respect” the people’s referendum vote on Lisbon is now evident, for not a jot or tittle of Lisbon will be altered when he forces the people to vote on it a second time next year.
Political Declarations or promises regarding future Treaties that are not yet even drafted will not alter a comma of the Lisbon Treaty.
If people vote Yes in Lisbon Two to exactly the same Treaty which they voted No to last June they will be changing the Irish Constitution so as to recognise the supremacy of the law of the new Union which Lisbon would establish over anything contrary, whether in the Irish Constitution or in political Declarations and promises that might be tacked on to Lisbon.
No political Declarations or promises about commitments and even Protocols in future EU Treaties can change Lisbon or the supremacy of the EU Court of Justice in interpreting that Treaty’s provisions. These will have come into force well before any further EU Treaty or Treaties will even be negotiated.
If the Irish media and public opinion allow themselves to be taken in by the kind of presentational trickery Taoiseach Cowen and his Government are now planning, they could be making themselves the laughing stock of Europe.
A promise by the 27 EU Governments that each Member State can keep a Commissioner permanently under Lisbon is valueless in the light of that Treaty’s provision that from 2014 Member States will lose their right to decide who their national commissioner will be.
For under Lisbon (Article 17.7, amended Treaty on European Union) a Government’s present right to decide would be replaced by a right to make “suggestions” only, for the incoming Commission President to decide (See notes below elaborating on this point).
Under the present Nice Treaty arrangements Member States would retain permanently their right to decide who their national Commissioner is - a right which they would lose under Lisbon.
The Nice Treaty requires that the number of Commissioners should be fewer than the number of Member States from 2009, but by an unspecified number to be agreed unanimously.
This requirement of the present Nice-based Treaties can be abided by, and Ireland and the other States can keep a national Commissioner permanently, by the simple expedient of reducing the number of Commissioners from 27 to 26 and permitting whoever holds the job of “High Representative for EU Foreign and Security Policy” - currently Spain’s Javier Solana - to attend Commission meetings instead of being formally titled a Commissioner from that State.
This can and should be done under the Nice Treaty. This would mean that the Commission arrangements would continue virtually unchanged from the present. Ireland woud retain a Commissoner permanently except in the unlikely event of an Irish person being given the even more important job of High Representative.
Taoiseach Cowen and his Government have deliberately sought to isolate and put pressure on their own people by failing to say after the Lisbon referendum last June that Ireland would not ratify Lisbon in view of the people’s No vote.
If the Taoiseach had done that, continued ratification by the other EU States would have been pointless, for Lisbon requires ratification by all 27 States before it can come into force for anyone.
Such a stand would have led to the Lisbon Treaty being opened and a chance created for a more democratic rather than less democratic EU through a better Treaty.
The prudent stand now for the Government and for the EU is to wait for the UK general election and the likely advent to office in Britain of a Conservative Government which will be committed to holding a referendum on Lisbon in the UK and recommending a No vote to it, as long as we Irish do not alter our No vote before then.
That would put paid to the attempted isolation of Ireland, which its own Government has connived at.
It would also give our fellow countrymen and women in Northern Ireland a chance to vote on this Treaty-cum-Constitution which would make them real citizens for the first time of an EU that would have the constitutional form of a supranational Federal State run on most undemocratic lines under Franco-German hegemony.
Anthony Coughlan Secretary