And yet more unhelpful contributions to the Lisbon debate… d’Estaing speaks and speaks. June 26, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, European Union.
It’s hardly unreasonable to suggest that in politics it’s more than likely the statements of friends rather than enemies which puts the most pressure on a politician or enterprise.
Think of Michael Lowry and how his fate was effectively sealed by John Bruton’s crie de couer that he was… ‘…my best friend forever’… and as an aside, didn’t Charlie Landsborough have a song using more or less that formulation?
Charles Haughey did Bertie Ahern no favours by asserting that he was the most ‘the best, the most skilful, the most devious and the most cunning’…
And so Brian Cowen might well have reason to be dragging out the voodoo doll of Giscard d’Estaing left over from previous Euro encounters and plunging a knitting needle through it’s torso. For the king over the water of the EU has opined once more, and in such a way as to be most unhelpful to future progress.
Lara Marlowe reported this morning that:
RESTORING AN EU commissioner permanently to member states is simply “non-negotiable” in the aftermath of the Irish No vote on Lisbon, former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing maintains.
“It isn’t reasonable. There will be Irish commissioners, but by rotation,” he told The Irish Times in an interview yesterday. The commissioner issue is seen as key by many to making the treaty acceptable to voters in any new ballot. And Mr Giscard, who served as president of the convention that drafted the failed European constitution, angrily denounced as “dishonest” the repeated use of a quotation attributed to him by Irish No campaigners during the Lisbon referendum.
Then he contests the statement put about by many on the No side that he had “boasted that ‘public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals we dare not present to them directly’.”
According to Marlowe…
Mr Giscard’s next, unquoted paragraph, however, makes clear that he regarded such an approach as “unworthy” and likely to “confirm European citizens in the idea that the construction of Europe is organised behind their backs by lawyers and diplomats”.
Still, then he compounds the error by a certain Jesuitical intricacy when he says in interview with Marlowe that:
the passage quoted pertained only to France.
“The French had voted on a first treaty, and there was talk of a new one.
“[The government] wanted to tell them ‘it’s not the same’ when, in reality, the content was the same. So [my] argumentation was for the French. It had no meaning for people who had not voted on the text, like the Irish.”
How helpful. But not the sort of precise clarity that might help to assuage those who take the No position who argue that Lisbon was the same as the Constitution.
And returning to his points about the Commissioner, he just can’t resist shooting off his mouth…
“Everyone decided that there would no longer be permanent commissioners. It’s not negotiable, for anyone,” he said.
“Ireland is 1 per cent of the EU. You’re not going to have your own commissioner. It isn’t reasonable. There will be Irish commissioners, but by rotation.” Asked if the EU was not founded on the basis of unanimity, he responded: “Was founded on the basis of unanimity. We are evolving towards majority voting, because if we stay with unanimity, we will do nothing.
How very helpful!
“It is impossible to function by unanimity with 27 members. This time it’s Ireland, the next time it will be somebody else.”
Well, yes. That’s the point, isn’t it?
QMV is of course the means to streamline decision making, but it does no good to suggest that unanimity and consensus are past their sell by date. One of the strengths of the EU is that it was founded on precisely those areas.
And I find his blunt statement regarding his rationale for Ireland (and indeed all other members of the EU) shedding a permanent Commissioner to be dubious, not merely as regards the optics, but also the actuality.The 1% issue isn’t relevant to the Commissioner argument nor is this sentiment restricted to Ireland.
But I can’t help but feel that d’Estaing is marching to his own drum on these matters. He is an avowed federalist and as that vision of the future of Europe has become less popular his pronouncements on such matters have taken on a more and more hysterical edge. Indeed, he appears to be the living definition of a man who never saw a microphone he didn’t like, which is not good for him, not good for us and definitely not good for Europe, and not merely because I believe his views are wrong (in that I’m antagonistic to federalism), his interpretation of the direction of Europe is wrong and is also divergent from the views of most in Europe (to the best that can be ascertained), but also because his one man crusade is just that, representative of him and very few others. And yet it feeds directly into a discourse where it becomes a token of what is taken to be a broader view… A little respite from his thoughts would be no harm.