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And speaking of that EU deal… July 30, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Union, Irish Politics.

We’re sort of thrashing around the issue in an interesting but not necessary conclusive manner here, but come the day come the news in the Irish Independent that: Our top EU post saved in new plan for Lisbon

Well, as Cian noted over on Irish Election, that may be news but it ain’t novel. For the outlines of the ‘new plan’ look surprisingly like those considered hitherto.

The Government is considering a second vote in autumn 2009 — but this time with assurances on a commissioner, abortion, taxation and neutrality.

The details? Well none really yet forthcoming, but:

The complex plan would involve extending the term of the current European Commission by several months. Irish voters would effectively be told their vote would save countries from occasionally losing their commissioner — if the Government goes down this route.

So what is this miracle of complexity?

The plan would involve:

– A European Commissioner for each country.

– A delay in the appointment of a new Commission.

– Written assurances of no interference on abortion, neutrality and tax.

– Some EU countries (not Ireland) losing even more MEPs next year.

Actually it doesn’t seem particularly complex to me, or at least no more complex than those famous one pagers that Albert Reynolds supposedly demanded on any single issue (wise man, I tend to agree despite my own wordiness that you can boil things down reasonably easily). Bar of course the delay in the appointment of a new Commission. And what about the idea that some EU countries will lose more MEPs next year. Presumably this is a function of the European elections being run under the Nice constraints rather than those of Lisbon. As regards the ‘written’ assurances, well, indeed. So reminiscent of Nice.

Still, a number of things are interesting. Firstly the timing:

After the resounding ‘No’ vote last month, Government and European figures now acknowledge the prospects of Ireland sorting out its stance on Lisbon before next summer appear remote.

And this is supported by some of the talk in Europe, as noted by Fionnan Sheahan:

When a wily old head like Jean Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister and Europe’s longest-serving leader, says as much, then his counterparts should sit up and listen.

“My sense of reality tells me that the Lisbon Treaty will still not be in force in the middle of 2009. I fear that the Irish people would view another referendum in the spring as a surprise manoeuvre,” he said in recent days.

Yeah, my ‘sense of reality’ concurs. In fact I think a referendum before 2010 would be a much better idea still, not least to give room for the Irish people to determine whether this ‘complex’ plan is sufficient to address their concerns. Which brings me to the second interesting point about it, or at least the report…

Irish voters would effectively be told their vote would save countries from occasionally losing their commissioner — if the Government goes down this route.

So, from being advised by the No campaign in the run-up to Lisbon that their vote would not merely deliver a better deal for Ireland but also send a message of solidarity across Europe the spin would be that now the Irish voter would be the saviour of representation at Commissioner level – and not merely, but also, there would be the instructive sight of the European Elections next year labouring under the Nice constraints to concentrate minds.

I don’t know. Sheahan notes:

If the Government is still going to put forward a second referendum — and it’s still a big ‘if’ — then the assistance of his European counterparts will be required.

But interesting noises from the deck of the Fianna Fáil ship. For at the Oireachtas European Affairs committee:

…former government minister Mary O’Rourke said it would be a “very foolish route we’re going if we think we can have another referendum”.

She believed that if the Lisbon Treaty was to be accepted, it would have to be “passed in some other fashion because a referendum won’t work”.

I wonder first is she on message, and if so what precisely that message is? And another intriguing comment at that forum:

Chairman of the Forum on Europe Maurice Hayes has staunchly defended the body against attempts to “scapegoat” it in the wake of the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty.

He wondered how it was that political parties could capture up to 85 per cent of the vote in a Dáil election, “but can’t get 50 per cent” in a vote on Europe.


He pointed out that the Yes campaign was 10 per cent ahead at one point. “Then the three political party leaders came out together and instinctively you would think it would go up, and the opposite happened.”

Yes, it’s a real puzzle, isn’t it? 😉


1. ejh - July 30, 2008

After the resounding ‘No’ vote last month ……the prospects of Ireland sorting out its stance on Lisbon…appear remote

Is there a raised-eyes smiley available?


2. Damian Hockney - July 30, 2008

Well indeed…the Mary O’Rourke ‘some other fashion’ is that most of it will be introduced anyway in some form or other. When the UK gained opt-outs from what was called the ‘Maastricht Treaty’ (it was actually the Treaty on European Union), I wonder if you remember John Major and his grisly ‘subsidiarity’ concept…the interesting point being that he sold this as a victory for Britain even though he and his government wanted to sign up for it anyway without the opt-outs and were quite happy with woolly concepts and effectively accepted some (but not all) of the measures being introduced by the back door. It was his backbenchers that forced the issue. The opt-outs were so woolly in spite of being spun as watertight that the EU almost immediately introduced some of the measures under things like health and safety legislation…Major had effectively given them the nod that he was selling it back home as a victory but that it was just a fudge – the EU took the message as an immediate green light and went ahead and introduced measures so fast, by-passing the opt-outs, that Major was forced to complain (again by his own backbenchers). Ireland is in the same position: the pro-Lisbon politicians want to sell this as a major victory for Ireland, that allowances have been made, and that “:plucky little Ireland”: has beaten the EU…the EU politicians will even be prepared to say something similar themselves…so of course ‘it has to be true’. A relatively tame media will also report it this way…just don’t fall for it, that’s all!


3. cactus flower - July 31, 2008

Surely there is not anything like the room for manoevre implied.
The Treaty needs unanimity to be adopted. It can’t get it unless Ireland accepts the Treaty as ratified by the other countries that have ratified already. The only possibility of adopting it would be a second Referendum in which it was voted for by a majority in Ireland. Any so called guarantees or statements would be non binding.


4. John Palmer - July 31, 2008

Cactus flower – “Protocols” added to treaties – sometimes designed to offer guarantees of one kind or another have the same legal force as the treaties themselves. In my view the Lisbon Treaty in no way threatens Ireland’s policies on neutrality, fiscal autonomy, special treatment for turf under carbon emmission controls, abortion, prostitution etc, etc etc. And I have never seen a convincing piece of textual exegesis drawn from the treaty which suggests otherwise. But if it takes additional guarantees of protocols reiterating these assurances – then fine. They can be added and put to a new referendum.
On the other hand I cannot help feeling how all of this escapes the real isues which should be debated with those on the left (including the republican left) about what Irish policy should be in the aftermath of the derailing of the Lisbon Treaty. The monied Declan Ganley is clear enough about what should happen: get closer to England as it re-negotiates its overall relationship with the European Union (going – I suspect – faster down the road of neo-liberal economic policies and US oriented foreign policy). But what of SF and the euro-sceptic Irish left? Do they have a credible policy to prevent a de facto realignment of the Irish state with a rump UK (maybe shorn of its Celtic nations)? Some on the hard left talk the talk about a United Socialist States of Europe (seemingly ignorant of the fact that this would imply a FAR greater degree of political and economic integration than anything contemplated by the EU.) But how to get from here to there? Marx excoriated those on the mid 19th century German left s who thought there was a way to German socialism which ignored actual process of German unification after 1848. Until they come with something remotely coherent on how to handle the fall out from denying 26 other countries the right to proceed to greater unification, the suspicion must remain that – whatever their rhetoric – their political role in reality is to act as a left cover for the deeply reactionary Ganley/Coir neo-liberal/fundamentalist alliance.


5. WorldbyStorm - July 31, 2008

I think John’s point about this points up the absolute necessity to be one hundred per cent sure about what we’re talking to. A protocol is binding (incidentally Damian the crucial point as regards your comment is whether those opt-outs covered the areas the EU was involved in and did actions by the latter breach them – some references would be handy). Is that what is suggested by the Independent? We simply don’t know until the proposals are put by government. But that’s still some time away.


6. ejh - July 31, 2008

Cover? I really wish John Palmer would cease quoting Marx as cover for the EU. It’s almost as objectionable as pretending that 26 other countries are being prevented from doing what they want when he knows full well that several of them would likely vote the same way as Ireland were they given the chance.


7. FutureTaoiseach - July 31, 2008

At first I thought Mary O’Rourke was being a good democrat in urging against a new referendum, but I was to be bitterly disappointed on hearing Lunchtime on Newstalk106 yesterday where she made clear she believed the Oireachtas should ratify a form of Lisbon with Protocols to cater for the concerns of the Irish people instead. That put what she said in a different and most disturbing context. The will of the people must be respected – and accepted – Mary. The Constitution invests Irish sovereignty in the Irish people, under the Constitution that your party introduced in 1937. Methinks Dev would turn in his grave to see what his party has become – treating with foreign powers to bargain away Irish independence. Tut tut.


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