There is still a little time left for Ireland to foil this power grab by the Eurozone elite

“Ireland entered the euro in 1999 and lost control of the two vital monetary instruments: setting interest rates and setting currency exchange rates. Had Ireland remained outside the euro, its bankers would not have gained access to the euro zone’s vast and low interest borrowing opportunities. Without the outlandish credit available within the euro zone, the building bubble, the resultant government tax windfalls and Ahern’s, McCreevy’s and Cowen’s spending splurge would have been impossible. The country would not now be in receivership . . . For Ireland there has not been a shared and equitable European solution. The banks, mainly German, which lent rashly, are receiving a 100 per cent bailout. Not from those who borrowed, but from the Irish tax payer. Apart altogether from the unfairness of the imposed solution, it will not work, because it cannot.”
- Professor Edward Walsh, founding President, University of Limerick, Beal na mBlath oration, Irish Times, 22-8-2011

We need a public enquiry into the sheer civic irresponsibility and governmental incompetence of the politicians and senior bureaucrats who pushed the Irish State into the Euro area in 1999:

  • an area whose one-size-fits-all interest rate policy was set to suit Germany and France and had the effect of turning the “Celtic Tiger” boom into a bubble;
  • an area with which we did little more than one-third of our foreign trade, so that the subsequent falls in the dollar and sterling exchange rates have greatly added to our economic uncompetitiveness;
  • an area whose banking policy is decided by the European Central Bank, which told Messrs Cowen and Lenihan at the time of the blanket bank guarantee in September 2008 that no Irish bank must be let fail, so that the €30 billion debts of insolvent Anglo-Irish would be imposed on Irish taxpayers and the German, British and French banks which had recklessly lent to Anglo and the other Irish banks to stoke our property bubble would get their money back.

British Chancellor George Osborne stated in early August that the Eurozone should move towards a fiscal union, with supranational control on budgets, taxes and public spending in order to shore up the euro-currency, but that the UK would not be joining that.

This marks an important change in UK Government policy, which has sought since 1961 to be at the heart of the EU, sharing basic EU policy-making with Germany and France.

If the Irish State goes along with moves towards a Eurozone fiscal union, while the North stays with sterling in the UK, it must profoundly deepen the political-economic gulf between North and South in Ireland.

The Coalition Government in Dublin is now preparing to ratify the European Stability Mechanism Treaty for the Eurozone which Finance Minister Michael Noonan signed on 11 July, as well as the Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU Treaties which permits that, without a constitutional referendum.

The ESM Treaty commits Ireland “irreversibly and unconditionally” to contributing €11 billion in various forms of capital to the ESM Fund from 2013, with provision for regular capital increases thereafter.

This mechanism is seen by Germany and France as the way to establish a two-tier EU, with themselves effectively running an inner-core Eurozone, and the Irish State, if it remains with the Euro-currency, effectively reduced to being a permanent financial fiefdom of Germany and its allies.

This ESM Treaty is the first use of the “self-amending” Article 48.6 TEU of the EU Treaties which was inserted by the Treaty of Lisbon.

It is seen by the Fine Gael-Labour Government, as well as by its Fianna Fail predecessor, as a way round the restrictions on ratifying new EU Treaties without constitutional referendums here which were laid down by the Supreme Court in its 1987 Crotty judgement.

There is still a little time left for Ireland to foil this power grab by the Eurozone elite if our political leaders can summon the courage to serve the Irish people rather than themselves.

- Anthony Coughlan, Director, The National Platform for EU Research & Information. First published on Indymedia.ie

Ireland after it’s 2011 General Election

Statement from the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, March 2011

1. FIANNA FÁIL DOWN, FINE GAEL AND LABOUR STILL TO GO

One big party – Fianna Fáil -  that supported Ireland’s blanket Bank bailout, the EU/IMF stitch-up last December,  the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, the 1992 Maastricht Treaty which abolished the Irish púnt,  and every other step towards EU-integration over decades, bit  the dust in the February General Election. We must now wait some time to see the two other big parties that did exactly the same thing, namely Fine Gael and Labour, bite the dust also as they impose on us the savage rigours of the EU-IMF deal over the next few years.  This should open the way for the new political forces that were reflected in the success of the Independent TDs, the trebling  of Sinn Féin’s Dáil representation and the advent of the United Left Alliance, to become the genuine opposition force in Irish politics that is so obviously needed

2. IRISH LABOUR AS THE MUDGUARD OF FINE GAEL

If the Labour Party were really to act in the “national interest” which it prates so much about and in accordance with the programme it sought the votes of the people on, its leaders would let Fine Gael form a government on its own, with Fianna Fail and other support from outside.  Fianna Fail would not dare to vote against a Fine Gael minority government for several years, so that such a government would be quite stable.   Instead, as Sean O’Casey said of Labour at the time of the first Fine Gael-Labour Coalition of 1948-51: “Their posteriors are aching for the velvet seats of office.” Instead of Labour being the largest element in opposing the Fine Gael/Fianna Fail implementation of the EU/IMF stitch-up, Messrs Gilmore, Rabbitte, Quin and Howlin and Joan Burton have assumed Irish Labour’s traditional role of “mudguard of Fine Gael rather than advance-guard of the workingclass”!  It used be said that Labour struggles with its conscience, and Labour always wins. . . Except that on this occasion a handful of ageing Labour leaders were so desperate to get into office for their own benefit that there was not even the pretence of such a struggle.

Since 1948 Labour’s role in Irish politics has been periodically to revive Fine Gael from near terminal decline by putting it into office, simultaneously enabling Fianna Fail with virtually identical policies to revive itself in opposition. Thus the Irish Establishment could afford the luxury of having two big parties to champion its interests rather than one. Labour Ministers got big jobs, good salaries and pensions for their services, while the Labour Party was decimated in the subsequent election. This has happened on four occasions since 1951. The difference on this occasion is that Fianna Fail’s electoral defeat has been so great that it may not be able to recover in opposition. There is no real objective social basis for its continuance as a political party, now that the impact of the financial crisis and the huge increase in its vote has enabled Fine Gael to morph into becoming Ireland’s “natural” conservative party.

Whether this will actually happen depends on the non-Fianna Fail forces on the Opposition benches working together in the period ahead to make themselves into a cohesive, credible and radical opposition, cooperating  with one another at least on fundamentals.  It is inevitable that there will be a major reaction against Fine Gael and its Labour junior partner in the next general election, as they spend years as the local administrators of German-sponsored EU-IMF austerity.  The next election may also come about much sooner than five years because of the continuing national and international financial crisis.

3. THE EUROZONE FRAMEWORK OF IRELAND’S ECONOMIC CRISIS

The Irish State’s economic crisis stems fundamentally from its folly in joining the Eurozone in the first place in 1999, impelled by the longstanding uncritical Europhilia of the Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour parties and others. By abolishing the national currency at that time, Ireland adopted the currency of an area with which it did only one-third of its trade (i.e. exports and imports combined).  Another third of its trade was with the UK and the other third with the USA and the rest of the world.  Last year two-thirds of the Irish State’s foreign trade was still outside the Eurozone!  Moreover, joining the Eurozone led Ireland to adopt negative real interest rates at the height of the “Celtic Tiger” boom and thereby inflated the property bubble which has now burst, leaving both  the State and its State-guaranteed banks objectively insolvent.

The 10 EU Member States outside the Eurozone  – Denmark, Sweden, Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic etc.- have nothing like the Irish State’s problems. These EU Member States are thanking their stars these days that they avoided the course of folly that Ireland’s political elite pushed its people on to. A little thought will show one that abolishing the púnt was by far the worst decision ever taken by an Irish Government. It was far worse than the 2008 blanket Bank guarantee by Taoiseach Cowen and Finance Minister Lenihan, for if the Republic had not joined the Eurozone in the first place, there would have been no need for that guarantee.  It was the European Central Bank which insisted that it be given:  namely, that no Irish bank must be allowed to fail in case the German-French banks from which the Irish banks had borrowed, would not be paid back.

If we had stayed outside the Eurozone there would have been no ECB to bother us.  The Eurofanaticism which led Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour to push through the Maastricht Treaty and push us into the Eurozone initially has been the most outstanding historical delinquency of Ireland’s political Establishment. Yet deference to the EU is so ingrained in 26-County official and media opinion that many who should know better are too timid even today to recognize and draw attention to these obvious points.

There are calls for a public enquiry into the infamous blanket bank guarantee of September 2008 and why it was continued last September. More relevant and useful would be an enquiry into the folly that led the Irish State to join the Eurozone in the first place, from which the financial collapse and the bank guarantee have both stemmed.

4. SACRIFICING IRELAND’S CHILDREN TO HOLD THE EUROZONE TOGETHER : THE 24 MARCH EUROPEAN COUNCIL MEETING

We are now trapped like rats inside the Eurozone, although it is only a matter of time before the Eurozone breaks up and some or all of its Member States leave it and reestablish their national currencies, for its structural faults are irremediable.  The only question is how soon will this occur and in what circumstances – whether it will be done in an organised or disorganized fashion.  In the meantime Germany, with France holding on to its coat-tails, plans for Ireland and the other peripheral Eurozone countries a punishing regime of austerity and national asset sales that could go on for years.

On 24 March the European Council meeting of EU Prime Ministers and Presidents is expected to agree an amendment to the Lisbon Treaty to set up a permanent EU bailout fund from 2013 – the European Financial Stability Mechanism. Ireland will be expected to contribute to this, but it will not have retrospective effect or alleviate the pain for the Irish people of last December’s EU-IMF stitch-up.  The EU authorities are very anxious to avoid a referendum in any EU State on the establishment of this Fund even though it will entail an amendment to the EU Treaties. The EU Summit meeting will seek to push through this amendment by using the “self-amending provision” of the Lisbon Treaty (Article 48 TEU). Messrs Kenny and Gilmore will be under pressure to push it through in Ireland without a constitutional referendum on the grounds that it is only a minor technical change and does not increase the powers of the EU.
The Opposition TDs in Leinster House will need to consider a Court challenge to this likely course, if the incoming Government seeks to follow Fianna Fail’s policy of denying the Irish people a referendum on this EU Treaty change.  At the same time there is likely to be an attack on Ireland’s 12.5% Corporation Profits Tax rate and a scheme for a common cross-EU Tax Base which would fundamentally subvert Ireland’s attractiveness for foreign investors. The Common Tax Base idea, which the Brussels Commission is proposing, is a scheme for so-called “destination taxes”.  It envisages Corporation Tax being calculated centrally at EU level so that firms pay profits tax to the governments of the different countries in which they sell their goods, and not to the Government of the country where those goods are originally made.

The new Irish Government needs to coordinate its responses to the crisis with the governments of the other so-called PIIGS countries in the Eurozone – Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain – and resist the Franco-German dictation now taking place. This depends on Messrs Kenny and Gilmore overcoming the  decades-old habits of Irish deference and political kow-towing to the EU and our EU “partners”. It needs them to  show some political backbone and willingness to stand up for Irish interests.  Up to now Irish policy is to keep as far apart from the other PIIGS countries as possible. This is in line with the Iveagh House people’s policy of always seeing Ireland as being the “good boy” in the EU class, happy as long as it receives pats on the head for good behaviour from Franco-Germany!

5. HOLDING THE ECB TO RANSOM

The ECB has lent the Irish Banks some €150 billion. If the Irish banks all closed tomorrow morning, the ECB would not get its €150 billion back because that money is now in the system in Ireland. The ECB knows that Ireland’s banks have not got the money to pay it this vast sum. From the ECB’s point of view its best plan to recover the money it advanced to cover the reckless lending of the banks is to shift the burden of repayment on to the Irish taxpayers. Therefore the political and media suggestion that the ECB will close down the ATM machines so there will be no money in the system, is so much scaremongering to intimidate the public into agreeing to take on these debts it is not responsible for. The central issue at present is that the ECB wants the Irish State and taxpayers to take on the burden of paying this €150 billion back to the ECB as rapidly as possible, so that instead of the Irish Banks owing the ECB this vast sum of money, the Irish State/taxpayers will do so and will pay it back over years by flogging off the Banks themselves to foreign owners, selling off the NAMA loans at knockdown prices, privatizing State assets systematically and screwing Irish taxpayers for this purpose.

This is essentially what the EU/IMF Memorandum of Understanding commits the Irish Government to doing.  The Irish public needs to be warned that what its political leaders are planning is a massive fire-sale to foreigners of the recapitalized Irish Banks and State assets generally – the NAMA loans, Coillte, An Post, the ESB, Bord Gais etc. and Ireland’s natural resources, so that we can pay back the money the ECB is putting in  the Irish Banks, essentially in order to ensure that private banks in Germany, France and Britain do not suffer losses on their Irish operations. Until this fire-sale is completed, the ECB depends on us and we can in effect hold it to ransom.  Hence the new Irish Government should be in no hurry to comply with the ECB’s wishes.  It should act in accordance with the old truism: If you owe the Bank a million you are in trouble, but if you owe it a hundred million it is the Bank that is in trouble!  The ECB stood irresponsibly by while the German, French and British banks punted huge sums on the Irish property market for years and made big profits thereby.  As the Eurozone’s lender of last resort the ECB should now pick up the tab.  The Irish State needs to repudiate the horrendous private Bank debts that it has so foolishly guaranteed, if it is to be able to repay its legitimate sovereign debts and return to the international bond markets at an early date in order to borrow at reasonable interest rates.

6.  MONETARY UNIONS, FISCAL UNIONS, POLITICAL UNIONS

One cannot have an independent State unless it has its own currency, and with that control of either its interest rate or exchange rate policy, for these are fundamental  economic instruments for advancing a people’s welfare.  Those who fought for an Irish Republic historically took for granted that national independence meant that an Irish State would have its own currency and the related economic instruments.  The rate of interest is the internal  “price” of money, so to speak, and the currency exchange rate is its external “price”. A Government cannot control either unless it has a currency of its own in the first place.  That is why former EU Commission President Romano Prodi exulted when the Monetary Union was set up for a minority of EU States in 1999: “The two pillars of the Nation State are the sword and the currency and we have changed that.”

The fundamental problem for the Eurozone and its 17 Governments is that there cannot be a stable, lasting monetary union that is not also a tax and public spending union, and hence a Political Union, so that its component Member States are compensated for loss of their  ability to influence their competitiveness by varying their exchange rate – for they have no independent currencies any longer – by automatic  transfers from richer to poorer States through a common federal-style Eurozone tax and public service system. The latter means a Political Union like the USA, and the dream of building a United States of Europe on similar lines to the US has for decades been a dream/fantasy of the Euro-federalists, of whom there are many in the leadership of the Fine Gael and Labour parties.

A system of common taxes and public services exists within national States, but it does not exist cross-nationally.  It cannot exist cross-nationally because the social solidarity, the sense of community and mutual identification, the sense of being a common political “We”, which is what makes people pay taxes freely and willingly to a common Government because it is “their” Government, does not exist at EU level.  A democracy or democratic State is impossible without a “demos”, a people; and there is no EU or Eurozone “demos”, in contrast to its component Nation States.

This is the fundamental fallacy of the EU integration project, the attempt to turn the EU into a quasi-State, even though already half or more of the legal acts made in each of the 27 EU Member States each year are on average of EU origin. Free trade is one thing, and is normally a good thing.  A common currency, credit and exchange rate policy for very different economies is something totally different. The resistance of German public opinion to financing Greece, Ireland, Portugal etc. in the current  Eurozone crisis is but one small example of this. The solidarity needed for such continual resource transfers between the Member States of the Eurozone to enable it hold together does not and cannot exist. Nor can it be artificially created.

7. REESTABLISHING IRELAND’S NATIONAL CURRENCY

The advantage of a country having its own currency is that it enables its Government either to control credit and issue money for purposes of job-stimulus and the like through varying the rate of interest, or to influence its competitiveness with other economies by varying its exchange rate. Governments can set a target for either the interest rate or the exchange rate, but they cannot achieve both targets simultaneously, for each rate affects the other.

In the Eurozone interest rate and exchange rate policy are quite properly decided in the interests of the Big States, for they contain most of the population of the Eurozone. The one-size-fits-all interest rate regime of the European Central Bank (ECB) must always be unsuitable for some Eurozone countries therefore, for the 17 economies concerned differ widely.  Moreover, as the Irish State does nearly two-thirds of its trade outside the Eurozone, whereas all of the 16 other Eurozone members do half or more of their trade with one another, the exchange rate for the euro must normally be unsuitable for Ireland also. This is vividly shown these days as the euro rises vis-a-vis the dollar and pound sterling. This hits Irish exports to the dollar/sterling areas where we do most of our trade and encourages competing imports from those areas.
Having taken the disastrous step of joining the Eurozone in the first place, it would be foolish to pretend that one can get out of it without pain, especially when Irish Governments have agreed to stand over the mess in the State’s private banks and have built up such a deficit in the State’s public finances. However, re-establishing an independent Irish currency and with that its own credit and exchange rate policy has to be a central objective of all genuine Irish democrats, for without that there can be no truly independent Irish State. People should not be afraid to state this, especially as the pain of remaining in the Eurozone is mounting all the time and the historical trends point to continual strains within it and continual crisis as long as it lasts, and its eventual partial or total dissolution is inevitable.

The threat of repudiating the private bank debt now moved to the ECB  and of reestablishing the Irish pound is the principal lever/weapon the Irish State has vis-à-vis the Eurozone. At present Ireland cannot restore its economic competitiveness by devaluing its currency. It can only become more competitive by “devaluing” – that is, by  cutting -  peoples’ pay, profits and pensions instead for years to come.  The main advantage of leaving the Eurozone and rejoining the 10 EU Member States outside it is that it would enable the Ireland to resume control of its money supply and credit and thereby stimulate domestic demand and employment, while simultaneously it could boost the State’s economic competitiveness by devaluing the exchange rate. The main drawback of this step is that much of the State’s foreign debts would be in euros, if the Eurozone still existed, and would be expensive to pay off in a depreciating currency. On the other hand, the boost to competitiveness and exports arising from having a more suitable exchange rate than the Eurozone one, should enable Ireland earn more foreign currency with which to pay those debts. Temporary exchange controls would also be needed for a transitional period. It is in any case likely that some countries will leave the Eurozone in the next few years, if the Eurozone as a whole succeeds in holding together at all.

If the Eurozone breaks up, a planned dissolution and a related reapportionment of debts would clearly be better than a disorganized one.  There are many examples of monetary unions that have dissolved and been replaced by national currencies. The Irish State itself left the UK monetary union in 1921, although it maintained an overvalued púnt at par with sterling until 1979.  The USSR rouble was replaced in short order by 15 successor currencies in its 15 successor States in 1991. The Czechoslovak crown and Yugoslav dinar were replaced by successor currencies in the 1990s.  In 1919 the Austro-Hungarian thaler was replaced by the different currencies of its several successor States.

What is happening now is that Ireland, Greece, Portugal etc. and the interests of their peoples are being sacrificed in order to save the Eurozone, whose dissolution would be a blow to the entire integration project of building a European quasi-superstate under Franco-German hegemony to become a big power in the world.  The acolytes of that project in Ireland  – in the leadership of the Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour parties, in Foreign Affairs at Iveagh House, the Dept.of Finance and the Taoiseach’s Department, in the Central Bank, the Irish Times, RTE and the senior echelons of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions  – are desperately afraid that their political life’s work may have been in vain, so  they are quite willing that the welfare of the Irish people be sacrificed to save it. These are perhaps the most fundamental issues that are at stake in the current crisis.

People should remember also that the only period in the 90-years’ history of the Irish State when it used its monetary independence, followed an independent exchange rate policy and effectively floated the currency, from 1993 to 1999, gave us the “Celtic Tiger” rates of economic growth of 8% a year – until that was destroyed by the low-interest-rate-induced bubble of the Eurozone from 2000 onward.

Irish Times: Dominating Role of Larger EU States

The Irish Times – Friday, March 4, 2011 (letters)

Madam, – Dr Garret FitzGerald (Opinion, February 12th) shows concern that moving away from the so-called “community method” of making EU laws towards a more “inter-governmental” approach may open the way to an EU that “for the first time becomes dominated by some larger states”.

This looks like trying to lock the proverbial stable door after the horse inside has bolted.

For decades Dr FitzGerald and those who share his views on the EU have been advancing the quite unrealistic notion that the EU is a radically new form of political life and governance in which the big European states are willing to subordinate their national interests to a larger common EU interest and that it therefore makes sense for smaller states to “pool sovereignty” with them.

In historical reality the EU since its inception has been an arena for the pursuit of the national interests of its member states, above all its bigger ones, France and Germany especially. The big states use the EU to try to dominate the smaller ones if it suits them. If not, they will go outside it or beyond it. Three developments in the past 20 years show this strikingly.

The first was the establishment of the euro currency under the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. The core objective of that was to reconcile France to Germany’s sudden reunification in 1990, using economic means that were quite inappropriate for that purpose.

The current financial crisis shows the euro currency’s structural flaws. It has fundamentally divided the EU between the 17 EU states inside the euro zone that are now suffering the euro’s torments, and the 10 EU states outside it that are not.

The second was the 2001 Nice Treaty which allows an inner group of nine or more EU states to integrate further among themselves and to use the EU institutions to do that, even though the other EU members are opposed. This was a fundamental break with the notion of the EU as a partnership of equals in which no major step would be taken without unanimity. It enables the big states to present the others with unpleasant faits-accomplis. For example it would enable the 17 euro zone members, or a sub-set of them, to adopt a common tax base for assessing corporation profits tax, or a common tax rate if they wish, as could well happen in the coming period.

The third was the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. In power-political terms this treaty’s most important provision is that it puts EU law-making on a primarily population-size basis for the first time – from 2014. This means that in three years’ time Germany’s voting weight in making EU laws on the EU Council of Ministers will be doubled from its present 8 per cent to 17 per cent, France’s, Italy’s and Britain’s vote will go from their present 8 per cent each to 12 per cent each, while Ireland’s will fall from its present 2 per cent to 0.8 per cent. Is not this by any standard a power-grab by the big states?

For decades Irish policy-makers have used rhetoric about “the European ideal”, “our EU partners” and “an EU community of equals” to justify handing over ever-greater tranches of State power and law-making to the EU. A more hard-headed and less self-deluding approach will surely be needed by future Irish governments if we are to get out of our present mess. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY COUGHLAN,
Director,
The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre,
Crawford Avenue, Dublin 9.
 

Germany demands a Lisbon III … and the Government and Attorney General Paul Gallagher will come under pressure to obey

It is the Supreme Court, not the Government or its Attorney General, that has the power ultimately to decide whether a referendum will be needed in Ireland if Germany, backed by France, insists on changing the EU Treaties to suit its interests.

Little more than a year since the EU Heads of State and Government assured everyone that no further EU Treaty changes would be needed for the foreseeable future, the same people seem now willing to bow to Germany’s wishes to change the Treaties anew to give the EU more power.

If Treaty changes are agreed in the coming period, the Irish Government, and Attorney General Paul Gallagher SC in particular, will come under heavy pressure to avoid an Irish referendum at all costs, for fear it may be lost.  If Mr Gallagher obliges he can almost certainly expect to face a re-run of the Crotty case.

It was Attorney General Gallagher who advised the Government in September 2008 that a State guarantee of all the debts of Ireland’s private banks was legal and that Irish law required that the creditors and bondholders of the Irish Banks could not be touched in view of such a guarantee.  This opened the way to Finance Minister Lenihan paying €7.9 billion to the senior bondholders of Anglo-Irish Bank just three weeks ago, without any question of them being asked to take a “haircut”, as Irish taxpayers paid up to meet the money foreign investors had lent to Messrs Sean Fitzpatrick and Co.

Elements of the so-called  “bailout fund” for the eurozone that was agreed by the EU Governments last May are almost certainly in breach of Articles 122 to 125 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. (NB. This is not the Lisbon Treaty, but rather the second of the two basic EU Treaties that were amended by Lisbon and which are currently in force.)

What we see playing out in the current economic crisis is Germany’s attempt, for the third time in a  century, to dominate Europe by means of its dominance of the eurozone -  with France holding on to its coat-tails, as the Vichyist rather than Gaullist tradition governs policy in Paris.

The Irish public should find it instructive to see the Eurofanatics and career-federalistas in Iveagh House, Upper Merrion Street, Kildare Street and the Irish Times positioning themselves in the coming period to comply anew with the wishes of their new Teutonic masters.

The Eurofanaticism that led them to support the Maastricht Treaty abolishing the Irish national currency and to join the euro-zone in 1999 – an area with which we did only one-third of our trade – is primarily responsible for getting the country into its present dire economic and political mess.  It will be interesting to see their spin-doctors turn and twist as they try and justify their disastrous course over the coming months, and engage in the blame-game vis-à-vis one another that has already covertly started.
(29 October 2010)

Lisbon’s Constitutional Revolution by Stealth

EUROFACTS … 30 November 2009

LISBON TREATY COMES INTO FORCE TODAY, TUESDAY

The Lisbon Treaty, which has 99% the same legal effect as the EU Constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, comes into force on tomorrow, 1 December.

The European Union Act 2009 was published at the end of October. This Act implements the second Lisbon Treaty referendum result by amending the European Communities Act 1972 which has made European law applicable in the State up to now. The new Act makes the laws, acts and measures of the European Union “established by virtue of the Lisbon Treaty” part of the domestic law of the State.

This is a constitutionally different European Union from what we call the European Union at present, which was established by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, although its name is the same. This post-Lisbon EU replaces the European Community which Ireland joined in 1973 and which made supranational  European laws up to now, and takes over all its powers and institutions. From Tuesday therefore we will all be endowed with an additional citizenship to our Irish citizenship – a real EU citizenship with associated rights and duties, something quite different in its implications to the purely notional or symbolical EU citizenship that we are assumed  to have possessed up to now.

The article below explains the constitutional revolution in the EU and its Member States which has been brought about by the Lisbon Treaty and which will formally culminate on Tuesday.  This is something that scarcely figured in what passed for “debate” on the Lisbon Treaty in our Lisbon Two referendum. The  statutory Referendum Commission completely failed to explain the constitutional significance of Lisbon to Irish citizen-voters, even though that was its prime duty under the  Referendum Act establishing it – something the Government and Yes-side interests must be very grateful for.


PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT PICKET ON DAIL … TUESDAY 1-1.30 P.M.

The People’s Movement, whose chairman is former MEP Patricia McKenna, will protest against the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty and the undemocratic manner in which it was pushed through, in Ireland and across the EU,  for half an hour outside Dail Eireann in Kildare Street from 1 to 1.30 p.m. today,  Tuesday.    Interested people are invited to come along with appropriate posters, slogans etc.


LADY CATHERINE ASHTON, BARONESS ASHTON OF UPHOLLAND

Baroness Catherine Ashton is the new EU “Foreign Minister” under the Lisbon Treaty – properly titled “The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy”.  The Irish media have so far been remarkably reluctant to give this lady her proper title. The Irish Times refers to her as “Ms Ashton”.  Is it not curious, this reluctance to give a member of the House of Lords, which the Baroness remains, her proper designation?

Baroness Ashton will receive an annual salary of  €350,000 and have a chauffeured car, a housing allowance and a staff of 20. She will have control of the new EU External Action Service, starting with 5000 staff already engaged  on “external relations”, based on EU delegations in 130 countries – and the service is expected to grow rapidly.  Current EU foreign policy boss Javier Solana  has said the service would become “the biggest diplomatic service in the world”. It is estimated to cost some ¤50 billion between now and 2013.

This EU foreign service is not open to democratic scrutiny, is likely to develop a life of its own and come to undermine the foreign policies of EU Member States.

The Sunday Times has noted that staff in overseas EU offices typically work a 4-day week, are entitled to first-class travel to and from their posting, as well as private health insurance and an allowance of up to £1,700 a month to spend on school fees.


EU COMMISSION  TO “LOOK AT” DIRECT EU TAXES

Agence France Presse reports that in a question-time session in the European Parliamen a week ago, European Commission President Jose Barroso said he would look at the idea of raising direct EU taxation.  Asked if he agreed with Herman Van Rompuy, the new EU President, that there should be EU taxes, he said: “I intend to look at all issues of taxation in the EU. We have to look at this, we have to look at all resources of the EU.  We have promised it to the Parliament, the programme with which I was elected was to look at possible ‘own resources’ and this is in the programme that was adopted by this European Parliament.”


EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT VAN ROMPUY AN ARCH FEDERALIST

Herman Van Rompuy, 62,  has said that he favoured the Lisbon Treaty as long as it promoted the aim of “more Europe”. He helped to draw up a strongly Euro-federalist manifesto for his Flemish Christian Democrat Party, calling for more EU power. It said: “Apart from the euro, other national symbols need to be replaced by European symbols – licence plates, identity cards, presence of more EU flags, one-time EU sports events.”

Speaking  a fortnight ago at a private dinner organised by EU-federalist members of the Bilderberg Group  at the Chateau de Val-Duchesse, where the EU’s founding Treaty of Rome was negotiated in 1957, Mr Van Rompuy backed plans for “green taxes” to fund the EU. He said: “The possibilities of financial levies at European level must be seriously examined, and for the first time large countries in the Union are open to that.”

Article 311 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which governs the means of raising money to finance the EU,  provides under an amendment made by the Lisbon Treaty that the EU Council of Ministers “may establish new categories of own resources or abolish an existing category”,  and the new EU President was referring to that.

Pieter Van Cleppe, of the think-tank Open Europe, commented: “Van Rompuy is your typical EU federalist. He isn’t going to step on anyone’s toes or try to dominate the world like Tony Blair or President Sarkozy might have. But he can be relied upon to quietly make sure that the EU gets more and more powers, with less and less say for voters.”

The new EU President will earn €350,000 a year, taxed at 25 percent, and will have a staff of 22 press officers, assistants and administrators, in addition to 10 security agents.  This is double the salary he had as Belgian Prime Minister and  is significantly more than US President Barack Obama’s salary, which is around $400,000 a year or €269,000. The total cost of the President and his team will be ¤6 million a year.


LISBON’S CONSTITUTIONAL REVOLUTION BY STEALTH

by Anthony Coughlan

With the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty on Tuesday 1 December, members of the European Parliament, who up to now have been “representatives of the peoples of the States brought together in the Community” (Art.189 TEC),  become “representatives of the Union’s citizens” (Art.14 TEU).

This change in the status of MEPs is but one illustration of the constitutional revolution being brought about by the Lisbon Treaty.

For Lisbon, like the EU Constitution before it, establishes for the first time a European Union which is constitutionally separate from and superior to its Member States, just as the USA is separate from and superior to its 50 constituent states or as Federal Germany is in relation to its Länder.

The 27 EU members thereby lose their character as true sovereign States. Constitutionally, they become more like regional states in a multinational Federation, although they still retain some of the trappings of their former sovereignty. Simultaneously, 500 million Europeans becomes real citizens of the constitutionally new post-Lisbon European Union, with real citizens’ rights and duties with regard to this EU, as compared with the merely notional or symbolical EU citizenship they are assumed to have possessed up to now.

Most Europeans are unaware of these astonishing changes, for two reasons.  One is that, with the exception of the Irish, they have been denied any chance of learning about and debating them in national referendums. The other is that the terms “European Union”, “EU citizen” and “EU citizenship” remain the same before and after Lisbon, although Lisbon changes their constitutional content fundamentally.

The Lisbon Treaty therefore is a constitutional revolution by stealth.

The EU Constitution, which the peoples of France and Holland rejected in 2005, sought to establish a new European Union in the constitutional form of a Federation directly. Its first article stated: “This Constitution establishes the European Union”. That would clearly have been a European Union with a different constitutional basis from the EU that had been set up by the Maastricht Treaty 13 years before.

Lisbon brings a constitutionally new Union into being indirectly rather than directly, by amending the two existing European Treaties instead of replacing them entirely, as the earlier Constitutional Treaty had sought to do. Thus Lisbon states: “The Union shall be founded on the present Treaty” – viz. the Treaty on European Union (TEU) -”and on the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union.” These two Treaties together then become the Constitution of the post-Lisbon European Union. A new Union is in effect being “constituted”, although the word “Constitution” is not used.

What we called the “European Union” pre-Lisbon is the descriptive term for the totality of legal relations between its 27 Member States and their peoples. This encompassed the European Community, which had legal personality, made supranational European laws and had various State-like features, as well as the Member States cooperating together on the basis of retained sovereignty in foreign policy and defence and in crime and justice matters.

Lisbon changes this situation fundamentally by giving the post-Lisbon Union the constitutional form of a true supranational Federation, in other words a State. The EU would still lack some powers of a fully developed Federation, the most obvious one being the power to force its Member States to go to war against their will. It would possess most of the powers of a State however, although it has nothing like the tax and spending levels of its constituent Member States.

Three steps to a federal-style Constitution

Lisbon’s constitutional revolution takes place in three interconnected steps:

Firstly, the Treaty establishes a European Union with legal personality and a fully independent corporate existence in all Union areas for the first time (Arts.1 and 47 TEU). This enables the post-Lisbon Union to function as a State vis-a-vis other States externally, and in relation to its own citizens internally

Secondly, Lisbon abolishes the European Community which goes back to the Treaty of Rome and which makes European laws at present, and transfers the Community’s powers and institutions to the new Union, so that it is the post-Lisbon Union, not the Community, which will make supranational European laws henceforth (Art.1 TEU).  Lisbon also transfers to the EU the “intergovernmental” powers over crime, justice and home affairs, as well as foreign policy and security, which at present are not covered by European law-making, leaving only aspects of the Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy outside the scope of its supranational powers. The Treaty thereby give a unified constitutional structure to the post-Lisbon Union.

Thirdly, Lisbon then makes 500 million Europeans into real citizens of the new Federal-style Union which the Treaty establishes (Arts.9 TEU and 20 TFEU). Instead  of EU citizenship “complementing” national citizenship,  as under the present Maastricht Treaty-based EU (Art.17 TEC), which makes such citizenship essentially symbolical, Lisbon provides that EU citizenship shall be “additional to” national citizenship.

This is a real dual citizenship – not of two different States, but of two different levels of one State. One can only be a citizen of a State and all States must have citizens. Dual citizenship like that provided for in Lisbon is normal in classical Federations which have been established from the bottom up by constituent states surrendering their sovereignty to a superior federal entity, in contrast to federations that have come into being “top-down”, as it were, as a result of unitary states adopting federal form.  Examples of the former are the USA, 19th Century Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia. Lisbon would confer a threefold citizenship on citizens of Federal Germany’s Länder.

Being a citizen means that one must obey the law and give loyalty to the authority of the State one is a citizen of – in the case of classical Federations, of the two state levels, the federal and the regional or provincial. In the post-Lisbon EU the rights and duties attaching to citizenship of the Union will be superior to those attaching to one’s national citizenship in any case of conflict between the two, because of the superiority of Union law over national law and Constitutions (Declaration No 17 concerning Primacy).

The EU will be constitutionally superior even though the powers of the new Union come from its Member States in accordance with the “principle of conferral” (Art.5 TEU). Where else after all could it get its powers from?  This is so even though the Member States retain their national Constitutions and their citizens keep their national citizenships. The local states of the USA retain their different state Constitutions and citizenships, even though both are subordinate to the US Federal Constitution in any case of conflict between the two. The tenth amendment to the US Constitution alludes to the principle of conferral when it lays down that powers not delegated to the US Federation “are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people“.

Likewise,  it is not unusual for the Constitutions of classical Federations to provide for a right of withdrawal for their constituent states, just as the Lisbon Treaty does (Art.50 TEU). The existence of these features in the Constitution of the post-Lisbon Union does not take away from its federal character.

An alternative source of democratic legitimacy to the Nation State

Under Lisbon population size will in turn become the primary basis for EU law-making, as in any State with a common citizenry. This will happen after 2014, when the Treaty provision comes into force that EU laws will be made  by 55% of Member States as long as they represent 65% of the total population of the Union.

Lisbon provides an alternative source of democratic legitimacy which challenges the right of national governments to be the representatives of their electorates in the EU. The amended Treaty provides: “The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments…” (Art.10 TEU).  Contrast this with what is stated to be the foundation of the present Mastricht Treaty-based EU (Art.6 TEU): “The Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which are common to the Member States.

The constitutional structure of the post-Lisbon EU is completed by the provision  which turns the European Council of Prime Ministers and Presidents into an “institution” of the new Union (Art.13 TEU), so that its acts or its failing to act would, like those of the other Union institutions, be subject to legal review by the EU Court of Justice.

Constitutionally speaking, the summit meetings  of the European Council will henceforth no longer be “intergovernmental” gatherings outside supranational European structures, as they have been up to now.  The European Council will in effect be the Cabinet Government of the post-Lisbon Union. Its individual members will be constitutionally obliged to represent the Union to their Member States as well as their Member States to the Union, with the former function imposing primacy of obligation in any case of conflict or tension between the two.

One doubts if all the Heads of State or Government who make up the European Council themselves appreciate this!

As regards the State authority of the post-Lisbon Union, this will be embodied in the Union’s own executive, legislative and judicial institutions: the European Council, Council of Ministers, Commission, Parliament and Court of Justice.  It will be embodied also in the Member States and their authorities as they implement and apply EU law and interpret and apply national law in conformity with Union law. Member States will be constitutionally required to do this under the Lisbon Treaty. Thus EU “State authorities” as represented for example by EU soldiers and policemen patrolling our streets in EU uniforms, will not be needed as such.

Although the Lisbon Treaty has given the EU a Federal-style Constitution without most people noticing, they are bound to find out in time and react against what is being done. There is no European people or demos which could give democratic legitimacy to the institutions the Lisbon Treaty establishes and make people identify with these as they do with the institutions of their home countries. This is the core problem of the  EU integration project. Lisbon in effect has made the EU’s democratic deficit much worse.
It is hard to imagine that this will not make struggles to reestablish national independence and democracy and to repatriate supranational powers back to the Member States the central issue of EU politics in the years and decades ahead.

N.B. Although the above are major constitutional changes by any standard, both for the EU and its Member States,  Ireland’s Referendum Commission, under its chairman Mr Justice Frank Clarke, made absolutely no attempt to explain them or convey their significance to citizens in the Lisbon Two referendum in October. This was despite the fact that the Referendum Commission’s prime statutory duty under the Referendum Act was to explain to citizens how the proposed Lisbon constitutional amendment would affect the Irish Constitution.  The Referendum Commissioners were thereby guilty of a profound constitutional delinquency, for which the Government must surely be very grateful.

Anthony Coughlan is Director of the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, Dublin, and President of the Foundation for EU Democracy, Brussels.

OPEN EUROPE’S 50 NEW EXAMPLES OF HOW THE EU BUDGET IS WASTED

The EU’s accountants – the European Court of Auditors (ECA) -  published their annual report on the EU’s budget in early November. The ECA refused to give the EU’s accounts a clean bill of health for the 15th year in a row, owing to fraud and mismanagement in the budget. Like last year however, the auditors did sign off the Commission’s own accounts, saying that they accurately represented how much money was raised and spent.

Although the ECA’s report is about the management of the accounts, the occasion represents an opportunity to take a closer look at the EU budget as a whole. Because while mismanagement of the accounts continues to be problematic, even when EU payments are deemed “clean” they are often still hugely wasteful. This is because the process underpinning how money is spent encourages poor project selection.

National governments are handed a pot of money that has to be spent, regardless of whether there’s a real need or demand for a certain type of project. As a result, EU-funded projects easily become expensive solutions to invented problems. The complexity and needless centralisation of these budget programmes means that taxpayers are not getting value for their money.
To illustrate this, Open Europe has produced a light-hearted list of 50 new examples of EU waste. The list is by no means comprehensive, but designed to show the types of peculiar projects on which EU money has been wasted in the past. They include:

  • An art education project called “Donkeypedia”, in which a donkey travelled through the Netherlands to meet and greet primary school children, which was part of the EU’s €7 million ‘Year of Intercultural Dialogue’ initiative.
  • An EU grant worth 800,000 Swedish kronor (€80,000), given to Sweden’s third largest city, Malmo, in 2008 to create a virtual version of itself in “Second Life” – a virtual fantasy world inhabited by computer-generated residents.
  • €400,000 to get children drawing portraits of each other in the name of European citizenship.
  • €198,500 for an EU puppet theatre network in the Baltics.

To read Open Europe’s 50 new examples of EU waste in full, see here:

www.openeurope.org.uk/research/top50waste.pdf

Statement by Anthony Coughlan on the Lisbon Two referendum result

Not the will of the people, but the fear of the people, has led a majority of Irish voters to approve ratifying the Lisbon Treaty in yesterday’s re-run referendum.

Ireland’s voters voted not on the content of Lisbon but on membership of the EU, on fear of political isolation if they did not say Yes to the same Treaty as they said No to last year, and on the promise of jobs and economic recovery which the Yes-side bullied and bamboozled them into believing was they would get if they only voted Yes.

Thus the bankrupt Irish political Establishment, which has ruined its country’s economy, has opted through stupidity and fear to clamp an undemocratic Constitution on itself and most of Europe.

This year the Republic of Ireland will suffer a decline of nearly one-tenth in its economic output; it will have a Budget deficit equivalent to 12% of GDP, an unemployment rate of some 14% of its labour force and resumed net emigration from the country.

One accepts the result of the Lisbon re-run as a fact, but it is not a result that democrats need morally or politically to identify with or approve. This result does not have political legitimacy, whatever the voting percentages amount to, because of the fraudulent and undemocratic way in which the referendum was run, making it unique in these respects among the 30 or so referendums that have been held in Ireland since its Constitution was adopted in 1937.

With limitless money provided by the Brussels Commission, the political parties in the European Parliament, the Irish Government and private business firms, Ireland’s Yes-side forces easily outspent the Nos by at least ten to one in a referendum campaign which was unique in modern Irish history for its massive unlawfulness and breaches of the country’s referendum law.

There were at least six dimensions to this illegality:

1) The intervention of the European Commission, entailing massive expenditure of money to influence Irish opinion towards a Yes, the running of a web-site and the issuing of statements that sought to counter No-side arguments, and the adocacy of a Yes vote by Commission President Barroso and other Commissioners and their staffs during visits to Ireland. This is unlawful under European law, as the Commission has no function in relation to the ratification of new Treaties, something that is exclusively a matter for the Member States under their own constitutional procedures;

2.) The part funding of the posters and press advertising of most of Ireland’s Yes-side political parties by their sister parties in the European Parliament, even though it is illegal under Irish law to receive donations from sources outside the country in a referendum and even though, under European law, money provided by the European Parliament to cross-national political parties is supposed to be confined to informational-type material and to avoid partisan advocacy;

3) The Irish Government’s unlawful use of public funds in circulating to voters a postcard with details of the so-called “assurances” of the European Council, followed by a brochure some time later containing a tendentious summary of the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, as well as other material – steps that were in breach of the 1995 Irish Supreme Court judgement in McKenna that it is unconstitutional of the Government to use public funds to seek to obtain a particular result in a referendum;

4) The failure of the country’s statutory Referendum Commission to carry out its function under the Referendum Act that established it of explaining to citizens how the proposed constitutional amendment and its text would affect the Irish Constitution. Instead the Commission’s Chairman, Judge Frank Clarke, turned the Commission into an arm of Government propaganda, while the judge indulged himself in various “solo-runs” on radio and in the newspapers, giving several erroneous explanations of provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, even though this was quite beyond his powers under the Act;

5) Huge expenditure of money by private companies such as Intel and Ryanair to advocate a Yes vote, without any statutory limit, in possible breach of Irish company and tax law, and undoubtedly constituting a major democratic abuse.

6) Breaches by the Irish broadcast media of their obligation under the Broadcasting Acts to be fair to all interests concerned in their coverage of issues of public controversy and debate. Newstalk 106, owned by Mr Denis O’Brien, a committed supporter of the Yes side, was quite shameless in its partisanship on its current affairs programmes.

Democrats across Europe will now hope that the brave President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, will hold back Czech ratification of the Treaty until the constitutional challenge that has been launched there is completed and there is a change of Government in Britain by next May. In that way the promise of a referendum made to the British people in the Labour Party’s Election Manifesto may yet be fulfilled under the Conservatives – something that would give our fellow countrymen and women in Northern Ireland a chance of voting on this EU Constitution.

In June the German Constitutional Court laid down that the basic principles of democracy required that there should be parliamentary control of how Government Ministers from the EU Member States exercised various implementing powers under the Lisbon Treaty – for example the “simplified revision procedure” of Article 48 TEU whereby policy areas can be shifted from unanimity to majority voting without need of new Treaties or referendums.

Germany instituted such parliamentary controls in September. Ireland has done so in the Constitutional Amendment people voted for yesterday. Similar parliamentary controls should now be sought through Court actions in as many EU countries as possible in the interest of defending what is left of democracy in Europe.

If Lisbon however should go through and come into force for all 27 States, giving the post-Lisbon EU the constitutional form of a Federation and turning 500 million people into real EU citizens for the first time without their being asked, that is bound to make the question of national independence and democracy the main issue of European politics for years and possibly decades to come – not least in Ireland, whose modern political history has been largely a struggle against the drawbacks of its people being made citizens of another country.

The Lisbon Two referendum has exposed the moral and political bankruptcy of Ireland’s main political parties. There is a vacuum in Irish politics, as there is in many other EU countries, when all the “Establishment” political parties line up on one side and so many of the country’s citizens are on the other.

Across Europe huge numbers of citizens are not being properly represented by those who have been elected to represent them. The coming period in history will see many attempts to fill this political vacuum, in Ireland and elsewhere.

Open Letter to the Referendum Commission

Below for your information is a copy of the  letter that was delivered to Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Chairman of the Referendum Commission, from Anthony Coughlan last Thursday, with the most relevant passages highlighted in bold …

 

 

Sunday 27 September 2009

_______

 

TO:

MrJustice Frank Clarke

Chairman,

The Referendum Commission

18 Lower Leeson St.

Dublin 2

 

FROM:

Anthony Coughlan

The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre

24 Crawford Avenue

Dublin 9

Tel.:  01-8305792

 

Thursday 24 September 2009

 

Dear Mr Justice Clarke

May I enclose for your information a copy of the new edition of the Lisbon Treaty: The Readable Version, the first edition of which I sent you and your Referendum Commission colleagues some time ago. I also enclose a document which describes the main changes the Lisbon Treaty would make.

 

May I take the opportunity  of saying that the current Lisbon referendum, as I presume you have noted,  has been characterized by monstrous illegality on the part of several key parties, as follows:-

1. The intervention of the European Commission, which is unlawful under European law, as the Commission has no function in relation to the ratification of new Treaties,  something that is exclusively a matter for the Member States under their own constitutional procedures;

 

2. The part-funding of the posters and press advertisements  of  most of Ireland’s Yes-side political parties by their sister parties in the European Parliament, even though it is illegal under Irish law to receive donations from sources outside the country in a referendum and when, under EU law, money provided by the European Parliament to cross-national political parties is supposed to be confined to informational-type  material and to avoid direct partisan advocacy. I read that the Green Party has refused such funding from its sister party in the European Parliament on the ground that it is advised that this is illegal under European law   (Later comment on this latter point inserted  by A.Coughlan:

Presumably this scrupulousness is because  Green Party Local Government Minister

John Gormley, as Minister responsible for running the referendum, cannot afford to

have the political party he belongs to flout the law!)

 

3. The Government’s unlawful use of public funds in circulating to voters a postcard with details of the so-called “assurances” from the European Council,  followed by a brochure some time later containing a tendentious summary of the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty – both steps being in breach of the Supreme Court’s 1995 judgement in McKenna that it is unconstitutional of the Government to use public money to seek to procure a particular result in a referendum;

 

4. The failure of your own Referendum Commission to carry out its statutory function under the 1998 and 2001 Referendum Acts of preparing for citizens a statement or statements “containing a general explanation of the subject matter of the proposal (viz. the proposal to amend the Constitution)  and of the text thereof in the relevant Bill”, namely the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2009.

 

May I make some points to you and your Referendum Commission colleagues regarding this.

 

The Lisbon Treaty-Your Guide which you have circulated to voters makes no attempt to inform them about the proposed Constitutional Amendment, despite that being your prime statutory duty and that of your Referendum Commission colleagues under the Referendum Acts.

The leaflet and other material which you have made available do not tell citizen-voters  that the new first sentence of the proposed Amendment we shall be voting on  provides that the State

“affirms its commitment to the European Union” which would be established by the Lisbon Treaty – a sentence, incidentally,  that was not in the Constitutional Amendment in last year’s referendum – and  you give voters no idea that this is the case or what such a commitment might entail.

 

You do not inform voters that the second and third sentences of the proposed Amendment make clear that ratifying the Lisbon Treaty would abolish the European Community which Ireland joined in 1973 and  would establish in its place a new European Union on the basis of the Lisbon Treaty which would be constitutionally very different from the European Union that we are currently members of, or what that difference might be.

Nowhere in the Referendum Commission’s information material that you have sent to voters do you advert to the  fact that the Lisbon Treaty would confer on Irish citizens  an “additional” citizenship of the post-Lisbon European Union,  with associated citizens’ rights and duties vis-à-vis that Union, and what the implications of such a change might be.

 

One would think that there could be be few things more constitutionally important for citizens than being endowed with an additional citizenship. Yet you and your Commission say absolutely nothing about it in the “information” material you have circulated  – in violation of the provisions of the Act which gives you your authority.

 

You say nothing  about how the rights and duties that we would have as real citizens of  the constitutionally  new European Union which the Lisbon Treaty would establish would relate to our rights and duties as Irish citizens in the event of any conflicts arising between the two; or how the “additional” citizenship that Lisbon would endow us with differs from our essentially notional and symbolical EU “citizenship” of today.

 

It is clear that such a dereliction of duty on your part and that of your fellow Commissioners amounts to constitutional delinquency of a high order, as well as being a gross misuse of the ¤4 million of public money that you have been entrusted with. It will be interesting to see how future historians assess your actions.

 

As for yourself personally, instead of doing the job which the Referendum Acts impose on you, you have arrogated to yourself the task of answering questions on the Lisbon Treaty on the radio and in the press,  in which you give your personal opinions and judgements, whereas all statements by the Commission should be collectively agreed by its members, as the Referendum Acts clearly envisage.

 

In no way do the Referendum Acts authorise you to do the “solo runs” on radio and in the press that you have undertaken.  Your predecessor, retired Chief Justice TA Finlay, who was an exemplary chairman of the Referendum Commission between 1998 and 2002, would never have permitted this.

 

Some of the oral statements you have made, moreover, have been either false or misleading. From several l examples I could give, I quote two. A fortnight ago you accepted in response to a question on Morning Ireland that the right of Member State governments to “propose” and decide their National Commissioner would be changed by the Lisbon Treaty  into a right to make “suggestions” only,  effectively for the incoming Commission President to decide -  that key person’s appointment being in the gift of the Big States.

 

You added the rider however that you did not think this change was of much consequence.  You must be aware from previous private correspondence that I had with the Referendum Commission on behalf of my colleagues in our EU Research and Information Centre that many people on the No-side consider this be a Lisbon Treaty amendment of considerable consequence.  One way or another, its consequences are clearly a matter of political judgement which it is not your job as Referendum Commission chairman to make.

 

Last Friday I heard you state on Morning Ireland that the difference between the “additional” citizenship that we would have of  the post-Lisbon European Union and the notional or symbolical “complementary” EU citizenship we are said to have today was “of no great consequence” either, or words to that effect.  Yet the most cursory acquaintance with the constitutional changes which the Lisbon Treaty and the Constitutional Amendment to ratify it would bring about, shows that this is just not true.  Lisbon is the old Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe after all which the French and Dutch rejected in 2005, even if it implements that Constitution for Europe indirectly rather than directly.

 

You and your Referendum Commission colleagues still have some time left in which to fulfil your statutory function under the Referendum Acts that set you up. You still have a few days in which to do your duty to the Irish people whom you are profoundly failing at present, as they face their historic decision of next Friday with virtually nothing from you and your Referendum Commission colleagues which might give them “the general explanation of the subject matter” of  the Constitutional Amendment “and of its text”, on which they will be voting, as the Referendum Act requires.

 

On behalf of citizens all over the country who are deeply disquieted by the Referendum Commission’s failure to provide information on how the Lisbon Treaty would affect the Consitution, may I appeal to you to do that duty still and to carry out your statutory function under the Referendum Acts.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Anthony Coughlan

 

Director

President, Foundation for EU Democracy, Brussels

 

 

PS.  I intend to release this letter to the media this weekend and to circulate it widely to Irish opinion-leaders.

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