Alert: Government Attempts to Pass ESM with Minimal Public Debate

Today – Wednesday, & Tomorrow – Thursday

The Government will seek Dail approval of:
The Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU Treaties which authorises the setting up of the permanent Eurozone loan fund, the European Stability Mechanism
+ A motion to approve the ESM Treaty which is authorized by this amendment
+ A motion to approve future Government spending on the ESM,

TODAY – WEDNESDAY, AND TOMORROW – THURSDAY.
A guillotined debate on the second reading of the latter Bill will take place TOMORROW.

This means that the whole business of signing up the Irish State to the ESM Treaty for the Eurozone and committing us to significant expenditure to help bail out Spain and other Eurozone countries in the coming period, could go through all stages in the Oireachtas BY THE END OF NEXT WEEK – with minimal debate in the Irish media over the long-term implications of these steps or awareness of what this all means amongst the general public.

The ESM Treaty can be downloaded from the internet – http://www.european-council.europa.eu/media/582311/05-t…2.pdf

The relation of the ESM Treaty to the Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU Treaties authorizing it and to the Fiscal Treaty which Irish voters voted on last Friday is set out in the publication “A Tale of Two Treaties” by Cork solicitors Joe Noonan and Mary Linehan.

This can be downloaded from the internet at: http://taleoftwotreaties.tumblr.com

The letter below to the Ambassadors in Ireland of those EU States which have not yet ratified or approved the ESM Treaty or the Article 136 TFEU amendment sets out the reasons for regarding the ESM Treaty as it stands as illegal under EU law and in violation of the Irish Constitution.

A reformatted standalone version of this as explanatory text, is available here - http://nationalplatform.org/2012/06/06/4-reasons-the-esm-treaty-is-illegal-2/ – “4 Reasons why the ESM Treaty is illegal”.

If these measures are pushed through the Oireachtas this week and next in the way the Government proposes, the only way this profound illegality and unconstitutionality can be prevented is by President Higgins referring the relevant Bill to the Supreme Court for adjudication or by Deputy Thomas Pringle’s legal team securing a relevant injunction to stop it pending a Court hearing of the issues.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Coughlan
Director
Continue reading

4 reasons the ESM Treaty is illegal

Reasons to believe that the ESM Treaty as it stands is illegal under EU law and therefore unconstitutional in Ireland:

The proposal to ratify the European Stability Mechanism Treaty as it stands and to approve the Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU Treaties as authorizing the Stability Mechanism envisaged in the ESM Treaty, are unlawful under the EU Treaties and are therefore unconstitutional in Ireland and the other EU Member States.

There are constitutional challenges to the ESM Treaty and the Article 136 TFEU amendment in Germany, in Estonia and in Ireland. In this country independent Dáil Deputy for Donegal Mr. Thomas Pringle has launched a constitutional challenge on these matters which opens in the Irish High Court on 19 June.

Deputy Pringle’s lawyers are seeking a constitutional referendum in Ireland on the ESM Treaty. They are also claiming that the EU Treaties should be amended under a different provision of the Art. 48 TEU treaty revision procedure than that currently used of the ESM Treaty as it stands is to be lawfully ratified under EU law.

Deputy Pringle’s legal action is seeking to defend the principle that the EU is an entity governed by the rule of law in face of a political attempt to change the EU treaties by subterfuge and to open a way to transforming the present EMU into a fiscal-political union for the Eurozone.

While my colleagues and I are not involved in Deputy Pringle’s action, we and many other Irish people share his concerns that the integrity of the existing EU Treaties and the Irish Constitution be upheld in face of the attempt by some Eurozone Governments effectively to take the Eurozone captive for their own ends and to organize the Economic and Monetary Union on quite different principles from heretofore by means of this ESM Treaty. We have respectfully requested several ambassadors therefore, to urge their Governments not to proceed with their country’s ratification of the ESM Treaty or approval of the Article 136 TFEU authorisation, until the Irish Courts have ruled on the issues raised by this constitutional action.

The reasons which lead us to believe that the ESM Treaty as it stands is illegal under EU law and unconstitutional in Ireland are the following:-

1. Article 3 TFEU of the EU Treaties which have been agreed by all 27 EU Member States provides that monetary policy for the countries using the euro is a matter of “exclusive competence” of the EU as a whole.

It is not therefore open to the 17 Member States of the Eurozone to attempt effectively to diminish the competence of the Union and to establish among themselves a Stability Mechanism entailing a €700 billion permanent bailout fund to lend to Eurozone governments as envisaged in the ESM Treaty. This ESM fund, to which Ireland would have to make significant contributions for the indefinite future, would trench profoundly on monetary policy for the euro area.

The Stability Mechanism envisaged in the ESM Treaty is effectively an attempt to find a way round the “no bailouts” provision of Article 125 TFEU, whereby it is forbidden for the EU to take on the debt of Member States or for Member States to take on the debt of other Member States.

It also breaches other EU Treaty articles. The ESM Treaty if ratified as it stands would effectively amount to an attempt to open a legal-political path to what France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy called for last November, namely “A Federation for the Eurozone and a Confederation for the rest of the EU“.

A radical step of this kind, which would transform the Economic and Monetary Union from what it has been up to now, may only lawfully be taken by means of the “ordinary” treaty amendment procedure of Art. 48.2 TEU. It cannot lawfully be done by means of a mere Decision of the European Council of Prime Ministers and Presidents under the “simplified” treaty amendment procedure of Art. 48.6 TEU. The latter procedure is meant to deal with minor technical amendments to the treaties, but is currently being used by the governments of the 17 Eurozone countries in an attempt to alter radically the character of the EMU by ratifying this ESM Treaty as it stands.

2. How can it be lawful for the ESM Treaty to permit a permanent ESM loan fund to be established for the 17 Eurozone countries when the express terms of the Article 136 TFEU amendment, agreed by all 27 EU Governments, authorises a Stability Mechanism only if that is established unanimously by the Eurozone States, as the general provisions of EU law require,

viz:

The Member States whose currency is the euro may establish a stability mechanism to be activated if indispensable to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole” (emphasis added).

The Art. 136 amendment to the EU Treaties does not say that “Member States”, meaning some of them, may establish a Stability Mechanism, but rather The Member States” , namely all of them (In French Les Membres rather than Des Membres).

Yet the ESM Treaty which has been concluded among the 17 provides that the Stability Mechanism it envisages may come into being once States contributing 90% of the capital of the proposed fund have ratified the treaty.

The eight largest Eurozone States, a minority of the 17, can therefore establish this Stability Mechanism, while other Eurozone States that may need assistance from it badly are excluded.

How then can this be a Stability Mechanism “for the euro area as a whole“, as article 136 TFEU, which still has to be constitutionally approved by all 27 EU Member States, requires?

Likewise the so-called Fiscal Treaty – the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the EMU – on which Irish voters have just voted and which cross-refers to the ESM Treaty, provides that it can come into force when it is ratified by 12 Eurozone Members.

Does not this treaty also require unanimous ratification by all 17 Eurozone Members before it can be lawfully binding on them under EU law?

3. How can the ESM Treaty be lawfully ratified by July 2012, as is the stated intention of the 17 Eurozone governments concerned, when the Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU Treaties authorising a Stability Mechanism does not have legal effect, once if has been constitutionally approved by all 27 EU Member States, until 1 January 2013?

Does not this mean that any treaty purporting to establish an ESM before 2013 must be legally void? ESM Treaty No. 1 which was signed by Eurozone Finance Ministers in July 2011 but was never sent round for ratification, conformed to the 2013 time-frame set by the Art. 136 TFEU authorisation, whereas ESM Treaty No. 2 which was signed by EU Ambassadors on 2 February 2012 does not.

This shows again how the exigencies of a political response to the financial crisis by some Eurozone States puts them in breach of EU law and therefore of the Irish Constitution.

4. EU Member States may only sign international treaties that are compatible with EU law. The EU Court of Justice has made clear that intergovernmental agreements cannot affect the allocation of responsibilities defined in the EU Treaties.

The provisions of the ESM Treaty and the Fiscal Treaty which involve the EU Commission and Court of Justice in the implementation of the proposed ESM go well beyond what is permissible under the current EU treaties and are therefore unlawful.
Copies of this article are being released to the Irish and international media for their information regarding the concerns which are widely shared in this country that the proposed ESM Treaty is in violation of EU law and in breach of the Irish Constitution.

Anthony Coughlan
Director, National Platform EU Research & Information Centre

First published online @ http://www.indymedia.ie/article/101936

We need to postpone ratifying the ESM Treaty until After the the Fiscal Treaty referendum

The relation between two different treaties we are asked to ratify, which people Need to understand

The Government’s announcement of a referendum on the so-called “Fiscal Compact Treaty” (properly titled the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union/TSCG) calls in question its original intention to introduce the quite different European Stability Mechanism Treaty (ESM) to the Dáil for approval of its ratification on Tuesday or Wednesday next, or else sometime in the present pre-Easter Dáil term, as the Taoiseach recently announced.

The ESM Treaty would set up a permanent Eurozone bailout fund of at least €500 billion form this July – an economic firewall against sovereign debt “contagion” spreading to Spain and Italy. It has to be ratified by all 17 Eurozone States by their appropriate constitutional procedures. The ESM Treaty would commit Ireland to contributing €11 billion to the permanent Eurozone fund – so much money up front and so much in guarantees called “callable” capital later if required. There is already talk of boosting this fund by another few hundred billion once it is established, to which Ireland would naturally have to make a contribution also.

The Preamble to the ESM Treaty, which can be easily downloaded from the Internet, states (Recital 5): “It is acknowledged and agreed that the granting of fonancial assistance in the framework of the new programmes under the ESM will be conditional, as of March 2013, on the ratification of the TSCG [that is, the "Fiscal Treaty"] by the ESM Member concerned…”

This means that if the ESM Treaty, is ratified by Ireland sometime this month – we will be committing ourselves to contributing €11 billion to a fund from which we can receive no benefit or advantage whatever if voters should vote No to the Fiscal Treaty referendum that will presumably be held sometime in May or early June, although the Fiscal Treaty need not be ratified until the end of this year. The ESM Treaty was signed on2 February, the Fiscal Treaty/TSCG was signed on Friday last.

Would the Government not be acting in a very foolish fashion to lay the country open to such a possibility?

Would not the Irish State appear to be acting really bizarrely in the eyes of international public opinion if the ratification of these two quite different treaties was put the wrong way round in this way – very much against the Irish People’s interests?

Or has the Government in mind to introduce and ratify the ESM Treaty during March, as the Taoiseach said,

  • thereby binding the State to contribute €11 billion plus to this permanent Eurozone Fund,
  • and then use that as a moral bludgeon with which to browbeat a bamboozled electorate into voting Yes to the “Fiscal Treaty” – on the ground that if they should vote No to it, they will be depriving themselves of possible access to the permanent Eurozone fund at some time in the future?

Could our leaders really be so cynical?

Surely it becomes imperative in these circumstances that the Government should postpone ratification of the ESM Treaty until after the referendum on the Fiscal Treaty has been held?

The 17 Eurozone Prime Ministers and Presidents have agreed that they would try to bring the ESM Treaty into force by July. The original intention with this treaty’s predecessor, ESM Treaty No.1, which Michael Noonan and the other Eurozone Finance Ministers signed last year, in July 2011, had been to bring the permanent ESM fund into being in 2013, although ESM Treaty No.1 was never sent around for ratification. The date of next July would still give Ireland plenty of time in which to hold its “Fiscal Treaty” referendum in May or early June and thereafter ratify the ESM Treaty (No.2) to come into force by July if the people should vote for it.

Anthony Coughlan (Director)

“We Are Treated Like Mushrooms – Kept in the Dark and Fed Shit!”: Did you know…?

DO YOU KNOW that Ireland could hold the Eurozone at our mercy regarding our national debt, the Anglo-Irish promissory notes and the terms of the Troika’s Memorandum of Understanding? This can be done by requiring a referendum instead of Oireachtas approval of the “Decision” of the EU 27 to amend Art.136 of the EU Treaties so as to authorize the establishment of a permanent €500 billion fund for the Eurozone, the “European Stability Mechanism Fund”, to which Ireland must contribute €11 billion?

DO YOU KNOW that approval of this “Decision” is the only thing on which Ireland has the power of veto? This is because if a referendum on approval of this “Decision” were found to be constitutionally necessary, it would put the State in a position to insist on major concessions on all these vital financial matters. Why should the Government throw away Ireland’s best bargaining card in this way? It is the only chance we have to get rapid radical relief for our ongoing economic pain.

DO YOU KNOW that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty for the Euro area was signed by the ambassadors of the 17 Eurozone countries to the EU on 2 February 2012? This looks like being brought before the Dáil for ratification on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, when the Taoiseach reports back from next Friday’s EU/Eurozone summit. It must be dealt with in this Dail session because the 17 Eurozone States have agreed to rat-ify the ESM Treaty by July.

DO YOU KNOW that this is ESM Treaty No 2? It replaces ESM Treaty No 1 which Finance Minister Michael Noonan signed along with other Eurozone Finance Ministers last summer but which was never sent around for ratification. Unlike its earlier version, ESM Treaty No 2 states in its preamble (Recital No. 5) that it is agreed that no Eurozone State will be able to obtain money from the permanent ESM fund which the treaty would establish unless they have first ratified the separate “Fiscal Compact Treaty” which has been pushed by Chancellor Merkel since Christmas. This requires a permanent balanced budget provision or “debt brake” in national constitutions or their equivalent. This Fiscal Compact Treaty, which will probably be signed by the 17 Eurozone States next Friday and which many people here have criticized, does not need to be ratified until the end of this year.

DO YOU KNOW that the Government has invited submissions from the public on this Fiscal Compact Treaty – a most unusual development? This will distract attention from the Government’s failure to insist that the amendment it has agreed to make to Art.136 of the EU treaties requires a referendum in Ireland because it makes a radical change to the scope, objectives and character of the Economic and Monetary Union which the Irish people agreed to sign up to under the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties?

DO YOU KNOW that a motion to approve the “Decision” of the European Council to amend Art.136 of the EU Treaties + A motion to approve ratification of the European Stability Mechanism Treaty + A European Communities Amendment Bill to bring the provisions of the latter into Irish domestic law, will all be put before the Oireachtas probably on Tuesday or Wednesday week? This is even though there has been absolutely no public discussion on any of these vital matters, and media attention has been concentrated exclusively on the Fiscal Compact Treaty on which Ireland does not have a veto. At a minimum the people deserve a White Paper.

DO YOU KNOW that by holding a referendum in Ireland on the Art.136 amendment to the EU treaties – without which the €500 billion ESM fund cannot be established – we could not only insist on our sovereign debt situation being transformed, but that a better solution to the whole Eurozone economic crisis could be adopted?

If you would like to find out what is really going on, please read the detailed explanation in the analysis on this site entitled “Two Steps to a Fiscal Union for the Eurozone… & A Third Step to Distract Attention from the First Two“.

The European Stability Mechanism Treaty and the Fiscal Compact Treaty can each be Googled on the Internet.

 
 
Anthony Coughlan
Director
National Platform EU Research and Information Centre

February 27, 2012
janthonycoughlan at gmail dot com
24 Crawford Ave. Dublin 9 01-8305792
First published online @ http://www.indymedia.ie/article/101441

Two Steps to a Fiscal Union for the Eurozone… & A Third Step to Distract Attention from the First Two

The Urgent Need at a Minimum For a Government White Paper

“It would be tragic and fatal if we were to lose democracy on the road to saving the euro”

- Dr Andreas Vosskuhle, President of the German Constitutional Court, 2011

“There are 27 of us. Clearly, down the line, we will have to include the Balkans. There will be 32, 33 or 34 of us. No one thinks that federalism, total integration, will be possible with 33, 34, or 35 States. Clearly there will be a two-speed Europe: one speed that moves towards a Federation for the Eurozone and one speed for a Confederation within the European Union.”

- French President Sarkozy, 8 Nov. 2011

BACKGROUND:

The Economic and Monetary Union which Ireland signed up to under the 1992 Maastricht and 2009 Lisbon Treaties assumed that the 3% and 60% of GDP deficit rules for every Eurozone State would be abided by and enforced by means of the sanctions – warnings, special deposits, fines etc. - which are set out in those treaties.  If they had been and if the rules of the EU treaties had been enforced for all, there would have been no sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone and no need for any Eurozone bailout fund, either temporary or permanent.

When Germany and France broke the rules of the EMU by running big government deficits in 2003, the EU treaty sanctions to enforce the 3% and 60% deficit rules were not applied against them, and they were thereafter effectively dropped for everyone else. Ireland did not break these excessive deficit rules however.

Now - to deal with the dire consequences for millions of people of this failure to enforce the rules of the original EMU, while at the same time increasing their own political sway over the Eurozone -  Germany and France, supported by the Brussels Commission, are seeking to change the whole basis of the Economic and Monetary Union which Ireland signed up to. They are doing this by establishing a permanent  €500 billion ESM bailout fund which is to be surrounded by a whole panoply of controls over national budgetary policy, including the permanent balanced budget rule (0.5% deficit rule) proposed in the “Fiscal Compact Treaty” that German Chancellor Merkel insisted on over Christmas.

In considering the possible implications of all this it is worth bearing in mind that in 2014, just two years time, under the Lisbon Treaty Germany’s vote in making EU laws will double from its present 8% of total Council votes to 16%, while France’s and Italy’s vote will go from their present 8% each to 12% each, and Ireland’s vote will halve to 1%. Similar proportional changes will be made in voting within the Eurozone.

The temporary Eurozone bailout fund, the European Stability Facility (EFSF), which was established to lend money to Greece in May 2010, and from which Portugal and Ireland subsequently got bailouts, was established under Art.122 TFEU of the EU Treaties. This Article permits Union financial assistance to be granted when a Member State is in “severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control”. Excessive budget deficits built up over long periods of time are scarcely what this Article was meant to cover, so the very questionable legal basis, to say the least, of the temporary fund has led to this Article being now abandoned and replaced by an entirely new EU Treaty provision, an amendment to Article 136 TFEU, to give a long-term legal basis in European law to the permanent €500 billion bailout fund which the Eurozone States want to set up from this July. Ireland commits itself to making an €11 billion contribution to this fund in various forms of capital by means of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty which can be concluded amongst the 17 Eurozone countries once the EU 27 have amended Art.136 TFEU so as to give permission for it in European law.

The Government wants the Dáil and Seanad to approve this hugely important Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU treaties during the current Dail term without any referendum of the Irish people even though this amendment and its legal/political consequences would mark a qualitative change in the direction of the EU and in the character, scope and objectives of the Economic and Monetary Union which the Irish people signed up to when they approved by referendum the 1992 Maastricht and the 2009 Lisbon Treaties. The amendment to Article 136 would extend the scope of the existing EU treaties significantly and bears a huge weight of legal/political consequences. It reads: “The Member States whose currency is the euro may establish a stability mechanism to be activated if indispensable to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole. The granting of any required financial assistance under the mechanism will be made subject to strict conditionality.”

Approval or non-approval by Ireland of the authorization by the 27 EU States of this permanent bailout fund for the Eurozone is the only thing on which the State still has a veto – unless the Dáil and Seanad throw that veto away by failing to insist on it being used. That is why the media and opinion-formers should urge the Government to exercise it. If the Government is too afraid of the wrath of “Merkozy” and the Brussels Commission to do that, our media and public opinion should call on some public-spirited party or individual to challenge that failure before the Courts.

For if a referendum on approval of the European Council Decision to adopt the Art.136 EU amendment were found to be constitutionally necessary in Ireland, it would put the State in a powerful position to exact major concessions on the national debt, on the Anglo-Irish promissory notes and on the terms of the Troika’s Memorandum of Understanding in order to persuade Irish voters to agree by referendum to the Art.136 amendment of the EU Treaties permitting a permanent Eurozone bailout fund to be established. Why should the Government throw away Ireland’s best bargaining card in this way? Why should it be afraid to take the only course which offers hope of rapid radical relief to the people’s current dire straits?

Such a constitutional challenge, if it were to be taken, would need to show that the Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU Treaties is a claim to, and an assertion of, a significant extension of EU powers, scope and competences which cannot legally be brought into force in Ireland by the “simplifed” EU treaty revision procedure of Art.48(6) TEU that was used to adopt the amendment,  whatever may be the constitutional position in the other EU States … And that therefore approving it in Ireland requires prior permission from voters in a referendum, as a significant surrender of Irish State sovereignty would be involved.  

It is not just issues of EU law that are at stake here. It is widely recognised among economists that the proposed ESM Treaty and the permanent funding mechanism it would establish for the Eurozone, with their accompanying apparatus of controls of national budgets, go nowhere near to solving the current financial crisis of the euro area. A challenge to the constitutionality of the Government’s proposed mode of approval of the Art.136 TFEU amendment would open a valuable opportunity for the adoption by the Eurozone Member States of a more rational and effective scheme for dealing with the area’s financial crisis, with more emphasis on stimulating economic growth and demand across the area, to the benefit of the common good of Ireland and the other Eurozone countries.

STEP 1 TO THE NEW EMU:



The  27-MEMBER EUROPEAN COUNCIL “DECISION” TO MAKE THE ART.136 TFEU AMENDMENT TO THE EU TREATIES

This “Decision” of the European Council of 27 Prime Ministers and Presidents was made in March 2011 (Decision 2011/199/EU) and gives permission under EU law to the 17 Eurozone Member States to set up a permanent bailout fund for the Eurozone.  Ireland has a veto on this Decision, for before it can come into force it must be approved by all 27 EU Member States “in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements”. This means that in Ireland the European Council “Decision” to make this Art.136 amendment requires approval either by the Oireachtas or by the people in a referendum. It calls for the latter if the amendment – despite the implicit claim of those deciding on it that it does not extend EU powers – does in fact extend them, and does in effect entail a surrender of State sovereignty which goes beyond the original “license” which the Irish people gave the State in earlier referendums to join a “developing” European Community/Union.

In other words, approving the “Decision” of the European Council to amend the EU Treaties requires a referendum in Ireland if it can be shown to widen the scope and objectives of the present EU treaties by significantly increasing the powers of the EU. Under the so-called “self-amending” Article 48(6) TEU which was inserted in the EU treaties by the Treaty of Lisbon, the 27-Member European Council of Prime Ministers and Presidents can take decisions to amend most provisions in the policy areas of the EU treaties as long as such amendment does not increase the Union’s powers/competences. For the European Council to purport to authorise under EU law the setting up of a permanent bail-out fund for a sub-group of EU States can arguably be said to be a significant claim to, and assertion of, increased powers for the EU as a whole, as up to now the EU treaties provided for no such fund or mechanism in the Monetary Union either directly or indirectly. The treaties provided rather for an EU Monetary Union which would not require or permit cross-national “bailouts” under any circumstances and would be run on quite different principles to what is being now proposed.

If the Eurozone can set up a Stability Mechanism “intergovernmentally” amongst its 17 Member States, why is any amendment to the EU Treaties by the 27 to permit that needed? It seems plausible to contend therefore that this Art.136 TFEU amendment would put the Economic and Monetary Union which Ireland signed up to when the people ratified the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties on a quite new and different basis. This new basis would entail a significant move towards a Fiscal Union for the 17 Eurozone States in addition to the Monetary Union, as well as an Irish commitment to a panoply of accompanying supranational controls over national budgetary policy. Therefore it arguably would be unconstitutional for the Oireachtas to attempt to give the necessary approval of such a European Council Decision without an Irish referendum.



STEP 2 TO THE NEW EMU:



THE EUROPEAN STABILITY MECHANISM TREATY (ESM) BETWEEN THE 17 EUROZONE STATES

The European Stability Mechanism Treaty sets up the European Stability Mechanism, an entity with legal personality of which Ireland would become a member. It sets out the institutional structure and rights and privileges of this “ Mechanism”. The Mechanism will include a permanent €500 billion bailout fund and the treaty stipulates the contributions which each of the 17 Eurozone Members must make to it in accordance with a “contribution key” annexed to it. The ESM Treaty provides that the fund may be increased later by agreement and there is already talk of increasing it. Ireland must contribute €11 billion to it “irrevocably and unconditionally” in various forms of capital.  The ESM Treaty was signed by EU ambassadors on 2 February 2012 – replacing an earlier ESM Treaty which was signed by Minister Michael Noonan and other Eurozone Finance Ministers in July last year but which was never sent around for ratification. The 17 Eurozone States have agreed that this ESM Treaty No.2 will be ratified so that it can to come into force by July this year. The Government has in mind to bring it before the Oireachtas for approval in this session, so it is likely to be introduced to the Dáil on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

A Dáil motion to approve the ratification of the ESM Treaty for the 17 will presumably be taken at the same time as the motion to approve the “Decision” of the European Council of 27 Prime Ministers and Presidents to insert the Art.136 amendment into the EU Treaties by means of the  “simplified” amendment procedure of Art.48(6) TEU.   There will presumably also be an accompanying European Communities Amendment Bill to implement the Art.136 TFEU amendment and the provisions of the consequential ESM Treaty in Irish domestic law.

The ESM Treaty is to come into force once it is ratified by signatories representing 90% of the initial capital of the fund, so that Ireland has no veto on it.

The preamble to the ESM Treaty states (Recital 5) that it is agreed that money from the permanent ESM fund will only be given to Eurozone States which have ratified the later “Fiscal Compact Treaty” and its permanent balanced budget rule or “debt brake” and that the two treaties are complementary.

In 2011 Attorney-General, Mr Paul Gallagher SC advised the then Fianna Fail Government that there would be no constitutional problem in Ireland with the European Council “Decision” to make the Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU treaties because, he advised, authorizing a sub-group of 17 Eurozone States to set up a permanent bailout fund for the Euro area does not extend the competences of the EU. Mr Gallagher had previously advised Messrs Cowen and Lenihan on the night of the September 2008 blanket guarantee for the Irish banks. He also advised that the ESM Treaty for the Eurozone which would be authorized by the Art.136 TFEU amendment to the EU treaties would not raise constitutional problems here either. That advice was given however in relation to ESM Treaty No. 1 which was later signed by Finance Minister Michael Noonan and the other Eurozone Finance Ministers but was never sent around for ratification. Mr Gallagher was not dealing with the agreement amongst the Eurozone States in ESM Treaty No. 2 that any money from the permanent bailout fund when that was set up would only be given to States which had inserted a ”debt brake” into their national Constitutions or the equivalent under the provisions of the Fiscal Compact Treaty, for Chancellor Mertkel had not yet even mooted that.

It is desirable that the advice of Attorney-General Máire Whelan SC on the constitutionality of the Art.136 TFEU amendment to the EU treaties and the ESM Treaty No.2 which follows from that, should be made available to the public, preferably through the medium of a Government White Paper.

[N.B. It is unusual for an EU-related treaty to be signed by anyone other than EU Prime Ministers and Presidents. In the case of the ESM Treaty (No. 2) it was signed by Eurozone ambassadors to the EU on 2 February 2012. Was this meant to minimize public attention to its signing?]

A THIRD STEP THAT HAS DISTRACTED ATTENTION IN IRELAND FROM THE FIRST TWO…

THE “FISCAL COMPACT TREATY” (TREATY ON STABILITY, COORDINATION AND GOVERNANCE IN THE ECONOMIC AND MONETARY UNION)

The Fiscal Compact Treaty, properly titled the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (TSCG), was insisted on by German Chancellor Angela Merkel over winter 2011, essentially as a gesture towards German public opinion. When the Deutschmark was being abolished in 1999 the German people were not told that they would be committed to an EU Monetary Union with a huge permanent bailout fund to which they would be expected to be the principal net contributors. Rather they were told instead that the “no-bailout clause” of the EU treaties, Art.125 TFEU, guaranteed that there would be no bailouts by the others for any Member State using the single currency which did not abide by the excessive deficit rules. Germans are naturally indignant at the radical change in the EMU that is now being proposed. Chancellor Merkel’s insistence on a permanent balance budget provision /”debt brake” being inserted into national Constitutions by means of the Fiscal Compact Treaty, as was done in Germany two years ago, is meant to reassure her voting public that in budgetary matters the other 16 Member States of the Eurozone, including Ireland, will henceforth behave like Germans! Yet most economists regard a permanent balanced budget rule as absurdly inflexible, for Governments do need to run deficits on occasion in order to stimulate their economies and expand economic demand when that slumps heavily in their domestic or foreign markets.

Approving the European Council Decision to insert the Art.136 amendment into the EU treaties, ratifying the subsequent ESM Treaty with its strict budgetary rules in early March and ratifying what is stated to be the “complementary” Fiscal Compact Treaty towards the end of this year will have the effect of removing virtually the whole area of budgetary policy from the national to the supranational level of the Eurozone – without a referendum in Ireland or even a Government White Paper on the implications of that. It should be noted that the additional wording of Art.136, which is being asked to carry a heavy burden of subsequent changes, does not amend or even refer to the “no bailout clause” of Art.125 TFEU.

These developments would remove much of the stuff of national decision-making and normal party politics from the arena of democratic consideration and debate in this country.

The provisions of the Fiscal Compact Treaty were agreed at the EU summit on 30 January but they will not be put into proper treaty form and signed  by the 17 Eurozone States until March – probably at the EU/Eurozone summit meeting on next Friday. They need not be ratified until the end of this year. This treaty provides for a permanent balanced budget rule or “debt brake” of 0.5% of GDP in any one year to be inserted in Eurozone national Constitutions or the equivalent.  All 17 Eurozone States must ratify this treaty, but it comes into force once it is ratified by 12 of them, so that Ireland does not have a veto on it.

The preamble to the Fiscal Compact Treaty refers to the fact that money from the new permanent bailout fund (the ESM fund) will only be given to States which have ratified it. As treaties for the 17-Member Eurozone, both the ESM Treaty and the Fiscal Compact Treaty derive from the 27-Member amendment to the EU Treaties referred to in Step 1 above. Most of the provisions of the Fiscal Compact Treaty overlap with the so-called “Six Pack” of EU regulations and a directive which constitutes the “Reinforced Stability and Growth Pact”, and which were put into EU law last December.



It is important to note that the European Stability Mechanism Treaty and the Fiscal Compact Treaty are not EU treaties binding in EU law, but are rather “intergovernmental treaties” amongst the 17 Member States of the Eurozone, although they provide for the full involvement of the EU Commission and the European Court of Justice in their day-to-day implementation. 



The Government has invited public submissions on this Fiscal Compact Treaty to be made to an Oireachtas Committee over the coming months, which is a most unusual development. Presumably this is meant to distract media and public attention from the implications of approving the Art.136 amendment to the EU Treaties, on which Ireland has a veto, without a referendum, and ratifying the ESM Treaty which derives from that. 

These are clear moves towards a fiscal union for the Eurozone, and the Oireachtas is being invited to approve them in the next couple of weeks without any significant public discussion, at least to judge by the virtual total silence on them to date. At a minimum the Irish public deserves a White Paper on these hugely important developments before Ireland’s last EU veto of significance is abandoned and it becomes too late to save further large areas of our national democracy.



Issued for public information by the
National Platform EU Research and Information Centre

February 27, 2012
janthonycoughlan at gmail dot com
24 Crawford Ave. Dublin 9 01-8305792
First published online @ http://www.indymedia.ie/article/101440
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