Thursday 11 December 2008
Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s hypocrisy in pretending to “respect” the people’s referendum vote on Lisbon is now evident, for not a jot or tittle of Lisbon will be altered when he forces the people to vote on it a second time next year.
Political Declarations or promises regarding future Treaties that are not yet even drafted will not alter a comma of the Lisbon Treaty.
If people vote Yes in Lisbon Two to exactly the same Treaty which they voted No to last June they will be changing the Irish Constitution so as to recognise the supremacy of the law of the new Union which Lisbon would establish over anything contrary, whether in the Irish Constitution or in political Declarations and promises that might be tacked on to Lisbon.
No political Declarations or promises about commitments and even Protocols in future EU Treaties can change Lisbon or the supremacy of the EU Court of Justice in interpreting that Treaty’s provisions. These will have come into force well before any further EU Treaty or Treaties will even be negotiated.
If the Irish media and public opinion allow themselves to be taken in by the kind of presentational trickery Taoiseach Cowen and his Government are now planning, they could be making themselves the laughing stock of Europe.
A promise by the 27 EU Governments that each Member State can keep a Commissioner permanently under Lisbon is valueless in the light of that Treaty’s provision that from 2014 Member States will lose their right to decide who their national commissioner will be.
For under Lisbon (Article 17.7, amended Treaty on European Union) a Government’s present right to decide would be replaced by a right to make “suggestions” only, for the incoming Commission President to decide (See notes below elaborating on this point).
Under the present Nice Treaty arrangements Member States would retain permanently their right to decide who their national Commissioner is – a right which they would lose under Lisbon.
The Nice Treaty requires that the number of Commissioners should be fewer than the number of Member States from 2009, but by an unspecified number to be agreed unanimously.
This requirement of the present Nice-based Treaties can be abided by, and Ireland and the other States can keep a national Commissioner permanently, by the simple expedient of reducing the number of Commissioners from 27 to 26 and permitting whoever holds the job of “High Representative for EU Foreign and Security Policy” – currently Spain’s Javier Solana – to attend Commission meetings instead of being formally titled a Commissioner from that State.
This can and should be done under the Nice Treaty. This would mean that the Commission arrangements would continue virtually unchanged from the present. Ireland would retain a Commissioner permanently except in the unlikely event of an Irish person being given the even more important job of High Representative.
Taoiseach Cowen and his Government have deliberately sought to isolate and put pressure on their own people by failing to say after the Lisbon referendum last June that Ireland would not ratify Lisbon in view of the people’s No vote.
If the Taoiseach had done that, continued ratification by the other EU States would have been pointless, for Lisbon requires ratification by all 27 States before it can come into force for anyone.
Such a stand would have led to the Lisbon Treaty being opened and a chance created for a more democratic rather than less democratic EU through a better Treaty.
The prudent stand now for the Government and for the EU is to wait for the UK general election and the likely advent to office in Britain of a Conservative Government which will be committed to holding a referendum on Lisbon in the UK and recommending a No vote to it, as long as we Irish do not alter our No vote before then.
That would put paid to the attempted isolation of Ireland, which its own Government has connived at.
It would also give our fellow countrymen and women in Northern Ireland a chance to vote on this Treaty-cum-Constitution which would make them real citizens for the first time of an EU that would have the constitutional form of a supranational Federal State run on most undemocratic lines under Franco-German hegemony.
A NOTE ON HOW LISBON WOULD TAKE AWAY IRELAND’S RIGHT TO DECIDE WHO ITS NATIONAL COMMISSIONER WOULD BE:
Under the current Nice Treaty arrangements (Treaty Establishing the European Community, Article 214.2) Member States have the right to “propose” a Commissioner every five years. This is effectively a right to decide, because while the others can ask the Member State in question to give them some other proposal if they do not like the person proposed, if that Member State declines to change its mind, its proposal will prevail, for otherwise it can refuse to accept the proposals of the others.
Article 214.2 TEC reads:
“The Council, acting by a qualified majority and by common accord with the nominee for the President shall adopt the list of other persons whom it intends to appoint as Members of the Commission, drawn up in accordance with the proposals made by each Member State.”
Under Lisbon (amended Treaty on European Union, Article 17.7) Commissioners would be appointed on the basis of “suggestions” from the Member States. The word “proposals” is thus replaced in Lisbon by “suggestions“.
Effectively under Lisbon, if it should come into force, it will be the incoming President of the Commission, interacting with the Member States, who will decide what “suggestions” are acceptable to him or not.
The President of the Commission will be effectively decided first by a special qualified majority vote of the Prime Ministers and Presidents – 20 out of 27 – taking account of who has the majority in the EU Parliament. They will propose their nominee to the European Parliament, who will then “elect” him or her. If the European Parliament does not elect the person nominated as President, the Prime Ministers and Presidents must propose another candidate within a month.
Then when it comes to the individual Commissioners, Lisbon states (Article 17.7 amended TEU) :
“The Council, by common accord with the president-elect, shall adopt the list of the other persons whom it proposes for appointment as members of the Commission. They shall be selected, on the basis of suggestions made by Member States, in accordance with the criteria set out in paragraph 3 …”
Paragraph 3 refers to the criteria of “their general competence and European commitment“.
The Commission President, the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and the other members of the Commission shall then
“be subject as a body to a vote of consent by the European Parliament”. If this consent is given “the Commission as a whole shall be appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority”
In power-political terms the Big States in the EU can look with equanimity on the proposal that they should lose their national Commissioner for 10 years out of every 15 in the rotating system proposed by Lisbon, because they know that they will have the decisive say in appointing the new Commission President, who in turn will have the key role in deciding who ALL the Commissioners will be, based on mere “suggestions” rather than proposals from the Member States.
It is unlikely that that the incoming Commission President will adopt “suggestions” that are uncongenial or unacceptable to the Big States who will have been crucial in his or her own appointment.
Lisbon would thus endow the incoming Commission President with powers very similar to those of a Prime Minister at national level – the right to decide what “suggestions” from Member States are acceptable to him, so giving him the right to decide his “Commissioners/Ministers“, the right to allocate whatever jobs he likes to the Commissioners and the right to obtain their resignation and replacement at any time.
A NOTE ON THE BIG STATE POWER-GRAB FOR CONTROL OF A POST-LISBON EUROPEAN UNION
This is shown by three specific proposals of the Lisbon Treaty:
a) Appointing the new permanent EU President as a plum job by agreement of the Prime Ministers and Presidents among themselves, without any democratic input from the EU’s peoples. The new President would replace the present rotating six-month EU presidencies and would chair the summit meetings of Prime Ministers and Presidents for a period of 2.5 years, renewable once.
b) Basing EU law-making post-Lisbon on population size instead of the present system of weighted votes. This would double Germany’s relative voting weight in making EU laws from the present 8% to 17%, increase France’s, Britain’s and Italy’s from their present 8% each to 12% each, and halve Ireland’s from 2% to 0.8%.
Lisbon would therefore allow 15 EU States to outvote 12 in making European laws, so long as as the 15 constitute 65% of the total EU population of 500 million or so. France and Germany between them already have one-third of the EU’s population.
c) (i) Removing the right of Member States to decide their own Commissioner and effectively giving that function to the incoming Commission President, who will be a creature of the Big States.
(ii) Reducing the number of Commissioners by one-third from 2014 – a proposal that can be abandoned by unanimous agreement under Lisbon.
First posted online at indymedia.ie
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