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)

⚠ Spoofing the Irish media and public with Lisbon “guarantees” that guarantee nothing

The central point to grasp about the current EU Summit proceedings on the Lisbon Treaty is that Messrs Brian Cowen’s and Micheál Martin’s “legally binding guarantees” to meet Irish voters’ concerns do not change a jot or tittle of that Treaty.

If they changed even a comma, the Lisbon Treaty would become a different Treaty and would have to be ratified again from scratch by the National Parliaments of the 27 EU Member States.

EU politicians cannot change the treaties, or their effects, just by signing a new agreement: the Court of Justice will always say that the provisions of a fully ratified European Treaty trump any attempt to modify the operation of the Treaty through an unratified agreement.

EU treaties cannot be amended in any way unless the document embodying the amendments has been both signed by EU leaders, and then ratified by all EU Member States “in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements”. That is not happening here.

Thus the Lisbon Treaty which the Irish people will be voting on in the autumn will be exactly the same Treaty as the one which the majority of voters rejected in last year’s referendum by 53% to 47% on a 53% turnout.

If the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, it would be the EU Court of Justice which would interpret it, as the EU Court is the only body authorised under the European Treaties to interpret them and decide how they should be applied.

The “decision” or agreement of the European Council that certain provisions of the Lisbon Treaty mean such and such is just that – an agreement between the 27 Prime Ministers and Presidents. It is legally binding on them as individuals, but it is not an international Treaty between States which would require ratification by the 27 EU States putting it before their National Parliaments for approval, as is the normal mode of ratification of treaties.

The text of the introduction to the Summit “decision” states that it is made by the Heads of State or Government “desiring to address those (Irish) concerns in conformity with that Treaty”, viz the Lisbon Treaty.

Being in conformity with the Lisbon Treaty, the “decision” or agreement cannot add to or substract from Lisbon in the slightest, and it would be for the EU Court, and the Court alone, to decide what Lisbon and its manifold provisions would mean if Lisbon should come into force.

So far as one can ascertain, the Summit “decision” or “agreement” is not actually being signed by the 27 Prime Ministers and Presidents who agree it, as would be normal with an international Treaty pending its formal ratification. Note that it is not being called a Treaty, but rather a “decision” or “agreement”.

Formally registering this decision at the United Nations as a political agreement between the Prime Ministers and Presidents concerned, is intended to make it look more significant to the Irish public. This would confer on it a minor status in international law, but not in EU law. It would not and could not override EU law.

Some future meeting of the European Council of EU Prime Ministers and Presidents could make some other decision or agreement, possibly even in contradiction to this agreement, and that would be equally valuable or valueless, for it would not add to or take away from the Treaties one iota.

The whole process is meant to give the Irish media and public the impression that some real change is being made to the Lisbon Treaty, when nothing like that is happening.

Nor is the Summit “decision” or “agreement” a legally binding Protocol attached to Lisbon, which would form part of that Treaty and which would be binding in European law and on the EU Court of Justice in interpreting and applying European law. For that would require opening the Lisbon Treaty and ratifiying the new Protocol anew as part of it.

Promise of a special Irish Protocol or “clarificatory declaration” to be attached to some future EU Treaty, possibly years away, would be just that – a promise. It would not affect the Lisbon Treaty coming into force, with all its legal obligations. It would not prevent the constitutionally new European Union which Lisbon would create being established.

In no way could a promised Protocol to some future EU Treaty resile or pull back from the obligations entailed by the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty once Lisbon had come into force.

What could such a promised future Protocol do in any case, for Ireland is not seeking any opt-outs from the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty?

In 1992 when the Danish people voted No to the Maastricht Treaty, its Government sought and secured legally binding opt-outs from the central provisions of Maastricht – the euro-currency, EU military and security commitments, and Maastricht’s provisions on EU citizenship. These provisions of Maastricht were never applied to Denmark and that position was formally recognised by a Protocol in the EU Treaties at the time of the 1998 Amsterdam Treaty, and these Danish opt-outs still apply.

Nothing like that is being sought by Ireland, whose Government has signed up to and accepted the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty and the EU Constitution which it embodies in their entirety.

That is just as true now as it was last year.


Anthony Coughlan
(Contact for further information: 01-8305792 )

The scandal of the Irish Referendum Commission in the Lisbon Treaty referendum

(N.B. This press release is being posted to all TDs, Senators and MEPs, to the members of the High Court and Supreme Court, the Referendum Commission and  the Catholic Hierarchy, and to the media and leading activists on the Yes and No sides in the Lisbon Treaty referendum, in the interest of public information. Acknowledgment is made to the web-site posting by Mr Patrick Egan for the information below on the role of  A&L Goodbody Solicitors and Murray Consultants.)

The sheer dereliction of duty of the statutory Referendum Commission during the Lisbon Treaty referendum will assuredly be found shocking by future historians of our times.

The Oireachtas voted the Commission over ¤5 million to enable it do its job of informing citizens what the Lisbon referendum was about. Rarely can public money have been spent to such ill effect.  The Commission  spent ¤2.7 on media advertising.   It paid An Post ¤1 million to deliver 2.2 million information handbooks to households. In the circumstances it was a democratic miracle that the majority of Irish voters rejected the proposal to amend the Irish Constitution. If the Commission had done the job it was statutorily required to do, the No-side majority would almost certainly have been much larger, for people would have  learned of the constitutional revolution which Lisbon proposed, instead of being kept in ignorance of it.

The Commission Chairman and its members:

The Government appoints the  chairman of the Referendum Commission on an ad hoc basis for every referendum.   For Lisbon it chose High Court Justice Mr Iarfhlaith O’Neill as Commission chairman.  It is a legitimate career expectation of High Court judges that they will be appointed to the Supreme Court or the European Court in Luxembourg. The chairman of the Referendum Commission during the Amsterdam Treaty and Nice Treaty referendums was retired Chief Justice T.A.Finlay, for whom prospects of judicial promotion were irrelevant.

The regular members of the Commission are the Clerk of the Dail (Mr Kieran Coughlan), the Clerk of the Seanad (Ms Deirdre Lane), the Ombudsman (Ms Emily O’Reilly) and the Comptroller and Auditor-General (Mr John Purcell).

Rubber-stamping its Chairman’s remarks instead of speaking with a collective voice:

The Referendum Commission is statutorily bound to act as a collectivity. The statements it issues should be approved by all its members. There is no provision in the Referendum Act which permits the Chairman to arrogate to himself the job of “clarifying” or explaining contentious issues of the referendum debate.  Previous Referendum Commissions never attempted to do anything like that.  Yet at two press conferences during the Lisbon referendum Mr Justice O’Neill  took it upon himself to “clarify”, as he put it,  contentious issues dealing with the implications of the Lisbon Treaty for such matters as company taxation, abortion, neutrality, a WTO veto etc., where political and legal judgements about what could happen if Lisbon was ratified were closely intertwined.

Judge O’Neill’s “clarifications” in each case lent heavily towards the Yes-side interpretation of these matters and were fulsomely welcomed by Government and other Yes-side spokesmen.  Because of the impromptu nature of oral statements the other Commission members could not stand over everything said  by Judge O’Neill on these occasions.  They thereby failed in their duty to express at all times an agreed collective view. They must have been embarrassed when their Chairman was unable to answer a question on the Treaty at his second “clarificatory” press event.

On Tuesday 13 May Judge O’Neill made a clear error of fact when he stated on RTE that the Laval/Vaxholm judgement of the EU Court of Justice was given before and not after the Lisbon Treaty was signed. The implication of this was that this judgement had been taken into account by the signatories of the Treaty and there was therefore no case  for rejecting the Treaty because  its framers had not known of it.  In fact this Court judgement was given five days after the Lisbon Treaty was signed, so that it  could not have been taken into account or responded to by the signatory States.  This was an important referendum issue for some No-side campaigners.

Mr Justice O’Neill’s mistake thus helped one side as against the other. Future Referendum Commissions should veto any attempts at such solo flights by their chairman and follow the sound procedures set out in previous referendums by retired Chief Justice Finlay.

Conflicts of interest on legal advice and public relations consultants:

The Referendum Commission paid  ¤47,000 for legal advice, mostly from solicitor firm A&L Goodbody. It paid ¤358,000 for printing and design of publications, part of the design being done by DMH, a company linked to Murray Consultants, public relations advisers.  Ms Olivia Buckley, one of the two Murray Consultants executives dealing with the Referendum Commission contract, whose name appeared as a contact on Referendum Commission press releases, was, for a period of five years up to the May 2007 general election, the press director of the Fianna Fail Party. She is  a native of Ferbane, Co Offaly and has been closely associated with Taoiseach Mr Brian Cowen.  A&L Goodbody are one of the patrons of Chambers Ireland, an organisation that campaigned for a Yes vote in the referendum, as well as acting as legal adviser for IBEC, another organisation that campaigned for a Yes vote

These conflicts of interest might be overlooked if one could be satisfied that the Referendum Commission itself selected Murray Consultants and A&L Goodbody.  Section 4 of the Referendum Act 1998 provides that the Referendum Commission may from time to time engage such consultants and advisers as it considers necessary or expedient for the performance of its functions, thereby clearly envisaging that any such consultants or advisors will be selected and appointed by the Referendum Commission itself.

The Government’s  own E-tenders website, however, showed that the request for tender for ¤3.5 million of ‘Marketing, Communications and Project Management Consultancy services for the Referendum Commission’ was published on 19 February 2008, three weeks before the Referendum Commission was called into being on 6 March 2008. Disturbingly, the request for tender stated that tenders were to be submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs, even though the holding of referendums and the establishment of the Referendum Commission is a matter for the Department of the Environment  and Local Government. No explanation has been provided for the involvement of the Department of  Foreign Affairs and no confirmation has been given that the choice of Murray Consultants was that of the Referendum Commission itself and not the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In relation to the selection of A&L Goodbody Solicitors as legal advisers to the Referendum Commission, there was not even a public tender process carried out, whether by the Referendum Commission itself or by any government department on its behalf. No information has been disclosed as to when A&L Goodbody Solicitors were selected, who selected them and indeed how they came to be selected.

Under the Referendum Act the Referendum Commission  is required to furnish, within six months of the referendum, a report to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government on the carrying out of its functions. The Minister for the Environment and Local Government is to lay this report before the Dail. It is to be hoped that the serious questions relating to the appointment of the Commission’s legal advisers and PR people, and the validity of the tendering process, will be addressed in this report or else raised in the Dail.

The most sensible, effective and probably the cheapest way for the Referendum Commission to get legal advice on an EU Treaty if it needs that, is to hire two top-rank authorities on EU law, one who favours a Yes vote and the other who favours a No, and when they cannot agree on a matter of legal interpretation, the members of the Commission should make up their own minds.  If the disagreement on interpretation persists among themselves, it should inform the public of that fact.  This is the way in which the function of providing the public with accurate information on contentious issues is carried out by statutory bodies similar to the Referendum Commission elsewhere, for example in Denmark.

The Referendum Commission’s profound failure to carry out its statutory function of explaining the actual Constitutional  Amendment and its text to Irish voters:

The poor quality of the legal advice adopted by the Referendum Commission is shown by the fact that the Commission substantially  failed to carry out its statutory duty under the Referendum Act establishing it.

Irish referendums are a form of direct legislation in which citizens are legislating on a Bill to amend the Constitution and  deciding whether to adopt or reject that Bill. In the case of the Lisbon Treaty, the proposed constitutional amendment was set out in the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2008.

To help Irish citizen-voters carry out their legislative task the Referendum Act imposes on the Referendum Commission the statutory obligation “to prepare a statement or statements containing a general explanation of the subject matter of the proposal (i.e. the proposal to amend the Constitution) and of the text thereof in the relevant Bill and any other information relating to those matters that the Commission considers appropriate“.

In view of this clear injunction from the Oireachtas it is surprising that neither the Referendum Commission’s web-site when it was first set up, nor the Handbook which it sent  to  all voters,  gave the text of the proposal to amend the Irish Constitution, or even a summary of it. The  text was put on the web-site following private representations by this organisation, but no change was made to the Handbook.

The Commission’s Handbook to Voters was significantly misleading –  by omission  –  in that it stated, on Page 2: “You are being asked to decide whether or not to change the Constitution of Ireland to allow Ireland to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon.” But that was only part of the decision Irish voters were asked to make on 12 June 2008 in the proposed Constitutional Amendment.

The first sentence of the Constitutional Amendment which was set out in the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill made clear that the Amendment’s purpose was for the people to give permission to the State to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon AND to “be a member of the European Union established by virtue of that Treaty.”

However, the  Referendum Commission’s explanatory material  made no reference whatever  to the latter part of this sentence, despite its obvious importance.  Nor did it make any reference to the important sentence following, which would give the “laws, acts and measures” of the proposed  new post-Lisbon European Union constitutional supremacy over the Irish Constitution and laws.
The following are the first two subsections  – the centrally important ones  – of the  English text of the Constitutional Amendment which was put before Irish voters on 12 June 2008 and which was “the subject matter of the proposal and text thereof in the relevant Bill” that it was the statutory duty of the Referendum Commission to explain to citizens:

“10:   The State may ratify the Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community,  signed at Lisbon on the 13th day of December 2007, and  may be a member of the European Union established by virtue of that Treaty. (emphasis added)

11:   No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by membership of the European Union referred to in subsection 10 of this section, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said European Union or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the treaties referred  to in this section, from having the force of law in the State.”

By omitting any reference in the explanatory material on its web-site or in its “Voters’ Handbook to “the European Union established by virtue of that Treaty”, viz. the Lisbon Treaty, the Referendum Commission failed fundamentally in its statutory duty of explaining  to voters the profound constitutional difference between the European Union which would be established by the Lisbon Treaty and  the European Union which we are currently members of and which was established by the 1993 Maastricht Treaty.

The Commission thus failed  to inform voters that the legally new European Union which would  be established by Lisbon would, unlike the present EU, have the constitutional form of a supranational Federation in which Ireland and the other EU Member States would have the constitutional status of regional or provincial states, and of which we would all be made real citizens for the first time, rather than our being just notional, symbolic or honorary EU “citizens” as at present.

One can only be a citizen of a State and all States must have citizens. As real citizens of the constitutionally new  European Union to be established by Lisbon  –  and in contrast to the current EU which was established by the 1993 Maastricht Treaty – we would owe the post-Lisbon EU the normal citizens’ duty of obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority over and above our obedience and loyalty to the Irish State and the Irish Constitution and laws.

Lisbon would amend the existing European Treaties to make EU citizenship “additional to” rather than “complementary”  to national citizenship. We would still retain our Irish national  citizenship in the post-Lisbon Union,  but our new dual citizenship post-Lisbon would not be citizenship of two different States, but rather of the federal and regional-provincial levels of one State, as is normal in such classical Federations as the USA, Federal Germany, Switzerland and Canada.
The Irish Constitution would remain in being  after Lisbon – just as the various states of the Federal USA still retain their constitutions –  but it would be subordinate to the EU Constitution in any case of conflict between the two.  The rights and duties attaching to our  new EU citizenship would also be superior to the rights and duties attaching to our national citizenship in any case of conflict, because of the primacy of EU law over national law in the post-Lisbon Union, as indicated in the second sentence of the proposed Constitutional Amendment quoted above.

The present EU is not a State and does not have legal personality such that it can have citizens as members. The “European Union established by virtue of the Lisbon Treaty“, which is referred to in the first and most important sentence of the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill, would be quite otherwise in this and other respects.
These are major constitutional changes by any standard –  for the EU, for its Member States and for Irish citizens. Yet there was not a hint of them in the publicity material issued by the Referendum Commission: not a word about EU citizenship; not a word about Lisbon’s abolition of the European Community that we have been members of since 1973; not a word about Lisbon’s establishing a constitutionally new European Union, with legal personality for the first time, with  power to sign international treaties in all areas of its competence, with the same name but politically, legally and constitutionally with the form of a supranational  European Federation –  a very different entity altogether from the present EU.

The result? . . . Concealment from  the Irish people of  the constitutional implications of what they were voting on – by the very body which was  set up by the Oireachtas to inform them!

One can understand that the Government and Yes-side proponents  would wish to keep these major constitutional changes which would be made by the Lisbon Treaty  from the attention of Irish voters. But for the Referendum Commission to say nothing about them in its publicity material was a shocking delinquency.  It could have had dire constitutional results for this and future generations of Irish people if Irish voters had voted Yes – not  to  speak of  their implications for the peoples of Europe, who are being denied  referendums on this profound political and constitutional change  by private agreement among  their Prime Ministers and Presidents at their October 2007 summit meeting.

Positively misleading statements in the Referendum Commission’s publicity material on the mode of appointment of European Commissioners under Lisbon:

The  Lisbon Treaty provides that Ireland’s present right to “propose”  and decide its national Commissioner, and in effect to have that proposal accepted by the other Member States if their proposals are to be accepted by Ireland (Art. 214, current TEC), would be replaced by a right to make “suggestions”  regarding a name, for the incoming Commission President to decide (Art.17.7, amended TEU).  Member States would thus lose their present right to decide who their national Commissioners would be.  In other words, the Lisbon Treaty, if ratified,  would replace a bottom-up process for appointing  European Commissioners by a top-down one.

The Referendum Commission deliberately concealed this important  change, which would undoubtedly alarm some voters. Its Handbook to Voters  stated on page 5 that  “At present, each Member State nominates one member of the Commission”  and then goes on to say: “The right to nominate a Commissioner will rotate among the Member States on an equal basis.”

The use of the same word “nominate”  to describe the  mode of appointment of  European Commissioners  pre-Lisbon and post-Lisbon was quite misleading and concealed from Irish voters the fact that the Lisbon Treaty proposes a significant change in the mode of appointing a fellow-national as an EU Commissioner.

This misleading nature of the phrase “right to nominate” was brought privately to the Referendum Commission’s attention by the undersigned when it first appeared on the Commission’s web-site, but that led to no change. The same misleading statement  later appeared in the Referendum Commission’s Handbook posted to voters.

Anthony Coughlan
The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre
24 Crawford Avenue
Dublin 9
Web-site:  nationalplatform.org
Tel.: 01-830579

1 September 2008

An Open Letter to Stephen Collins (Political editor, The Irish Times)

The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre
24 Crawford Avenue
Dublin 9

Tel.: 01-8305792
Web-site nationalplatform.org

Thursday 6 August 2008

Dear Stephen,
In your Irish Times article last Saturday you call on the Government to ratify the Lisbon Treaty regardless of the 12 June referendum result.

It is strange that a political correspondent of a major national newspaper should seek to become a partisan player in the political game in this way.

Stranger still that you should be urging such a profoundly unconstitutional and undemocratic course on our political leaders.

You are mistaken if you think that Ireland can ratify the Lisbon Treaty by Oireachtas vote without a referendum.

The Lisbon Treaty, which is the EU Constitution revamped,  establishes a constitutionally new European Union, with its own legal personality for the first time, which is legally different from the present European Union that was established by the Treaty of Maastricht and which is referred to in Article 29.4  of the Irish Constitution.

The first sentence of the  Constitutional Amendment which the people rejected on 12 June proposed to replace the present Maastricht-based EU by a future Federal-style Lisbon-based EU, of which we would all be made real rather than symbolical citizens for the first time.

The same name,  “European Union”,  would be used post-Lisbon as pre-Lisbon, but the constitutional and political character of the Union, its Member States and of us as Irish citizens would be transformed fundamentally by the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

No Oireachtas vote is constitutionally capable of doing this.  With all due respect to you, it is irresponsible to be speading illusions otherwise.

The  Lisbon Treaty would also abolish the European Communities other than the Atomic Energy Community which we joined in 1973, and would  replace the Treaties on which they are based and  which are explicitly referred to in the Irish Constitution.  These references would have to be deleted also to enable the State to ratify Lisbon. No Oireachtas vote can do that either.

And there are several other reasons why the Constitution would have to  be amended to enable the Lisbon Treaty to be ratified.

Your article proposes an  attempt to get around the constitutional  requirement, laid down in the 1986-7 Crotty judgement of the Supreme Court, that surrenders of sovereignty to Brussels in European Treaties can only be done by the Irish people in a referendum, for they are the repositories of sovereignty.

I was myself intimately involved in the Crotty case and attended every day of the three hearings of the case: the original Injunction action before Judge Donal Barrington, the High Court stage which Raymond Crotty lost, and the Supreme Court stage which he won.

You may be interested to know that it was quite a close-run thing that Crotty did not win his court challenge to the constitutionality of the ratification procedure of the Single European Act on the ground that that Treaty’s central provisions entailed a transfer of sovereignty to Brussels, but on the narrower ground that the requirement to coordinate  foreign policy under “European Political Cooperation” entailed such a transfer.

The late Judge Henchy was the swing judge on this point in the five-man court.

Crotty’s lawyers were reliably informed at the time by sources close to the judges that Judge Henchy was anxious to find for Crotty, but that if he did so in relation to the core elements of the Single European Act which had previously been approved by Oireachtas vote, he would effectively have been finding the country’s President at the time, the late Patrick Hillery, as having failed to refer a constitutionally dubious Bill purporting to ratify the S.E.A. to the Supreme Court for assessment of its constitutionality.

Judge Henchy wanted to avoid embarrassing the President, so he approved the main provisions of the S.E.A. as having been covered by the original “license”  for Ireland to join a developing European Community, but he joined with the majority of the court in striking down the foreign policy provisions, which did not require Oireachtas approval, as being unconstitutional.

So the Crotty judgement was a highly political one amongst the five Supreme Court judges themselves!  These facts are not widely known, but I assure you they are correct.
It follows therefore that one cannot assume that the transfers of sovereignty entailed by the Lisbon Treaty would be similarly indulged by the present Supreme Court if the matter should come before it, as you implicitly propose in your article.

Judge Henchy moreover made quite clear in his own judgement in the Crotty case that if the then European Community were to move towards becoming a Political Union, a constitutional  referendum would be required here to permit that.  The European Union that would be established by the Lisbon Treaty –  which is the 2004 EU Constitution revamped –  is undoubtedly such a Political Union.

In your article you insult the No-side campaigners by saying that they were “unhampered by any allegiance to the truth”.

Truly this is the pot calling the kettle black!
I do not recollect you or your fellow Yes-side commentators alerting people during the referendum to the hugely important fact that the post-Lisbon EU would be constitutionally and politically profoundly different from the pre-Lisbon EU. . .

Or to the fact that we would be made real  citizens for the first time of this post-Lisbon EU, owing obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority over and above our citizens’ duty to the Irish Constitution and laws. . .

Or to the fact that in the post-Lisbon EU the Irish Government would lose the right it has at present to decide who its national Commissioner would be when we have a member on the Commission, and that this would be replaced by a right to make “suggestions” only for the incoming Commission President to decide –  so replacing the present bottom-up process for appointing the Brussels Commission by a top-down one post-Lisbon . . .
Or to the fact that Lisbon proposes to restore the death penalty in Europe for the EU as a corporate entity in time of war or imminent threat of war, by providing that the post-Lisbon EU would accede to Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which permits the use of the death penalty in such circumstances, rather than  to Protocol 13, which abolishes the death penalty at all times and which the individual Member States have separately acceded to.

This matter has caused national outrage in Austria and some controversy  in Germany, but scarcely anyone has heard about it here in Ireland.

But maybe you would dismiss that too as just another No-side “untruth”?

Yours etc.

Anthony Coughlan

Irish Referendum, Lisbon Treaty Quotes

(These quotations are in chronological order backwards)

“France was just ahead of all the other countries in voting No. It would happen in all Member States if they have a referendum. There is a cleavage between people and governments… A referendum now would bring Europe into danger. There will be no Treaty if we had a referendum in France, which would again be followed by a referendum in the UK.”
– French President Nicolas Sarkozy,at meeting of senior MEPs, EUobserver, 14 November 2007

“The difference between the original Constitution and the present Lisbon Treaty is one of approach, rather than content … The proposals in the original constitutional treaty are practically unchanged. They have simply been dispersed through the old treaties in the form of amendments. Why this subtle change? Above all, to head off any threat of referenda by avoiding any form of constitutional vocabulary … But lift the lid and look in the toolbox: all the same innovative and effective tools are there, just as they were carefully crafted by the European Convention.”
– V.Giscard D’Estaing, former French President and Chairman of the Convention which drew up the EU Constitution, The Independent, London, 30 October 2007

‘ “I think it’s a bit upsetting… to see so many countries running away from giving their people an opportunity”, Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern said on Sunday 21 October, according to the Irish Independent. ‘If you believe in something …why not let your people have a say in it. I think the Irish people should take the opportunity to show the rest of Europe that they believe in the cause, and perhaps others shouldn’t be so afraid of it,’ he added. “
– Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, EU Observer, Brussels, 22 October 2007

“They decided that the document should be unreadable. If it is unreadable, it is not constitutional, that was the sort of perception. Where they got this perception from is a mystery to me. In order to make our citizens happy, to produce a document that they will never understand! But, there is some truth [in it]. Because if this is the kind of document that the IGC will produce, any Prime Minister – imagine the UK Prime Minister – can go to the Commons and say ‘Look, you see, it’s absolutely unreadable, it’s the typical Brussels treaty, nothing new, no need for a referendum.’ Should you succeed in understanding it at first sight there might be some reason for a referendum, because it would mean that there is something new.”
– Giuliano Amato, former Italian Prime Minister and Vice-Chairman of the Convention which drew up the EU Constitution, recorded by Open Europe, The Centre for European Reform, London, 12 July 2007

“Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empires. We have the dimension of Empire but there is a great difference. Empires were usually made with force with a centre imposing diktat, a will on the others. Now what we have is the first non-imperial empire.”
– Commission President J-M Barroso, The Brussels Journal, 11 July 2007

“Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly … All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way.”
– V.Giscard D’Estaing, Le Monde, 14 June 2007, and Sunday Telegraph, 1 July 2007

” The most striklng change ( between the EU Constitution in its older and newer version ) is perhaps that in order to enable some governments to reassure their electorates that the changes will have no constitutional implications, the idea of a new and simpler treaty containing all the provisions governing the Union has now been dropped in favour of a huge series of individual amendments to two existing treaties. Virtual incomprehensibilty has thus replaced simplicity as the key approach to EU reform. As for the changes now proposed to be made to the constitutional treaty, most are presentational changes that have no practical effect. They have simply been designed to enable certain heads of government to sell to their people the idea of ratification by parliamentary action rather than by referendum.”
– Dr Garret FitzGerald, former Irish Taoiseach, Irish Times, 30 June 2007
“The substance of the constitution is preserved.That is a fact.”
– German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speech in the European Parliament, 27 June 2007

The good thing is that all the symbolic elements are gone, and that which really matters – the core – is left.”
– Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Danish Prime Minister, Jyllands-Posten, 25 June 2007

“The substance of what was agreed in 2004 has been retained. What is gone is the term ‘constitution’ “.
– Dermot Ahern, Irish Foreign Minister, Daily Mail Ireland, 25 June 2007
“90 per cent of it is still there…These changes haven’t made any dramatic change to the substance of what was agreed back in 2004.”
– Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Irish Independent, 24 June 2007

“The aim of the Constitutional Treaty was to be more readable; the aim of this treaty is to be unreadable … The Constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear. It is a success.”
– Karel de Gucht, Belgian Foreign Minister, Flandreinfo, 23 June 2007

“The good thing about not calling it a Constltution is that no one can ask for a referendum on it.”
– Giuliano Amato, speech at London School of Econmics, 21 February 2007


“Referendums make the process of approval of European treaties much more complicated and less predictable … I was in favour of a referendum as a prime minister, but it does make our lives with 27 member states in the EU much more difficult. If a referendum had to be held on the creation of the European Community or the introduction of the euro, do you think these would have passed?”
– Commission President Jose M. Barroso, Irish Times, 8 Feb.2007; quoting remarks in Het Financieele Dag and De Volkskrant, Holland; also quoted in EUobserver, 6 February 2007

” It is true that we are experiencing an ever greater, inappropriate centralisation of powers away from the Member States and towards the EU. The German Ministry of Justice has compared the legal acts adopted by the Federal Republic of Germany between 1998 and 2004 with those adopted by the European Union in the same period. Results: 84 percent come from Brussels, with only 16 percent coming originally from Berlin … Against the fundamental principle of the separation of powers, the essential European legislative functions lie with the members of the executive … The figures stated by the German Ministry of Justice make it quite clear. By far the large majority of legislation valid in Germany is adopted by the German Government in the Council of Ministers, and not by the German Parliament … And so the question arises whether Germany can still be referred to unconditionally as a parliamentary democracy at all, because the separation of powers as a fundamental constituting principle of the constitutional order in Germany has been cancelled out for large sections of the legislation applying to this country … The proposed draft Constitution does not contain the possibility of restoring individual competencies to the national level as a centralisation brake. Instead, it counts on the same one-way street as before, heading towards ever greater centralisation … Most people have a fundamentally positive attitude to European integration. But at the same time, they have an ever increasing feeling that something is going wrong, that an untransparent, complex, intricate, mammoth institution has evolved, divorced from the factual problems and national traditions, grabbing ever greater competencies and areas of power; that the democratic control mechanisms are failing: in brief, that it cannot go on like this.”
– Former German President Roman Herzog and former president of the German Constitutional Court, article on the EU Constitution, Welt Am Sonntag, 14 January 2007


“If it’s a Yes, we will say ‘On we go”, and if it’s a No we will say ‘We continue.'”
– Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg Prime Minister and holder of the EU Presidency, Daily Telegraph, 26 May 2005

“The Constitution is the capstone of a European Federal State.”
– Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian Prime Minister, Financial Times, 21 June 2004
“Are we all clear that we want to build something that can aspire to be a world power? In other words, not just a trading bloc but a political entity. Do we realise that our nation states, taken individually, would find it far more difficult to assert their existence and their identity on the world stage.”
– Commission President Romano Prodi, European Parliament, 13 February 2001

Referendum in Ireland: Lisbon Treaty – How it will affect…



1. Lisbon will copperfasten the December 2007 Laval/Vaxholm judgement of the EU Court of Justice, which makes it illegal for Governments or Trade Unions to enforce pay standards higher than the minimum wage for migrant workers. At the same time Lisbon would give the EU full control of immigration policy (Art.79 TFEU). This combination threatens the pay and working conditions of large numbers of Irish people. A new Treaty Protocol is needed to set the Laval judgement aside.

2. Lisbon will amend the existing EU treaties to give the EU Court of Justice the power to rule against Ireland’s 12.5% company tax rate if it decides that this is a “distortion of competition” in the EU’s internal market as compared with Germany’s 30% rate (Art.113 TFEU). This low rate of tax is the principal reason for foreign firms coming to Ireland and staying here when they come.

3. It will give the EU the power to impose its own EU taxes directly on us. The EU Prime Ministers would have to agree this and it would have to be approved by National Parliaments, but if that is done no further referendum would be needed in Ireland (Art.311 TFEU).


4. Lisbon is a power-grab by the Big States for control of the new post-Lisbon European Union. By basing EU law-making primarily on population size, the Lisbon Treaty would double Germany’s say on the EU Council of Ministers from 8% to 17%. France’s say would go from 8% today to 13%, and Britain’s and Italy’s from their current 8% to 12% each. Ireland’s voting weight on a population basis would be more than halved to 1% (Art.16 TEU).

5. It removes any Irish voice from the EU Commission, the body which has the monopoly of proposing all EU laws, for five years out of every 15 (Art.17.5 TEU).

6. It abolishes our right to decide who the Irish Commissioner is when it comes to our turn to be on the Commission, replacing it by a right to make “suggestions” only for the Commission President to decide (Art.17.7 TEU).

7. Lisbon will establish a legally quite new European Union in the constitutional form of a Federal EU State. This new EU based on the Lisbon Treaty would have the same name but would be fundamentally different from the present EU, which was founded by the 1993 Maastricht Treaty. Lisbon would turn Ireland into a provincial or regional state within this new Union, with the EU’s Constitution and laws being made superior to the Irish Constitution and laws in any case of conflict between the two. It would be the end of Ireland’s position as an independent sovereign State in the international community of States (Arts.1 and 47 TEU; Declaration No.17 concerning Primacy);

8. It will turn us all into real citizens for the first time of this new post-Lisbon European Union, owing obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority over and above our obedience and loyalty to Ireland and the Irish Constitution and laws. One can only be a citizen of a State. We would retain our Irish citizenship, but it would be subordinate to our EU Federal citizenship, as is normal for citizens of Federal States such as Germany, the USA, Switzerland, Canada etc. (Art.9 TEU).

9. Lisbon is a self-amending Treaty which would permit the EU Prime Ministers to shift most of the remaining EU policy areas where unanimity still exists, to majority voting, without need for new EU Treaties or referendums (Art.48 TEU).


10. Lisbon will give the EU Court of Justice the power to decide our rights as EU citizens, including such matters as the right to life, the right to strike, the rights of the child, the right to fair trial etc. Ireland’s Supreme Court would no longer have the final say (Art.6 TEU).

11. It hands over to the EU the power to make laws binding on us in 32 new policy areas, such as crime, justice and policing, public services, immigration, energy, transport, tourism, sport, culture, public health, the EU budget etc.

12. It will militarize the EU further, requiring Member States “to progressively improve their military capabilities”and to go to the defence of other Member States in the event of war (Art.42.7 TEU). This would make a mockery of traditional Irish neutrality and any pretence to an independent Irish foreign policy.

“Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly … All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way.” – V.Giscard D’Estaing, former French President, who helped draw up the EU Constitution which the French and Dutch rejected in their 2005 referendums but which is now being implemented through the Lisbon Treaty; Le Monde, 14 June 2007
Issued by The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, 24 Crawford Ave., Dublin 9; Tel: 01-8305792; Web-site: nationalplatform.org; Secretary Anthony Coughlan. Please photocopy and pass on to others.

Lisbon Treaty Referendum in Ireland: What the Treaty of Lisbon would do


“France was just ahead of all the other countries in voting No. It would happen in all Member States
if they have a referendum. There is a cleavage between people and governments…There will be
no Treaty if we had a referendum in France, which would again be followed by a referendum in the UK.”
– French President Nicolas Sarkozy, at meeting of MEP Group leaders, EUobserver, 14 Nov. 2007
* * *
“Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them
directly … All the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way.”
– Former French President V.Giscard D’Estaing, Le Monde, 14 June 2007
* * *
“The substance of the Constitution is preserved. That is a fact.”
– German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speech to the European Parliament, 27 June 2007

“The Constitution is the capstone of a European Federal State
– Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian Prime Minister, Financial Times, 21 June 2004

“The State may ratify the Treaty of Lisbon signed at Lisbon on the 13th day of December 2007, and may
be a member of the European Union established by virtue of that Treaty. No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated
by membership of the European Union, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said European Union or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the treaties referred to in this section, from having the force of law in the State.” (emphasis added)
– 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2008 … What the people will be voting on in the Lisbon referendum

A new and different European Union: As is clear from the first of the two key sentences above from the proposed amendment to the Irish Constitution which we shall be voting on in the referendum, the Treaty of Lisbon would create a quite new Federal EU which politically and constitutionally would be fundamentally different from the EU which was established by the 1993 Maastricht Treaty and which we are members of today. The same name, “The European Union”, would be used pre-Lisbon and post-Lisbon for two quite different Unions. Why is this deception necessary? Lisbon is a revamped version of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe which gave the EU its own State Constitution superior to the constitutions of its Member States, but which the peoples of France and Holland rejected in referendums in 2005. Instead of accepting that decision, the EU Prime Ministers and Presidents decided to give the EU a Constitution indirectly rather than directly, but not to call it a Constitution, and on no account to hold referendums on it, for fear people would reject it again.

Why an Irish referendum?: Because the Supreme Court laid down in the 1987 Crotty case that sovereignty in Ireland rests with the Irish people and that only they can surrender sovereignty to the EU by referendum, or refuse to surrender it, as the case might be. The purpose of the Lisbon referendum would be to change the Irish Constitution so as to enable the State to accede to the new European Union which Lisbon would establish and to make the Constitution and laws of this new EU superior to the Irish Constitution and laws in all areas covered by the Treaty. This is clear from the two key sentences quoted above.

Lisbon would give the EU a Constitution indirectly rather than directly: The two basic European Treaties which are currently in force include all the previous treaties from the 1957 Rome Treaty to the 2002 Nice Treaty. The EU Constitution which the French and Dutch said No to would have repealed these two treaties and replaced them with an explicitly titled Constitution for Europe. The Lisbon Treaty implements 96% of the legal content of this Constitution for Europe by proposing amendments to the two basic EU Treaties, thereby turning them into the effective Constitution of the new Federal European Union which Lisbon would establish. These two basic Treaties as amended by Lisbon would be called The Treaty on European Union (TEU) and The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Below are the 13 most important changes which the Lisbon Treaty would make in the two constituent Treaties of the new European Union they would establish:-

1. Lisbon would make the new Union Constitution superior to the Irish Constitution in all areas of EU law: The Irish Constitution would still remain, but Declaration 17 concerning Primacy, which is attached to the Lisbon Treaty, makes clear that the law of the new Union would have primacy over and be superior to the Irish Constitution and laws in any case of conflict between the two. This has not been stated in any previous European Treaty. Lisbon does this by referring to the case-law of the European Court of Justice, which over the years has asserted the principles of (a) the superiority of EU law, (b) its direct effect in the territory of its Member States even if it is not formally put through their National Parliaments, and (c) its constitutional character. EU law and local national law would deal with different areas and matters, as is normal in Federal States. Some two-thirds of our laws each year now come from Brussels and only one third or so originate in the Irish Dáil. The Lisbon Treaty would give the EU the power to make supranational laws that are binding on us in many new areas – see Points 7,9 and 10 below – and would take that power away from the Irish Dáil and Seanad and from Irish citizens who elect them.

2. Lisbon would give the EU the constitutional form of a supranational European Federal State. It would turn Ireland and the other Member States into regional states of this Federation and would make us all real citizens of it for the first time. It would do this in four legal steps: (a) giving the new European Union which Lisbon would bring into being its own legal personality and independent corporate existence for the first time, separate from and superior to its Member States (Art.47 TEU); (b) abolishing the European Community which we have been members of since 1973 and replacing it with the new Union (Art.1 TEU); (c) bringing all spheres of public policy either actually or potentially within the scope of the new Union, so that it would have a uniform constitutional structure (Art.4.1 TEU; Arts.1-6 TFEU); and (d) making us real citizens of this new Federal Union, rather than notional or honorary EU “citizens” as at present (Arts.9 TEU and 20 TFEU).

One can only be a citizen of a State and all States must have citizens. Instead of European Union citizenship being “complementary” to national citizenship as at present(Art.17 TEC), Lisbon would make citizenship of the new Union “additional to” national citizenship (Arts.9 TEU and 20 TFEU). This would give everyone a real dual citizenship for the first time – citizenship of one’s own National State, in our case Ireland, and citizenship of the post-Lisbon European Union. As citizens of this constitutionally new Union, we would owe it the normal citizens’ duty of obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority. We would still retain our Irish citizenship, but the rights and duties attached to that would be subordinate to those of our EU citizenship in any case of conflict between the two. Post-Lisbon, we would be like citizens of Virginia vis-a-vis the Federal USA, or like citizens of Bavaria vis-a-vis Federal Germany. Dual citizenship of this kind – not of two separate States but of the federal and regional/provincial levels of one State – is normal in all classical Federations which have been formed by lower States agreeing to subordinate themselves to a higher federal authority. The USA, 19th century Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Australia are the best-known examples.

From the inside this post-Lisbon Federal EU would seem to be based on treaties between States. From the outside it would look like a State itself. This new European Union would sign Treaties with other States in all areas of its powers. It would have its own political President, Foreign Minister and foreign and security policy, its own diplomatic service and voice at the UN, and its own Public Prosecutor. It would make most of our laws and would decide what our basic rights are as EU citizens in all areas of EU law. It would have all the main features of a sovereign State in the international community of States, apart from the ability to make its Member States go to war against their will, although they can go to war voluntarily for the EU.

As the EU’s politicians are creating an EU Federation, all democrats will wish that Federation to be run along normal democratic lines, with its laws being proposed and made by people who are directly elected to make them, either in the European Parliament or in National Parliaments. Instead, in the post-Lisbon Union European laws would continue to be made quite undemocratically. A democratic EU is not on offer in the Lisbon Treaty. The European Parliament, which is the only EU body directly elected by citizens, cannot propose any law. The Commission, which consists of nominated public servants, has the monopoly of proposing all EU laws. These laws are then made primarily by the Council of Ministers, a body which is irremoveable as a group, mostly on the basis of qualified majority voting. The EU Parliament can propose amendments to these laws, but cannot impose them unless the Commission and Council of Ministers agree. The Court of Justice interprets the Treaties in specific court cases in a manner which tends to extend EU powers ever further, sometimes into areas that were never imagined by those drafting the treaties. Lisbon adds to the democratic deficit inherent in this institutional structure, while it further erodes democracy at the national level. The Lisbon Treaty would shift power from voters in all EU countries and from small and middle-sized countries to the largest ones.

3. Lisbon sets out the extensive powers of the new Union it would establish: The new EU’s powers would be conferred on it by its 27 Member States, for they would voluntarily have agreed to obey the EU’s superior authority in the policy areas surrendered, which nowadays cover much the greater part of government. The remaining governmental powers, which have mainly to do with the traditional social services and the taxation needed to finance them, would remain with the Member States (Art.4.1 TEU). Such a division is normal in Federations. Similar provisions are to be found in the US Constitution and that of other Federal States.

Lisbon sets out the powers or “competences” of the new Union in five main categories. Between them all it is hard to think of any area of life that would not be touched by the new Union:-
(a) Areas of exclusive EU competence, where the EU alone can make laws or decide policy and where Member States have completely surrendered this right. These are the customs union, competition rules for the internal market, monetary policy for Member States using the euro, trade and commercial agreements and rules for fisheries conservation (Art.3 TFEU);
(b) Areas of shared competence, where the EU decides some area of policy and the Member States decide others. These cover most areas of government apart from the principal social services, viz., the internal market, social and regional transfers, agriculture and fisheries policy, environment, consumer protection, transport, trans-European networks, energy, crime and justice, cross-national public health matters. In these shared areas however, Lisbon makes clear that EU intervention has priority: “The Member States shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised its competence. The Member States shall again exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has decided to cease exercising its competence” (Arts.2.2 TFEU). The Union may also conduct programmes of research, technological development and space exploration and have common policies on development cooperation and foreign aid without preventing Member States from having their own policies in these areas (Art.4.3-4 TFEU);
(c) Coordinating powers, where the EU is required to take measures to ensure the coordination of Member State economic policies, employment policies and social policies within the Union (Art.5 TFEU);
(d) Areas of supporting, coordinating or supplementary EU action in relation to the protection and improvement of human health; industry; culture; tourism; education,vocational training, youth and sport; civil protection; and administrative cooperation(Art.6 TFEU);
(e) The Common EU Foreign and Security Policy: Lisbon provides that “The Union’s competence in matters of common foreign and security policy shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union’s security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence.”(Art.24.1 TEU). The last phrase here, a “common defence”, means a common EU army and military forces, with joint EU officers. It needs to be distinguished from a “common defence policy”(Art.42.1 TEU) and a “mutual defence” obligation (Art.42.7 TEU), to both of which the Lisbon Treaty would commit Ireland.

4. Lisbon would shift influence over law-making and decision-taking in the EU towards the Big States and away from the smaller ones like Ireland: It would do this by replacing the voting system for making EU laws which has existed since the 1957 Rome Treaty by a primarily population-based system which would give most influence to the Member States with big populations and reduce the influence of smaller States. Under Lisbon a “qualified” majority vote”(QMV) for making EU laws in future would be 15 States out of 27, as long as they included 65% of the EU’s total population of nearly 500 million(Art.16.4 TEU). When Ireland joined the then EEC in 1973 we had 3 votes in making European laws as against 10 each for the Big States, a ratio of one-third. Under the current Nice Treaty arrangements we have 7 votes as against their 29 each, a ratio of one-quarter. Under Lisbon Ireland would have 4 million people as against Germany’s 82 million, a ratio of one-twentieth, and an average of 60 million each for France, Italy and Britain, a ratio of one-fifteenth. Under Lisbon Germany’s voting weight vis-a-vis the other 26 Member States would double from its current 8% to 17%, France’s would go from 8% to 13% and Britain’s and Italy’s from 8% to 12% each. Ireland’s voting weight would fall to one-third its present level, from 2% to 0.8%. Ireland’s share in a blocking minority in Council of Ministers voting would go from its current 7.7% to 2.4%, while Germany’s would go from 32% to 48%.

Putting EU law-making and decision-taking on a primarily population basis would fundamentally change the present consensus culture on the EU Council of Ministers. The smaller Member States would be less needed by the Big States than before, and their interests would therefore be less likely to be taken into account. Power relations would tend to replace partnership and the search for consensus on the Council. Fifteen States could impose an EU law on 12 if the former contain 65% of the EU’s total population. Germany and France, with one-third of the EU’s population between them, would need just two other States to join them to be able to block any EU law, for there must be a minimum of four states to block a law.

5. Lisbon would remove Ireland’s right to a permanent EU Commissioner: The Treaty proposes to reduce the number of EU Commissioners from the present 27 to 18 (Art.17.5 TEU). Ireland would therefore have no member on the Commission, the body which has the monopoly of proposing all EU laws, for one out of every three Commission terms. This means that for five years out of every fifteen, laws affecting all our lives would be put forward entirely by a committee of EU officials on which there would be no Irish voice. The Big EU States would lose their right to a permanent Commissioner also, but their size and political weight give them other means of exerting influence on this key body. As Dr Garret FitzGerald has emphasised over the years, having a fellow-national on the EU Commission is especially important for smaller Member States. Under the new arrangements the first step the Commission would take when proposing a new EU law would be to ensure that the Big States were in favour. The smaller States would be taken for granted. In the Convention on the Future of Europe which drew up the original EU Constitution, Europe Minister Dick Roche on behalf of the Irish Government sought to retain Ireland’s right to a permanent EU Commissioner, but he failed in the attempt.

6. Lisbon would deprive the Irish Government of its right to decide who Ireland’s Commissioner would be when it comes to our turn to be on the Commission: The Treaty provides that Ireland’s present right to “propose” a national Commissioner, and in effect to have that proposal accepted by the others if we are to accept their proposals (Art. 214 TEC), would be replaced by a right to make “suggestions” regarding a name, but with no guarantee that a particular suggestion would be accepted by the new President of the Commission, who would in future decide (Art.17.7 TEU). The Commission President would be decided first by the 27 Prime Ministers and Presidents, who would also adopt the list of Commissioners as a whole by qualified majority vote. If the Irish Government were to suggest someone as its EU Commissioner who had, for example, antagonised the government of some other Member State in the past, or who was regarded as not enthusiastic enough for further EU integration, it could be asked to suggest someone else as more acceptable. The Commission President could also ask a Commissioner to resign at any time, and can also reallocate their portfolios, just as a Taoiseach may do with his cabinet, so that the Commissioners would be fully under the control of the Commission President. The new Commission would in effect be an EU Government, with the Commission President having powers like a national Prime Minister, except that this government and this “Prime Minister”would not be elected by the citizens.

7. Lisbon would give the European Union the power to make laws in 32 new areas which would be removed from the Dail and other National Parliaments: These new areas of EU law-making include civil and criminal law, justice and policing, public services, immigration, energy, transport, tourism, space, sport, culture, civil protection, intellectual property, public health and the EU budget. There would be majority voting too by EU Foreign Ministers as regards implementational decisions in foreign policy (Art.31.2 TEU). Lisbon would also give the EU Council of Ministers power to take decisions by qualified majority vote on many matters other than EU laws, so that as between laws and decisions some 68 national vetoes in all would be abolished, more than in any previous EU Treaty (For the full detailed list see http://www.bonde.com).

Under Lisbon the Irish Government has retained the right to opt in to or opt out of specific EU laws or measures in the crime and justice area in order to keep in line with Britain’s similar opt-out. However the Government has indicated its desire to opt in fully to EU crime and justice laws at the earliest opportunity and it states that if Lisbon is ratified it will review its position in three years time.

Why do national politicians welcome this shift of power from the national to the EU level? The answer to this seeming puzzle is that the increase in EU power which results from shifting new law-making areas from Dublin to Brussels simultaneously increases the personal power of the 27 national politicians who make up the EU Council of Ministers by enabling them to make further laws behind closed doors for 500 million Europeans. At the same time it takes power away from the citizens and national Parliaments which elect those politicians and which have made these laws for their own countries up to now.

Each shift of power from the national level to the EU entails a further shift of power from the Irish Oireachtas and people to Irish Government Ministers at EU level, from the Legislative arm of the State to the Executive arm. It hollows out our democracy at national level further. The Treaty would also increase the power of the non-elected Brussels Commission, which has the monopoly of proposing EU laws to the Council of Ministers, by giving it many new policy areas to propose laws for. In practice some three-quarters of EU laws each year are agreed amongst the civil servants on the 300 or so Council of Ministers committees and the civil servants and special interest lobbyists on the 3000 or so committees attached to the Commission. The Council formally approves all EU laws, although only around a quarter of them are explicitly mentioned on the Council and only a fraction of these in turn, usually those entailing amendments from the European Parliament, lead to significant debate. Lisbon provides for EU legislation to take place in public, which means that the TV cameras will be brought into Council of Ministers meetings when major laws are being signed, but the discussion that lead up to them, and the negotiations on package deals involving different items which often determine the content of EU laws, would remain secret.

8. Lisbon is a self-amending Treaty … Two paths to EU control of Ireland’s company taxes: Lisbon inserts a new Article 48 into the Treaty on European Union, the “simplified revision procedure”, which would permit the Prime Ministers and Presidents who make up the “European Council” by unanimous agreement among themselves to shift many areas of the treaties where unanimity now exists to qualified majority voting without the need for new treaties or referendums. This is called the “escalator clause”. Former French President V.Giscard d’Estaing called it “a central innovation” of the EU Constitution that he helped draft. This shift to majority voting would cover areas like company taxation, but excludes defence and military matters. A National Parliament can veto the use of this mechanism, but citizens cannot, as we would have accepted this method of rule by agreeing to the Lisbon Treaty. National Parliaments usually agree with their Prime Ministers anyway. If Lisbon is ratified there would seem to be little need, practically speaking, for further EU referendums, for the new Union would have all the powers that it needs to act internationally as a fully developed Federation, including taxation powers.

If the Taoiseach of the day should agree with his fellow Prime Ministers and Presidents to use Lisbon’s “escalator clause” for this purpose, the switch to majority voting on Ireland’s company taxes would go through. The Dáil could still object and revolt against him, but it is not required to vote positively for the use of the “escalator”. This leaves the citizens in the position of depending entirely on the backbone of the current Taoiseach or his successor to continue defending Ireland’s company tax position, which has been so important in bringing foreign firms here and has been so central to modern Ireland’s economic development.

Lisbon would open another path, and almost certainly a wider one, to EU tax harmonisation if national differences in indirect taxation are judged to be necessary “to avoid distortion of competition”(Art.113 TFEU). Harmonization of legislation on indirect taxes is mandatory under Article 113:“The Council shall adopt…” The Treaties do not define what are direct and indirect taxes; so the Court of Justice would have discretion in deciding that. There is no doubt that Ireland’s 12.5% tax rate on company profits and Estonia’s zero rate, compared with Britain’s 28% and Germany’s 32%, constitute a “distortion of competition” when one takes into account the different countries from which trade profits usually come.

This five-word Treaty amendment which would be inserted by Lisbon would enable the EU Court of Justice to apply the EU’s internal market rules on competition matters, where majority voting applies, to legislation on company taxation, although not to the actual rates, for harmonizing which unanimity would be required. This Lisbon amendment to Article 113 would open the way to Article 116 TFEU being invoked, as well as the Internal Market Articles 101-106. Article 116 reads: “Where the Commission finds that a difference between the provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States is distorting the conditions of competition in the internal market… it shall consult the Member States concerned. If such consultation does not result in an agreement eliminating the distortion in question, the European Parliament and the Council … shall issue the necessary directives.”

This Lisbon amendment and the Court of Justice’s involvement which it makes possible, would strengthen the Commission and the Big EU States in their plans for an EU Consolidated Company Tax Base, whereby Member States would pay profits tax in proportion to their sales or turnover in different EU countries at the tax rates prevailing in those countries. Or the Court could, for example, lay down that the Internal Market competition rules require a minimum sales tax to be applied in all EU countries. Such possible rulings by the Court of Justice, which are opened up by the Lisbon Treaty’s five-word amendment to Article 113 on taxation, would radically reduce the value of Ireland’s low company profits tax. The latter has been a key incentive in bringing foreign companies to this country and inducing many of those already here to stay here. Changes to it could also affect indigenous Irish companies. This Lisbon amendment, which was ignored by Commission President Barroso when he came to Ireland to say that our company tax rates could not be changed against our will, would be another way around the present unanimity requirement for harmonising EU laws on company tax.

Lisbon would also permit the EU to raise its “own resources” by means of any kind of new EU tax to finance the attainment of its many objectives (Art.311 TFEU). The 27 EU Prime Ministers and Presidents would have to decide unanimously what taxes to impose, and once National Parliaments approved, that would be that. There would be no need of a referendum in Ireland, for we would have permitted this development by voting for Lisbon. It is hard to imagine the 27 EU Prime Ministers and Presidents refraining from exercising this power to give the post-Lisbon EU its own major tax revenues once it is up and running under their political direction.

The Treaties would also provide for qualified majority voting on laws governing foreign direct investment (Art.64.2 TFEU) and international agreements on foreign investment(Art.207.1 TFEU). Such rules could significantly affect bodies like the IDA, which have been so important for attracting foreign investment to Ireland over the years.

9. Lisbon would give the EU the power to decide our human and civil rights: By making us into real EU citizens for the first time, Lisbon would give the new Union the power to decide what our rights as EU citizens are. It would do this by making the rights set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding in all areas of EU law, including Member States when implementing EU law(Art.6 TEU). The same Article states that the Charter“shall have the same legal value as the treaties”. This would make the 27 judges of the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg the final decider of our rights as citizens of the new Union, instead of the Irish Supreme Court or the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which decide our rights at present. If Lisbon gives the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) the power to decide what our rights are in the large area of EU law, it is likely that the Commission will in time come to propose laws to ensure their uniform application across all EU States, as has happened in the case of the other Treaties up to now.

The EU has already got a human rights competence, in that the Court of Justice can adjudicate on such rights as equality and non-discrimination under the existing Treaties. Therefore making the Charter legally binding does not extend the powers or competence of the Union as such. What Lisbon would do would be to give the ECJ a much wider range of human and civil rights to interpret and decide on, for the Charter would cover all the rights of EU citizens in the post-Lisbon Union. The Court has laid down in several court cases over the years that National Law must be applied in ways that are consistent with EU law, for the latter has supremacy in any conflict between the two. This principle must logically apply to rights issues also. ECJ judgements on rights issues would override national provisions in any case of conflict between the two.

This raises the real possibility of clashes over rights standards in sensitive areas where there are significant national differences between Member States at present: for example, the right to life, the right to strike, the right to marry and found a family, the rights of children and the elderly, rules of evidence in court, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, trial by jury, censorship law, the legalisation of hard drugs and prostitution, rights attaching to State churches, equality legislation, conscientious objection to military service, succession, property, family law, labour law. In any clash between EU citizens’ rights as laid down by the EU Court and special national provisions on rights – for example Ireland’s Abortion Protocol – it is the EU Court which would decide, for by ratifying Lisbon we wquld give it legal supremacy in this area.

Lisbon also provides for the new Union, like other European States, to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. The EU Charter is far wider than the Convention on Human Rights. There is ample scope here for conflict between the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg over human rights jurisdiction issues.

10.The Court of Justice’s Laval/Vaxholm judgement opens a race to the bottom in wages:
The Court of Justice’s judgement of December 2007 in the Swedish-Latvian Laval/Vaxholm case showed how EU law could undermine Member States’ ability to maintain long-established national wages standards by replacing these with minimum standards under the EU’s internal market competition rules. This judgement was given five days after the Lisbon Treaty was signed. A special Protocol could have been agreed at the March 2008 EU summit to set it aside, but that was not done. Such a special Protocol is now needed to restore to Member States and the organised Labour movement their right to lay down national standards for pay, as the Lisbon Treaty would make the EU Court’s judgement constitutionally binding. The same would happen with the Court’s judgement of 3 April 2008 in the Rüffert case in Germany, which further undermined negotiated conditions regarding migrant workers in the labour market. At the same time as these judgements, the Lisbon Treaty would give the EU full control of immigration policy (Art.79 TFEU). This combination threatens the pay and working conditions of large numbers of Irish people. A Protocol to set aside these two Court judgements can only be achieved in a new and better EU Treaty after Lisbon is rejected.

11. Lisbon would militarize the EU further: The Treaty requires Member States “to progressively improve their military capabilities”(Art.42.3 TEU). It introduces a “start-up fund” for common foreign policy and military operations to be financed by Member States outside the Union budget and to be set up by qualified majority voting (Art.41.3 TEU). It contains an Article (42.7 TEU) which the current Slovenian EU presidency has acknowledged is a “mutual defence clause”. Commission President J.M. Barroso also referred to this in a speech on the Treaty on 4 December 2007, stating: “It will introduce a mutual defence clause.” The wording of this clause is very similar to NATO’s mutual defence commitment: “If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all means in their power.” This is a new departure for the EU and would commit all Member States including Ireland.

This commitment to an EU “mutual defence” under Lisbon needs to be distinguished from the obligation to participate in an EU “common defence”, i.e. a common EU army with joint EU officers on the lines of the current Franco-German brigade, which Art.42.2 TEU states that the “progressive framing of a common Union defence policy…will lead to. Ireland’s participation in such a common EU army would seem to be precluded by the Irish constitutional amendment which was adopted in 2002 to enable the Nice Treaty to be ratified (the 26th Amendment of the Constitution Bill). The Government is taking this out of the Irish Constitution and putting it back in again by means of the 28th Amendment of the Constitution Bill, presumably to give voters the impression that it is doing something new to meet public concerns over this aspect of the Treaty.

Lisbon would also allow sub-groups of Member States to make more binding military commitments
to one another with a view to “the most demanding missions” on behalf of the EU, without a requirement of a United Nations mandate for such missions (Arts.42.6 and 46).

12. Lisbon underlines the implicitly subordinate role of National Parliaments in the institutional structure of the new Union: It does this by stating that “National Parliaments contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union” by various means which are set out in Article12, amended TEU. Under the pretext of enhancing the role of National Parliaments, the Treaty actually institutionalises their subservience by defining such a limited role for them in the new Union’s structures.

National Parliaments must be informed of and may scrutinise draft EU legislative acts, but while the Commission is required to review the legislation if one-third or more of National Parliaments object, the Commission can then decide to continue with the legislation unamended – with its decision confirmed by the normal QMV procedures(“the yellow card”). If over half the National Parliaments object and the Commission still persists in its proposal, 15 out of 27 Member States on the Council, or a majority in the European Parliament, may reject it, but the Council of Ministers has that power anyway under its usual procedures(“the red or orange card”). This right to complain, for that is what it is, is not an increase in the powers of National Parliaments, as it has been widely misrepresented as being, but is symbolical rather of their loss of real power.

Ultimately it is the EU itself, through the Court of Justice, which has the final right to arbitrate on claims of subsidiarity infringement (Protocol on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality, Article 7.2). These provisions of the Treaty permitting National Parliaments in effect to complain to the Commission, are small compensation for the loss of democracy involved by the loss of some 68 vetoes by National Parliaments as a result of other changes proposed by the Treaty. National Parliaments have in any case already lost most of their law-making powers to the EC/EU. The citizens who elect them have lost their powers to decide these laws also.

Lisbon also provides for a right of petition to the Commission by one million European citizens asking it to propose a new EU law, but there is no obligation on the Commission to do anything apart from “considering” such a request. It can ignore it or reject it. In other words, if the citizens collect a million signatures, they have the right to complain and then hope for the best.

The European Parliament cannot initiate a single European law, but it gets more influence under the new Union’s constitutional structures. It can put down amendments to draft laws coming from the Council and Commission in the new law-making areas which Lisbon would transfer to Brussels from the National Parliaments, although the Commission and Council must agree to them if they are to pass. National Parliaments would of course lose their powers to make laws in these areas. Under Lisbon Ireland would have 12 MEPs instead of 13 out of 750 in the European Parliament. When Ireland was part of the United Kingdom in the 19th century it had 100 members out of 600 at Westminster, where all UK laws were both proposed and made.

13. Lisbon and Climate Change: Lisbon would commit the EU to “promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems and in particular combating climate change”(Art. 191.1 TFEU). This is laudable, but its significance has been “spun” out of all proportion. Note that the action is “at international level”. It does not give the EU any new powers internally. Any internal actions on environmental problems would have to be reconciled with the EU’s rules on distorting competition, safeguarding the internal market and sustaining the energy market. EU targets for carbon dioxide reduction in Ireland announced recently would cost Ireland €1000 million a year if implemented, which would average some €500 per household.

Is Lisbon necessary to make the EU more effective?

The advent of 12 new Member States has not made the negotiation of new EU laws more difficult since they joined the EU. On the contrary, a study by the Science-Politique University in Paris calculated that new rules have been adopted a quarter times more quickly since the enlargement from 15 to 27 Member States in 2004 as compared with the two years before enlargement. The study also showed that the 15 older Member States block proposed EU laws twice as often as the newcomers. Professor Helen Wallace of the London School of Economics has found that the EU institutions are working as well as they ever did despite the enlargement of the EU from 15 to 27 members. She found that “the evidence of practice since May 2004 suggests that the EU’s institutional processes and practice have stood up rather robustly to the impact of enlargement.” The Nice Treaty voting arrangements thus seem to be working well.

If we reject the Lisbon Treaty will we be forced to vote on it again?

Minister for Europe Dick Roche has stated that if we vote No to Lisbon, we will not be asked to vote again on the same Treaty, as happened when people voted No to the Treaty of Nice.

We need changes to be made that are in Ireland’s interest and that of the other Member States before we can agree to any amended Treaty. We must keep Ireland’s Commissioner and our voice in Europe. We need to keep the Nice Treaty’s voting system for making EU laws. That was stated at the time to be suitable for an enlarged EU. There must be no going over to a population-based system, which is a power-grab by the Big States for control of the EU and an end to the concept of the EU as a “partnership of equals”.

We need a special Protocol to set aside the Laval/Vaxholm judgement of the EU Court of Justice and enable us maintain national standards of pay and working conditions over and above minimum standards. Special Protocols are needed to enable Member States maintain control of company taxes, of their human rights , of their public services and of their right to opt out of a mutual EU defence commitment.

If we reject the Lisbon Treaty Ireland would remain a fully committed member of the EU. We cannot be ostracised or expelled from the EU – anymore than that happened to the French and Dutch when they rejected the EU Constitution, of which Lisbon is a revamped version.

We need to send Lisbon back to the EU Prime Ministers and Presidents and tell them that we want a better deal – for Ireland’s sake and Europe’s sake. We want a more democratic, not a less democratic, EU.

This EU Constitution is being foisted on the peoples of Europe without referendums. Yet the French and Dutch have already rejected it. People everywhere have sought referendums on it. By voting No Ireland can open a way to that happening, to prevent this outrage against European democracy. Ireland can do it, on our own behalf and on behalf of all the peoples of Europe, if we have confidence in ourselves and resist the misrepresentations of what this Lisbon Constitution Treaty is really about, and all the personal attacks, threats and distortions which Lisbon’s opponents are subjected to.

A Vote No is a Yes to something better!

* * *

For a Reader-Friendly Edition of the Treaty of Lisbon, showing the deletions and additions which the Treaty would make in the two Consolidated EU Treaties – the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – download it from < euabc.com > or from < bonde.com > This invaluable document has been edited by Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde with the assistance of a team of legal advisers. It has a detailed Index to the topics you may be interested in, showing how the Lisbon Treaty would affect them.

The same author, who was a member of the Convention on the Future of Europe which drew up the original EU Constitution, of which Lisbon is a revamped version, has written an illuminating short book analysing the Lisbon Treaty and giving the story of how it came into being: From EU Constitution to Lisbon Treaty. This is downloadable from the same web-sites: < euabc.com > or< bonde.com > It may also be purchased from the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre at the above address for €10.

This document has been produced for public information by the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, 24 Crawford Ave., Dublin 9; Secretary Anthony Coughlan; Tel.: 01-8305792; Web-site: nationalplatform.org ; It has been vetted for legal accuracy by authorities on Irish Constitutional and European law. People are free to use or adapt it as they see fit, without any need of reference to or acknowledgement of its source.

April 2008

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