Thursday 20 November 2008

A 15-page treaty?

Along similar lines a 15-page treaty would fail to fully address in a comprehensive manner the issues of most concern to Irish citizens. Today's Irish Times quotes Martin Territt, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland as saying "Without the Lisbon Treaty, EU action will be hamstrung by heavier procedures and less clarity about what we can or cannot do. That means a less effective response on issues Irish and other EU citizens in general care about. Ironically, the Lisbon Treaty would also have addressed the fears about erosion of sovereignty. It would have delineated the competences of the EU versus those of member states and made the frequently talked about 'competence creep' less likely in the future. It would also have improved democracy and ensured more involvement of citizens in decision-making".

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Who Guards the Guardians?

S Burns below makes a good point when he claims that 42% had no idea what they were rejecting when they voted no to Lisbon. 33% thought that a “Yes” meant conscription into a European army and abortion on demand!

Even the Taoiseach Brian Cowen admitted that he had never read the text (something he later retracted). This was compounded when Charlie McCreevy complained that the text was inane and he had no intention of reading it.

Yesterday in the Oireacthas subcommittee on the future of Ireland in the EU, Declan Ganley complained that the Lisbon Treaty was actually 10,000 words longer than the Constitutional Treaty. He suggested that the Treaty should be abandoned altogether and replaced with a 15 page text that anyone could read.

However, if the Treaty was only 15 pages, it would create an extremely powerful, unelected, European Court of Justice. They would have power to interpret the text freely and make rulings that would decide our fate. Perhaps then we would see mandatory conscription, abortion and the elitist undemocratic EU that the No campaign has warned us about…

Monday 15 September 2008

Rainfall & Recession

Ireland has had a pretty awful summer. It has rained every day, the recession is beginning to bite and, of course, we tried to ruin everyone else’s holiday by rejecting the Lisbon Treaty.

Several surveys following the referendum confirmed that Irish citizens did not regret that decision one bit. In fact increasing numbers claim that they would vote “No” again if the Government attempted a rerun.

In Ireland, the sun eventually peeks through after weeks or rain. The first rays finally came when on 10 September the government published its in-depth analysis of why people voted “No”. It transpires that a grand total of 42% had no idea what they were rejecting. 33% thought that a “Yes” meant conscription into a European army and abortion on demand!

To be fair, the Treaty text itself and a very lacklustre information campaign were more to blame than the people themselves. But at least the findings provide some rational for revisiting the debate.

I would not suggest that suddenly an increasingly sceptical public is ready for another vote. They will surely demand their pound of flesh - the question they are asked next time will somehow need modification.

Two ideas are circulating: putting controversial aspects of the Treaty to the people in a series of yes/no questions with the parts they reject resulting in opt-outs; or a simple opt-out on defence.

Neither solution makes a whole pile of sense. The former would be a legal nightmare, and we already have the Seville Declaration in the Irish Constitution which protects Irish neutrality, making the latter seems pointless.

And now for a prediction: a solution will eventually be found and Ireland and Europe will stumble forward, but only until the next time a member state has to put something to their citizens. Because all we are really discussing is what type of bandage to use. The real question is do we need more radical surgery to ensure the future health of the European project?

Monday 28 April 2008

Will the Lisbon Treaty Lead to the Break Up of the EU?

There's an interesting debate over at the EconLog blog involving a bet on whether a large EU country member will leave the EU by 2020.

I've posted a comment pointing out that the Lisbon Treaty actually formalises a process for the voluntary withdrawal by a member country - so what's the big deal?

Check it out for yourself.

Thursday 24 April 2008

Young people urged to vote Yes in Lisbon poll

MARIE O’HALLORAN - The Irish Times (Wednesday April 23 2008)

TÁNAISTE BRIAN Cowen appealed to young people to vote “Yes” in the Lisbon Treaty referendum in June.

Speaking during the ongoing Dáil debate on the 29th Amendment to the Constitution Bill, which provides for the holding of the referendum, Mr Cowen said that the youngest voters in the referendum were born after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“How meaningful do they find appeals to recall the European unification of Germany and of Europe? They have grown up in an affluent and confident Ireland. They do not remember how things were in the 1970s and 1980s, nor can they be expected to appreciate the scale of the change the European Union has helped bring to our country. How then do we convince them that they should follow their parents in appreciating the importance of the Union and voting to support this treaty?”

This generation of young Irish people “is by far the best travelled and outward-looking ever. They are idealistic and they are also conscious that the world is changing in ways which will pose great challenges to how they will live. The EU has a central role to play in responding to those challenges, and this treaty is important in helping equip it to do so.” He added that “while we can never take the electorate for granted, I believe that we will succeed on this occasion and that the people will vote to ratify the reform treaty”.

Earlier, Labour deputy leader Joan Burton said people were “highly sceptical about the Lisbon Treaty. In part this is because they have no sense that the Government is seriously engaged in explaining the treaty’s terms to them, with the possible exception of one or two Ministers.”

She believed there was an “enormous deficit in respect of the Government’s engagement in the argument. The point has been reached at which many of its supporters have asked why they should bother to vote if the Government does not care. Consequently the challenge for the Government is to put some effort and thought into explaining what is a complex treaty.”

Mr Cowen replied that Fianna Fáil had begun meetings on the referendum and 50 would be held. The deputy “can rest assured that Fianna Fáil intends to do all it can. We will commence an active campaign when we officially launch it in the coming weeks.”

The debate continues.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

The Lisbon Treaty and Neutrality

There's been so much talk about the Lisbon Treaty and what it will mean for Ireland. From Sinn Fein, to Libertas, the Greens, and the Taoiseach, everyone has an opinion and there are so many different interpretations of what the treaty really says.

What I'm most interested in, and from what I've heard my university-aged peers talking about, is Irish neutrality. I would like to know what the treaty means for our neutrality. The Common Defense and Security Policy is part of the Lisbon Treaty, but Ireland's membership in a common defense force would have to be ratified by another referendum right? So Lisbon won't undermine Irish neutrality because we won't be forced to send any troops anywhere without another vote of the population.

I think a lot of people are worried the Common Defense and Security Policy will force Irish troops abroad and force Ireland to take a stance on or become involved in places like Iraq. I really don't think this is true. Ireland has always been well-respected as a successful arbiter in external debates and conflicts. We send peace-keeping troops, something we could continue to do under the Lisbon Treaty and I don't see our reputation as a peaceful people tarnished by this treaty. The Lisbon Treaty won't greatly change the way the Irish define neutrality or how we interpret our role as a neutral nation. Am I right in assuming the Irish are ready for this referendum and ready to help European integration move forward while still maintaining our integrity as a neutral nation?

Sunday 9 March 2008

Sutherland on globalisation and development

Taking a break from the Lisbon Treaty, here's Peter Sutherland, speaking on the Millennium Development Goals in his introduction to Kandeh Yumkella, DG of UNIDO.

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Another week, another debate

Last week was an eventful one. The early part of last week saw Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche quoted as describing those who oppose the Lisbon Treaty as follows: "Eurosceptics, some from very shadowy backgrounds, some from the extremes of the left or the right in European politics, few who have been elected and fewer still who have made any positive contribution to the sum total of human welfare". I responded in a press release expressing my hope that the debate on the Lisbon Treaty would be free of some of the unpleasant and unhelpful political name-calling that has characterised other treaty debates (see reports here).

The following evening I spoke at a public meeting in the Rivercourt Hotel in Kilkenny on the Lisbon Treaty. The meeting was organised by the Forum for Europe and Declan Ganley, Chairman of the Libertas group, was the speaker on the No side (the Irish Times's report is here). The meeting was well attended and representatives of most of the main political parties were present. I was the first speaker and began my talk by emphasizing the extent to which Ireland had benefited economically from its membership of the European Union. I was surprised that when he spoke, Declan Ganley did not make any specific points about the likely economic impacts for Ireland ratifying of the Lisbon Treaty. Instead he just made what I felt were general assertions about the fact that he believed the treaty would be disastrous for Irish business, but did not use any examples to support this view. Interestingly enough the woman representing IBEC in the audience sharply disagreed with him!

The discussion was opened to the floor and it was interesting to listen to the range of issues that were raised. I was struck by the number of people present at the meeting who stated that they had no information about the treaty and wanted to know where they could source relevant documentation (A copy of the Forum on Europe's Summary Guide to the Treaty of Lisbon was made available to everybody present and the IIEA's recent publication on the treaty was also brought to their attention).

The debate in which the audience participated highlighted some of the main concerns that people had in relation to the treaty. Reference was made to the fact that the treaty was just the 'failed constitution' in another guise, and that Ireland was the only country in which the people were being consulted. There was talk about 'political elites' and the use of the process of parliamentary ratification to 'by-pass' the will of the people. Others spoke of the diminished levels of influence that they believed Ireland would have as a small country under the new institutional arrangements contained within the Lisbon Treaty. Particular concern was expressed over the loss of a Commissioner per Member State. (Few in the audience seemed to appreciate that the Commissioners are supposed to represent the Community interest and take an oath of independence on taking office!).

It was asserted that the new Passarelle clauses within the Lisbon treaty meant that the people need not be consulted in future in relation to treaty changes (I pointed out that this was not so and that in most cases any changes to the treaties would have to be ratified according to the constitutional requirements of each Member State, as has been the case to date). Some concerns were expressed about the likely powers of any new President of the European Council. I expressed my view, based on my analysis of the treaty text, that the new President would have no executive powers as such, but rather would chair meetings of the European Council and serve as a representative of the EU on the international stage. I'm not sure whether anyone "won" the debate on the night but certainly I was left with the feeling that many people in the audience felt that they needed to attend several more such debates before they would be ready to make an informed decision on the treaty in the referendum in late May/early June.

Later that week I chaired a debate on the Lisbon Treaty in Blackhall Place, sponsored by the European Commission. The title of the debate was "Should Ireland ratify the EU Reform Treaty (Lisbon Treaty)?" This all-Ireland event provided an opportunity for trainees in the Law Society (Dublin), Law Society (Cork), the Kings Inns and the Institute of Professional Legal Studies in Belfast to debate the treaty. It was a fascinating exchange of views and the issues of 'competence creep' and 'legitimacy' got a very good airing! The speakers from the Law Society Dublin who spoke in favour of ratifying the treaty won the debate. One of the speakers from the Kings Inns won the title of Best Speaker on the night. Their Excellencies, the Ambassadors of Austria and Croatia were in the audience and both made very memorable contributions to the general discussion that followed the formal debate. I look forward to participating in many more such quality debates before the referendum this summer.

Friday 15 February 2008

Lisbon and Climate Change

Climate change is an issue of immediate concern for citizens across Europe. The European Commission has long been considered a leader both internally among member states and externally on the global level in attempts to tackle the massive market failure that climate change represents. Climate change is finally moving to the top of political agendas across Europe. Elements of this change in attitudes are to be found in the text of the Lisbon Treaty where a number of potentially significant provisions on climate change are included.

Article 174 commits the EU to: “promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular combating climate change”. For the first time combating climate change is explicitly stated as an EU Treaty objective. In a new Energy Title, Article 176a (1) would commit Union policy to aim to: “promote energy efficiency and energy savings and the promotion of new and renewable forms of technology”. These Articles could enhance the Commission’s power to initiate tough climate change legislation by offering a clear legal basis, outside of the political agreements at European Councils, for strong policy reform. But how would they be interpreted by the European Court of Justice?

Article 188n outlines how international negotiations would be conducted. It states that: “The Council shall authorise the opening of negotiations, adopt negotiating directives, authorise the signing of agreements and conclude them”, and “the Commission…..shall submit recommendations to the Council, which shall adopt a decision authorising the opening of negotiations and, depending on the subject of the agreement envisaged, nominating the Union negotiator or head of the Union’s negotiating team”. The nominee would replace the Presidency as the lead EU negotiator. Would this amendment result in a more significant role for the Commission in negotiating climate change agreements? Would the provisions enhance the EU’s ability to negotiate ambitious deals on the international stage?

Of course it is always notoriously difficult to predict how the European Court of Justice might interpret particular articles. However, the possibility that these revisions might have serious implications for how the EU and member states approach the climate change issue cannot be discounted.

The Lisbon Treaty - an interesting few months!

Now that the national referendum campaign on the Lisbon Treaty has really kicked off, as the Green Party's Spokesperson on Europe it is interesting to look back at what has happened in the party in relation to the treaty over the past few months. It has been a very interesting time!

I suppose the first public opportunity I had as party spokesperson to try to articulate the party's position on the Lisbon Treaty was when I travelled to Vienna in October 2007 to speak at the 7th Congress of the European Green Party. The title of my talk was: "The EU Reform treaty - Quo Vadis?"

As a member of the Green Party's Policy Group on Europe, I was aware that there had been a shift amongst some of the party's membership in relation to our traditional position of opposition to successive EU treaties. As the party had not yet held its own internal convention on the Lisbon Treaty, I was not in a position to give any clear indication as to how sizeable that shift had been, or how a majority of party members would vote in relation to supporting the treaty. Therefore I tried to outline the broad options available to the party, but did not come to any definitive conclusion. I expressed my belief that the Irish Green Party could maintain its traditional position of "critical outsider" in relation to the European Union, or that it could join the majority of its sister European Green Parties by becoming a "critical insider" and supporting the broad EU project while seeking important reforms from within.

On December 12th in Seanad Éireann, in advance of the Taoiseach travelling to Lisbon to sign the treaty on behalf of the Irish Government, Senators had an opportunity to make statements on the matter in the presence of the Minister for State for European Affairs, Dick Roche. I spoke on the issue and tried to convey my own interpretations of the content of the Lisbon Treaty, while flagging some of the areas of concern for my party.

On January 15th at our weekly Parliamentary Party meeting, the six Green Party TDs and two Senators unanimously agreed that we would publicly declare our support for a Yes vote for the Lisbon Treaty. This fact was widely reported in the national media (for example, here and here
- subscription required).

On January 16th 2008, the Irish Times afforded me an opportunity to write an article for the paper, setting out my own thinking in relation to the Lisbon Treaty and reflecting some of the changing attitudes towards the EU within my party. See here (subscription required) or here. This was followed two days later by an article by former Green Party MEP, Patricia McKenna, who set out the arguments in support of a No vote for the Lisbon Treaty.

On January 19th the Green Party held its own internal Party Convention on the Lisbon Treaty in the Hilton Hotel in Dublin. It was a really memorable day, mostly because the debate that occurred was one of the best and the most engaging that I have ever experienced in the Green Party. As I jokingly said during my introductory speech to assembled delegates, although EU treaties have a reputation for being very dull and boring and putting people to sleep, the assembled crowd of over 300 passionately engaged party members gave the lie to that perception!

I believe that because of the active engagement of the Irish Green Party with EU debates over the past decade or two, the levels of awareness and information in relation to the EU are very high amongst party members in comparison with other political parties. I pointed out that we were the only Irish political party that was democratically consulting its party members, and encouraging them to vote on what position the party should take in relation to the Lisbon Treaty. At the end of the afternoon's debate, 63% of members voted to support the Lisbon Treaty. While that figure did not reach the two-thirds majority required by the Green Party Constitution for any fundamental change in party policy, it did indicate that attitudes amongst party members towards the EU had significantly changed.

The outcome of the party's EU Convention meant that the party would not now adopt an official campaigning position in relation to the Lisbon Treaty. However, individual members of the party were free to campaign for a Yes or No vote as they saw fit.

Since our own internal Convention, the national campaign on the Lisbon Treaty has really kicked off. I was invited to speak at a Trinity Historical Society debate recently on the motion 'That the European Social Model is failing us.' Of course this motion was very relevant to the debate on the Lisbon Treaty, and so I referred to the treaty in arguing that the Social Model had not yet failed us. The debate was a very good one and fortunately the speakers against the motion won the debate!! I was impressed by the strength of commitment to the expressed values of the EU so evident amongst students both listening to, and participating in the debate.

I have also been closely following the debate on the Lisbon Treaty that is playing out in the Letters Pages of our national newspapers every day. I am particularly struck by the way in which the issue of "democracy" and the "democratic deficit" of the EU has become a central theme in the letters published. For this reason I wrote a letter about what I see as some of the challenges facing the EU as a trans-national polity in trying to democratise itself. I was happy that this letter was published in several of the national newspapers.

I look forward to using this blog as a way to keep up to date with the debate on the Lisbon Treaty and to engaging with others in discussing many of the complex political issues that will arise during that debate.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Peadar o Broin explains the background to his Consolidated Version of the Treaty of Lisbon. Dick Roche, Minister for European Affairs, responds.

E-mailed by Minister for Europe, Dick Roche

(Dick Roche sent this post through by E-mail. It has been posted from the IIEA admin account).

As I am known to be a committed European, you would expect me to be a supporter of the EU Reform Treaty, and I am.

Since Ireland joined in 1973, I have seen how European involvement has helped shape our economy in a very positive manner. Jobs and prosperity have come Ireland’s way in recent years due largely to EU membership. Our young people no longer need to emigrate. Through the EU, we can also exert an influence in the wider world. Europe is our future.

There are many reasons for supporting the EU Reform Treaty which was signed in Lisbon on 13 December 2007, but here is my top 10 (in no particular order).

First, although it is also known as the Lisbon Treaty, this is a Reform Treaty which will reform the way in which the EU does its business.

Second, by making the Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding, the Treaty will guarantee respect for an important set of rights and freedoms.

Third, it will give a new role in EU affairs to national parliaments including the Oireachtas.

Fourth, the Treaty will give more influence to the democratically-elected European Parliament.

Fifth, European citizens will be able to input directly into EU affairs by means of the new citizens’ initiative.

Sixth, the Treaty gives the Union new scope to deal with major problems such as climate change and energy security, two of the most pressing issues of our time.

Seventh, the Union will be able to make our European voice heard more clearly in world affairs in support of human rights and democratic values.

Eighth, under the Reform Treaty the EU’s competences or powers will be defined more clearly than before. Unless responsibility in an area is explicitly conferred on the Union, it will remain with the Member States.

Ninth, the Treaty retains all of the key positive points contained in the EU Constitutional Treaty agreed during Ireland’s 2004 Presidency and fully protects our interests.

Finally, Ireland’s future lies in Europe. Europe needs this Treaty so that it can function more effectively. Therefore, the Reform Treaty is in Ireland’s best interests.

Dick Roche, Minister for European Affairs

Lisbon Treaty Must be Won on Its Merits- Senator Eugene Regan

As the spotlight falls on Ireland in advance of the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, it is imperative that we avoid repeating the haphazard approach of the Yes campaign during the Nice 1 referendum debate. This is not the time for scare tactics, personal attacks or arguments such as those over the use of state funding. It is also imperative that we avoid taking for granted the support of the Irish people for this Treaty. To do so would be fatal.

The Irish people know full well how we have benefited from Europe, but they need to be informed of the merits of this particular Treaty. The focus must be on providing to the Irish people clear factual information regarding the key elements of this Treaty in advance of the referendum.

Already there has been evidence of scaremongering, personal attacks and accusations of misinformation. However, the Lisbon Treaty stands on its merits and there is no need for such tactics. This Treaty is good for Ireland and good for Europe.

The delay by the Taoiseach in setting a date for the referendum is inexcusable. We need ample time to properly inform the public of the facts and to encourage a full and open debate on the issues.

When we get down to the core issues, be they qualified majority voting, neutrality or economic and cultural integration, those of us on the Yes side know that these arguments can be won on their merits. We can prove that the Lisbon Treaty is very positive for this country and if the Irish people vote for the Treaty on its merits then I have no doubt it will be passed.

We have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Looking Beyond Lisbon

What if the President of the European Council was also the President of the European Commission? And what if candidates for that President were put before the people in European Parliament elections? Has the Lisbon Treaty the potential for European citizens to elect their Union's President?

Some may think it's a bit premature to be talking as if the Lisbon Treaty has been passed - and it is - but as an exercise, let's engage in some wishful thinking. And keeping in the spirit of optimism, the Treaty articles in this post are those of the post-Lisbon consolidated Treaties.

Article 16.5 TEU will provide that the President of the European Council will be appointed by qualified majority of the European Council. His duties in Article 16.6 TEU are those of leadership without power - to "chair [the Council] and drive forward its work". He must work with the President of the Commission, and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, who will work with both Presidents in their respective institutions.

Some might justly ask, why end double-hatting in foreign affairs, only to create a second hat in domestic leadership? Article 16.6 TEU stops the Council President holding national office. But nothing in the Treaties (Articles 17.3 TEU and 245 TFEU included) prevents the same person being appointed to both Presidencies. Sure, there's a difference in terms - the Council President is for 2.5 years, renewable once; the Commission President is for 5 years, renewable - but they can solve this by deciding to renew the Council office at the outset.

Is it possible that after ten years or so of two leaders - one with power and a parliamentary mandate; the other powerless but with the backing of the national governments - our enlightened leaders might decide to remove the potential for unnecessary conflict? If anyone thinks this sounds ridiculous, it's actually on the European Commission's own summary.

But let's go one step further. Article 17.7 TEU will require the Council's choice of Commission President to reflect Parliamentary elections, and to be elected by majority of the European Parliament. It's not inconceivable - indeed, leaders are already talking about it - that at the 2009 or 2014 elections, candidates for Commission President will be endorsed by the European parties prior to the European Parliament elections. Thus, a vote for Gay Mitchell could be a vote for Chancellor Merkel; a vote for Marian Harkin could be a vote for Guy Verhofstadt.

What if you combined the two? Could we have an elected President of the Commission and Council? And, as Article 17.7 TEU allows the Commission President to veto Council proposals of Commissioners, and as the entire Commission must be approved of by the Parliament, the Commission as a whole could directly result from the European Parliament elections.

A President of the Union, together with his college of commissioners, directly elected by the votes of its 500 million citizens? Could a more democratic, more efficient Europe finally be in reach, made possible under Lisbon?

We can only hope.

Welcome to the blog!

Welcome to the project Europe 2.0 blog, which aims to increase debate among young people on a variety of European issues. This blog is one of the ways that we are getting people engaged and involved in debate.

Since its launch in 1991, the Institute of European Affairs has been at the forefront of the analysis of EU policy developments and their implications for Ireland and Europe from the perspective of our wide membership base. Through our frequent high-profile events in Europe House in Dublin city-centre, we provide an open forum for discussion.

Today, the Institute is delighted to announce the launch of a new, highly accessible, open and neutral forum for debate. Today, we are launching a dedicated project website and our new blog “Europe 50+: What Next?” at

We are creating a truly interactive, on-line debate combining the Institute’s established and excellent reputation as a centre for informed and politically neutral dialogue with interactive web technology. While many of our traditional events are not open to the public, we are throwing open the doors to the Institute’s virtual world in order to allow everybody with an interest in Europe to discuss the issues and contribute to the debate.

“Europe 50+: What Next” blog allows users to post their thoughts on the impact of 50 years of Europe and the future of Europe. We welcome all viewpoints to the forum in the interest of a full and informed debate. While the blog will focus on themes broadly related to the issue what next for Europe, for the next few weeks opinions and observations about the Reform Treaty and the Irish referendum on the Treaty are particularly relevant and timely and therefore welcomed.

So get engaged and please visit our blog again!

About this blog

This blog has two themes: 1. the impact of 50 years of Europe; and 2. the Future of Europe, including the Treaty of Lisbon. If you want to contribute, you can comment on other peoples' posts, or you can join as a blog member and start new posts. To join e-mail Jill Farrelly.

This is an entirely open forum where all interested Internet users can engage with the key issues facing Europe on a regular basis. This blog is moderated by a member of the Institute of European Affairs' staff to prevent spam/profanity.

Wednesday 13 February 2008


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