Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Lisbon Treaty , Jaysus !

Taoiseach Brian Cowen campaigning for a yes vote

I have been avoiding discussing this for as long as I can but I feel given its significance I better do a post on the Lisbon Treaty. For Gubu World's readers outside Ireland and particularly Europe let me explain the basics as I'm sure you have no idea what I'm raving about. In December 2007 a treaty was signed in Lisbon Portugal by all 27 members of the European Union. The primary objective of this treaty is apparently to make the EU's institutions (the European Council, commission and parliament) operate more efficiently in the wake of the Unions recent increase in membership. Since 2004 12 new countries have joined the Union mainly from central and Eastern Europe. This treaty has to be ratified by all 27 members. However Ireland is the only country whose constitution dictates that the treaty can only be ratified by a national referendum. All 26 other members only need to see the treaty ratified at a parliamentary level. To date 17 countries have done just that. The referendum is taking place in Ireland tomorrow. If the referendum is not passed then the treaty will fail.

Leader of the opposition Enda Kenny,Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Labour party leader Eamon Gilmore put their differences aside to campaign in favor of Lisbon.

All of mainstream political Ireland is in favor of the Lisbon Treaty. The countries' biggest party Fianna Fail as well as its two coalition partners in government have been campaigning for months now. As have the opposition parties of Fine Gael and labour. All business groups and most trade unions have backed it as has Ireland's largest farmers union. In the Dail (parliament) only the controversial party Sinn Fein and its six members are campaigning for a no vote. They are joined by an unusual collection of socialists, lobbyists and republicans. Bizarrely despite the overwhelming support of the political establishment there appears to be a real possibility that the voters may say no.

Sinn Fein party leaders campaigning for a no vote.

So whats it all about ? The truth is I don't care anymore. The debate on Lisbon has been absolutely infuriating. There has been endless, and I mean endless heated radio and TV debates surrounding the Treaty and what it means for Ireland. The problem appears to me that the treaty is open to interpretation. The yes crowd say one thing, the no camp say the opposite. The no campaign claim the treaty threatens Ireland's neutrality, reduces our power in the commission and compromises our ability to determine the rate of our own corporation tax. The yes say that all the above is incorrect. I am one voter angry that the text of the treaty is not concrete in these matter. It clearly is not as it means different things to different people.

This is how I see it. All reasonable people know that the European Union is the best thing that has ever happened the European continent. Many people, myself included describe the EU not as an economic union but as a peace process. Throughout the 20th century Europe tore itself apart as a result of divisions between left and right wing ideologies. The European Union healed these divisions achieving a compromise between these conflicting right and left values. The result is the stable, capitalist, welfare, liberal democracy where the rule of law prevails. All 27 members of the union fall into this category. However there will always be people on the fringes that object to the EU's direction. It is inevitable that people on the left will feel that the EU sells out workers and others on the right that believe it gives in to the unions. This is just the nature of politics. Then you have the nationalists (like Sinn Fein) who object to anything that they perceive as compromising on national sovereignty. This is the primary motive behind the no campaign. The government on the other hand are fearful of a worsening economic situation and they feel that uncertainty in Europe will further it. That and the embarrassment of having to explain to 26 Prime Ministers that they have to start all over again and draft a new treaty.

"Vote yes or I'll kill ya", I agree with defence minister Willie O'Dea.

I am voting yes and Gubu World recommends its readers do the same. The reason I am doing so is because I am passionately pro Europe and I don't believe the conspiracy theories being touted by the no crowd. However I think it may fail. Ireland has always been pro Europe but there is a strong fear in the country that the EU is going too far. After all, was it not just supposed to be about free trade ? We have to deal with enough bureaucracy at home, do we want more to come from Brussels. That is the mood I am detecting. Gubu world will post about the result on Friday.

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