|Tuesday, 27 May 2008||
The push to turn the European Union into a superpower with many of the features of a Federal State goes back to World War 2, when the continental imperial powers, France, Germany, Italy, Holland and Belgium, experienced the trauma of defeat and occupation. After 1945 they found themselves much diminished in a world dominated by the USA and USSR.
One response of their political elites was to decide that if they could no longer be Big Powers individually on their own, they would seek to be a Big Power collectively. This is not the full story of European integration, but it is perhaps the most important part of the story.
The Lisbon Treaty is the constitutional culmination of the federalist project which has been the political dynamic of European integration ever since the Schumann Declaration of 1950 proclaimed the European Coal and Steel Community to be “the first step in the federation of Europe”.
The EU commemorates that Declaration on 9 May each year – Europe Day. Fifty years later, in 2004, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt proclaimed the EU Constitution to be “the capstone of a European Federal State”.
When the French and Dutch rejected the EU Constitution in their 2005 referendums, the Prime Ministers and Presidents decided to give the EU the constitutional form of a Federation indirectly rather than directly.
This the Lisbon Treaty does by amending the two existing European Treaties instead of replacing them entirely by a formally titled Constitution. But the legal-political effect is the same.
The first sentence of the Amendment which the Irish Government is asking its citizens to insert into the country’s written Constitution provides that the State may ratify the Treaty of Lisbon and “may be a member of the European Union established by virtue of that ï€ ï›Lisbonï Treaty.”
This sentence shows that the European Union which would be established by the Lisbon Treaty, although having the same name, is constitutionally and politically a different Union from that which we are currently members of, which was established by the 1993 Maastricht Treaty.
The second sentence of the Constitutional Amendment would then give the constitution of this post-Lisbon Union supremacy over the Irish Constitution:-
“No provision of this ‘Irish’ Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by membership of the European Union referred to – 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.”
This post-Lisbon EU would have the constitutional form of a supranational European Federation – in effect a State – in which Ireland and the other Member States would have the constitutional status of provincial or regional states.
From the inside the Union would look like something based on Treaties between States. From the outside it would look like a State itself. This constitutional revolution in both the Union ands its Member States would be brought about by four legal steps which are set out in the Treaty, as they were in the previous EU Constitution:
Firstly, Lisbon would give the post-Lisbon Union full legal personality separate from and superior to its Member States, so that it could act as a State in the international community of States, sign Treaties with other States in all areas of its powers, have its own political President, Foreign Minister(High Representative), diplomatic service, embassies and Public Prosecutor, and make most of our laws.
Secondly, Lisbon would abolish the European Community which we joined in 1973 and which still exists as part of the present EU, and replace it by the new Union (Art.1 TEU).
Thirdly, it would give the new Union a unified constitutional stucture so that all areas of government would come within its aegis either actually or potentially (Art.4TEU, Arts.1-6 TFEU). The only major feature of a fully developed Federation which the EU would then lack would be the power to force its Member States to go to war against their will.
Finally, Lisbon would make us all real citizens for the first time of this post-Lisbon Union, rather than our being notional or honorary EU “citizens” as at present(Art.9TEU).
One can only be a citizen of a State and all States must have citizens. As real EU citizens we would owe it the duty of obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority over and above our obedience and loyalty to Ireland and the Irish Constitution and laws.
We would still retain our national Irish citizenship, 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 – 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.
One indicator of the constitutional change which Lisbon would bring about is that Members of the European Parliament, who under the present Treaties are “representatives of the peoples of the Member States brought together in the Community”, would become “representatives of the Union’s citizens” in the post-Lisbon EU (Art.14.2 TEU).
Another is that the European Council, the summit meetings of Prime Ministers and Presidents, would become an EU institution for the first time, legally bound to forward the interests of the Union, not of the national Governments or electorates concerned, so that its acts or its failing to act would be subject to judicial review by the EU Court of Justice (Art.13 TEU).
Couple these constitutional changes with the power-political changes which Lisbon would bring about and it is clear that the Lisbon referendum confronts the Irish people with a momentous choice.
The most important power-political change is that Lisbon would base law-making in the post-Lisbon Union primarily on population size.
This would double Germany’s relative voting strength on the Council of Ministers from its present 8% to 17%. It would increase the voting weight of France, Britain and Italy from their present 8% to 12% each and it would halve Ireland’s weight from 2% to 0.8%. (Art.16.4 TEU)
As well as our being deprived of a voice on the EU Commission, the body which proposes all EU laws, for five years out of every 15, a little noticed feature of Lisbon’s provisions is that when it comes to our turn to have an Irish Commissioner, we would lose the right to decide who he or she would be. Henceforth Ireland would be able to make “suggestions” only, for the new Commission President to decide (Art.17.7 TEU).
It is surely a major historical moment by any standard: this attempt to turn four million Irish people and nearly 500 million Europeans into real citizens of a real EU Federation, without most of them being aware of it, and without any but us Irish being allowed to have a direct say on it.
If Lisbon is ratified it is bound to lead to major democratic reactions across Europe when people discover that their national independence and democracy have been filched from them. That is why the best course for the Irish people is to vote No to Lisbon on 12 June, as the French and Dutch did to its virtually identical predecessor, for their own sakes and for Europe’s.
By Anthony Coughlan
Anthony Coughlan is secretary of the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, 24 Crawford Avenue, Dublin 9; Tel.: 00-353-1-8305792; Web-site: nationalplatform.org
Article from The Irish Times, Friday 16 May, page 15,
re the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which takes place on Thursday 12 June . . . Forwarded for your information